Barbie Winterbottom Is Building the Future of Work

Barbie Winterbottom understands that HR can’t prepare for the future without becoming business leaders first. Getting them there is her mission.

Sometimes, a successful career grows in an orderly way: graduate, find a job in your field, and start climbing the ladder. At other times, though, the process isn’t quite so deliberate. Barbie Winterbottom, CEO of the Business of HR, is in the latter group.

Barbie Winterbottom
Barbie Winterbottom, The Business of HR

Winterbottom started studying voice in seventh grade. “I come from a musical family,” she says. “Both of my grandmothers were classically trained pianists, and one great-grandfather was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra and played on the soundtrack to Walt Disney’s Fantasia.” She followed by studying vocal performance at Florida State University.

While her love of music and performing is definitely in her DNA, the idea of being a lonely “starving artist” while pursuing a Broadway career was daunting. After a stretch of waiting tables and tending bar, she took the oft-repeated parental advice and registered at several local temp agencies with the goal of finding a “real job.”

One agency was so impressed with her off-site performance they offered her a job at the agency as a recruiter, and so was the start of Winterbottom’s career in the world of talent acquisition and HR. “I was so fortunate that at this time, one of our biggest clients, Capital One, was expanding in the Tampa market like crazy,” Winterbottom recalls. “They were building a huge campus and were looking to hire approximately five thousand employees to populate it.”

Her great client relationship with Capital One paid off when they offered her a position to work with them and build out their management recruiting function and team. Over the next twenty-odd years, Winterbottom held increasingly responsible positions at HSN, Advanced Aesthetics, Health Plan Services, Amazon, and Sykes Enterprises Inc. before joining BIC Graphic North America as its chief people officer in 2018.

Then, in 2020, the pandemic hit.

Much of the company’s client base had been dedicated to providing promotional products for concert tours and other events. When those events dried up, she soon found herself laid off.

“A popular discussion topic is ‘the future of work,’ but if we don’t concentrate on the now, we won’t be able to build to the future.”

Rather than seeking another corporate spot, she took a leap of faith and in May 2020 launched the Business of HR, a coaching and consulting firm for HR professionals and teams. “My five-year plan had included starting my own consulting and coaching business,” she says. “COVID-19 just shortened the timeline.”

Winterbottom began to realize that most training, certification, and education available to HR professionals focuses on the tactical elements of HR. She would be energized by keynote speakers at conferences but return to her desk to realize the speakers had only talked about the end result. “Literally no one ever talked about how you get there,” she says. “The programs available focus on about 10 percent of the work we actually do in HR and nothing about how to do it.”

She has set out to change all of this and provide HR professionals with not only a resource to learn how, but also a community of like-minded business leaders who work in the people space.  “It’s time we stop merely talking and start doing,” she says. “The future of work is now, and we have to provide folks the skills and knowledge to understand the how and the why.

“I really enjoy working with smaller organizations. They often don’t understand how important it is to instill values in the organization and its people.”

“I concentrate on improving effectiveness in this space,” she continues. “I coach and teach people how to transform culture, how to create leaders versus managers, and how to stop chasing chaos.”

To do so, Winterbottom developed a set of key concepts called the “Five Imperatives to Transform HR Professionals into Business Leaders,” which support her mission to turn HR into a business function and investment center:

  1. Be a business leader first, and a functional leader second.
  2. Be agile and adaptable—no more HR policy police.
  3. Influence and inform, using data, experience, and intuition.
  4. Create practical solutions, which must be simple and meet the business need.
  5. Have courage.

Her company offers one-on-one coaching, small group coaching, and retained and project-based consulting, as well as coaching entire teams on developing processes and systems that let values and culture thrive.

A central factor in her work is a twelve-week Masterclass offered quarterly to groups of individuals or entire departments. “We meet one hour each week,” she says, “and deep-dive into the five imperatives—what they mean and how they can be incorporated into real-life situations.” The class is also offered as two day-long sessions for in-tact HR teams.

Additionally, she’s established a vibrant online community with a virtual network of over four hundred HR professionals who can support and provide resources to people working in the HR/People space.

Winterbottom’s target market is broad, and she brings her vast experience of working with private equity firms, publicly traded organizations, start-ups, and the nonprofit sector to all she does. While she has worked for some of the world’s largest organizations, she enjoys working with smaller organizations. “They often don’t understand how important it is to have clarity and consistency around values in the organization and its people, and even a company of one hundred people or less can benefit from understanding how to operationalize your people systems.”

The young company appears to have found its niche—and Winterbottom hopes to quadruple its size throughout 2021.

Advice for HR Professionals

As told by Barbie Winterbottom

“Start by understanding your own core competencies, know what you do well and what you don’t do well. Lean into your strengths and find collaborators to prop up the areas you’re not so great with. Once you are clear on yourself, then you can begin to learn what your business needs by understanding and speaking its language.”

“Concentrate on developing relationships with and understanding your people, and keep in mind that HR is not just a tool of management. I believe our role as HR strategists is to create the infrastructure, tools, systems, and processes needed to allow our people and organizations to thrive. We must advocate for the people of the organization, and every CEO must understand the one common thread woven among every company on the planet is people.”

Looper Insurance is proud to partner with Barbie and The Business of HR, to help provide businesses with employer/employee benefits they deserve. Looper Insurance specializes in employer benefits and has over 30 years of benefit expertise. We’re your difference makers!

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