10 Top HR Tips of 2012

1. Aligning people to business objectives. “If you manage your people really well and give them the chance to do something they are really good at and align them to the business objectives, it becomes a win-win,” says Kathy Kolbe, founder of Kolbe Corp. and creator of the Kolbe A Index, used in selection, leadership and team building

2. Communicating to employees in a clear, concise manner. “It is very important to help employees understand the business reasons behind decisions. Many employers when expanding internationally view communication as an after-the-fact alternative for implementing an employee pay and benefits program. Smart employers start by considering the communication potential at the outset and then design the right tax-efficient reward program for the international franchise consultant or F&B executive,” says James Berkeley, an international consultant for full-service restaurants looking to expand overseas.

3. Being savvy about technology. “It is crucial that moving forward restaurant companies have to be very savvy about technology. The business demands it. Historically, human resources has been a very paper-driven department, but that’s not the case anymore. And that makes good business sense because the better job that companies can do to automate the paper side of things allows more time to be spent on the people side of the business, where it can really make a difference to the bottom line,” says Steven Wallace, executive vice president and chief people officer at Real Mex Restaurants Inc.

4. Ensuring employees remain engaged and productive. “Engaged not just satisfied. If you have not taken steps to measure engagement, now is the time. Then hold HR accountable for the results and strategies to improve the scores,” says Joleen Goronkin, president of People & Performance Strategies, an HR consultancy.

5. Driving culture change. “Entitlement or performance? What things do you need to do to move the needle? Put them in place and really understand what your culture is. It is like a culture in a Petri dish. You can let it grow on its own and take on its own shape and form, or you can modify it and grow it in a way that aligns with your expected results,” asserts People & Performance’s Goronkin.

6. Rewarding and retaining key employees. “How do I keep those employees happy so that they know they are valued, that their knowledge and their skill are valued. It is going to get much tougher. There is no way around that because the economy is going to improve and there is going to be less of that young workforce,” says Toni Quist, senior vice president of human resources and training for Perkins and Marie Callender’s Inc.

7. Utilizing social media. “Operators should use social media listings on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin to drive applicants. The very first impression that an applicant has with an operator is the application, and you have to grab them there. Once you have them, you will want to retain them, so you need the engagement tools that social media offers,” says Nate DaPore, president and chief executive of People Matter, a talent management platform.

8. Tuning into employees. “Tune into who your employees really are—and figure out what is going to actually matter to them. For example, one of the things that has occurred during the recession is a big shift in average age. In quick-service companies, for example, the average employee is almost 30 years old. The lifestyle benefits that may have mattered to teenagers or young adults will not be appropriate if your own workforce has aged. Learning and development, healthcare, transportation assistance, hours built around taking care of a family or a parent may be more important,” says Joni Doolin, founder and chief executive of the People Report.

9. Developing leaders. “Developing leaders takes time–we don’t have time. So what do you do? Set aside dedicated time and make it a critical priority. Just as you set aside regular time for your P&L review, it is critical to set aside time for your human capital review. It is great to send someone for an executive MBA or a training class, but there are other resources that are very effective in developing leadership traits that have a significantly reduced investment level. First you have to identify the strengths and weaknesses (360 or other assessment) of your people. Then create a plan to improve behaviors and performance,” says People & Performance’s Goronkin.

10. Continuing education for employees. “The rate of change around us demands that employees keep pace. There is new information all the time about calories and nutrition, immigration, you name it. You have to be calibrating your employment brand all the time. Simply what I did five years ago isn’t what I should be doing in 2012,” says Perkins and Marie Callender’s Quist.