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What does the future hold for HR? Glad you asked. We don’t use on our crystal ball to find the answer, instead we looked at the cold hard stats, trend growth and insights from HR managers. The answer is good news – it’s “opportunity”!

There are 10 big trends affecting HR in 2014 – all of which provide the perfect opportunity for business growth if you know how leverage them correctly. In a recent webinar, Kay Lucas, Vice President of Product Management for PeopleMatter and Victor Fernandez, Executive Director of Insights and Knowledge for Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K), explained how to maximize ROI to ensure your business is competitive in the year ahead.

Trend #1 Business Analytics

Data, data, data – it’s everywhere. Using it effectively is key. Readily accessible data from across your business can be analyzed to find predictive modeling that will help you make smarter business decisions. Look at patterns to determine what happened in the past and why it happened to make predictions of future actions. Wisely using Business Analytics will increase transparency, improve decision-making and even identify new opportunities. To start, figure out what questions you want answered, identify the data sources and gather as much data as possible. Test, analyze and repeat.

Trend #2 Staffing Difficulties Rise

According to the Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report) Workforce Index, recruiting and retention is getting harder for the service industry. Job vacancies, particularly at the hourly level, are increasing. Turnover for hourly workers in quick service and fast casual / family dining on a rolling 12-month period is 89 percent. On a good note, the report forecasts strong job growth ahead for restaurants.

Trend #3: Job Boards

A variety of job boards are available to help people find the perfect job – but which are the best to use? The answer depends on your unique company, job and needs. The best plan is to test and analyze which ones works best for you. Great places to find interested applicants include job aggregators like Monster and Indeed, niche job sites that focus on a specific location or industry, and social media. Use unique URLs for each job posts on various boards and measure the performance.

Trend #4: Execution is Key – Market Share Battle

Consumer budgets remain tight, and restaurants are in a battle to retain their current customers. With flat comp sales per quarter in the industry, providing excellent service to each and every customer is crucial. Each customer visit is the perfect time for perfect execution. Focus on employee training and excellent execution to win the market share battle.

Trend #5: Obamacare

With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, the trend of hiring more part-time employees is growing. Since companies with 50 or more employees will have to provide health care to all employees that work more than 30 hours per week, some companies are deciding to hire more part-time workers. As a result, tracking work hours is becoming more important. To stay competitive, plan accordingly for the new change, consider if part-time hires are a smart decision, and use scheduling software to track employee hours that may near the 30 hours threshold.

Trend #6 Managing Health Care Costs

Across the restaurant industry, the ACA brings a variety of concerns for HR managers including rising health care costs, staying compliant and remaining competitive competitive. Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report) shares that 93 percent of restaurants expect their costs to rise. How will they manage these rising costs? Seventy-eight percent plan to hire more part-time employees, while 56 percent plan to increase menu prices to offset costs.

Trend #7: Compliance

Becoming and staying compliant is a trend that will continue to be important this year. I-9 audits are on the rise: up from 250 audits in 2007 to 3,000 audits in 2012. Instead of just large corporations, audits now focus on small and medium size businesses too. The best way to be prepared for an I-9 audit is to assume you will be a target. Use smart technology to ensure you are always compliant.

Trend #8: Worker Activism and Pressure on Wages

Restaurant hourly workers are prime candidates for activism for increased wages. According to Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report), the median age for quick service hourly workers is 22 and casual dining is 24. For many of these young workers, this may be their first job. With 12 percent making minimum wage, and the median pay for the rest only $0.52 above minimum wage expectations for pressure to increase pay from employees will increase. Fight For 15, which advocated for a $15 hourly pay for fast food employees, is a recent example. Expect more along the same lines.

Trend #9 – Mobile Apps for Work

Americans are more connected than ever, thanks to smartphones. According PEW Internet, 91 percent of Americans have cell phones and 102 billion apps were downloaded in 2013. Companies need to provide apps that keep employees connected and more engaged. It’s what employees now expect – don’t let the competition beat you by not offering user-friendly employee mobile apps.

Trend #10: Technology

Last, but not least, technology will play a large role in 2014 in three areas.

1. For restaurants, To-Go Sales will be a big opportunity thanks to technology that makes online ordering and consumer interaction with those orders to grow.

2. Many companies reduced employee headcount during the recession the past few years. Technology advancements will continue to help these remaining employees be more productive.

3. The prevalence of smartphones will lead to increased real-time consumer insights. For example, consumers can rate a restaurant during their visit. Technology can help track real-time customer feedback, allowing for greater testing and analysis to find out what is and is not working.

2014 will be a year of change for HR managers. Understanding and harnessing the power of these 10 trends will help your business maximize ROI and stand apart from the competition in the year ahead.

For additional information on how to use these trends to their greatest potential, watch the full webinar video available on PeopleMatter.com.