People Report, a human resources company, is one day into the second annual QSR Workforce Symposium, being held in Dallas, Texas, at the Las Colinas Marriott.

Unlike other conferences, the symposium is “solely focused on actionable things, things that you can go back to your business and do right away,” says Matt Smith, director of marketing and communications for People Report. This focus drew 150 quick-service professionals, a number inline with last year’s attendance. Symposium attendees range from human resource professionals to operators and industry partners.

Amy O’Neil, vice president of operations for Caribou Coffee, views the symposium as a networking opportunity. “It’s a great way to network with other people in the industry and specifically on people practices. The fact that the symposium is focused on the quick-service space makes it all the more relevant. [That] helps in terms of effectiveness and topics discussion,” she says. O’Neil cites the data provided by People Report as one of the extremely useful tools she picked up regarding the quick-service industry. That data has given her benchmarks to help her judge how her company is performing against competitors.

Today’s schedule began with a session led by Eric Chester, author of Generation Why and Managing Generations at Work. Penelope Trunk, author of The Brazen Careerist and Chester Elton, author of The 24 Carrot Manager, will make appearances this afternoon. Also planned is a supervisor panel with shift leaders.

Each of the scheduled speakers has tailored his/her messages to address the symposium’s theme, “Now more than ever, people matter.” Steve Bigari, CEO of America’s Family, urged attendees to get engaged with their workers and understand the challenges they face. Chester addressed the human capital issue of labor shortages, emphasizing the successful gaining and retention of employees. “QSRs are really going to need to think about the target potential employee groups and how we engage them at a young age in order to get them interested from an employment brand standpoint. [We need] fundamental information about getting inside the head and hearts of the younger workforce,” she says.

O’Neil is already planning how she can implement at Caribou what she’s learned at the symposium. She mentions tailoring solutions to the “specific demographics of [Caribou’s] workforce” to account for different needs as well as using technology to help with employee recruitment and brand loyalty.

Smith hopes that all attendees, like O’Neil, are able to take away helpful ideas from the conference. “The goal of the symposium is to change the way people think about their businesses, especially in the economic times we’re in, whether it’s discounting your menu or offering something new … things that propel the industry forward, things that are crazy and unique in terms of ideas… we need to think outside the box.”

Mary Fletcher King