Superstars: Human Resources

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

John Hammond

Director of Training

Charley's Grilled Subs

Each new franchisee class at Charley's Grilled Subs chooses a popular song and rewrites the lyrics to apply to the restaurant and training experience. John Hammond, Charley's director of training, plays the guitar while the class sings along.

"The next time they hear that song on the radio, they will think about their training," Hammond, 48, says. "You've got to make the retention of the training stick."

Hammond helped set up the corporate training program 13 years ago. When he started as general manager of Charley's Greater Columbus Convention Center eatery in 1993, the company had 10 locations. Today, there are 423 stores worldwide. Hammond has trained about 1,300 franchisees and managers from 46 states and 16 countries. In 2010, Hammond was one of six inductees to the company's Franchise Hall of Fame.

"He is a wonderful, kind person and a tremendous asset to the company," says Charley Shin, president and CEO of Charley's. "All the trainees, and there have been hundreds of them, can't say enough good things about John. They're always inspired when they leave. After many years, they still call him and ask him questions."

"It's hard to measure the results of training," Hammond says. "I have two big folders--I call them love letters--filled with cards and letters and e-mails that franchisees have sent over the years. ... There are some who, every time I talk to them, they say, ‘You're the reason my lights are on.' Training's not effective unless they apply it. You'll see the stores that execute to the standard they were taught, their probability of success is going to be higher."

Before joining Charley's, Hammond spent 10 years in management for now-defunct Wendy's subsidiary Sisters Chicken and Biscuits. After two years as a GM with Charley's, he was promoted to regional director, traveling around the country to open restaurants and offer pre-opening training and supporting franchisees.

Hammond's three-week training program takes place at Charley's corporate offices on Farmer's Drive in northwest Columbus--complete with a fully functional kitchen.

One of the biggest challenges in every class is breaking the habits of food-industry veterans, Hammond says: "The percept a lot of people have is that they're going to come in and just learn how to make a Philly steak, but it's a lot more than that. We teach financial profit and loss, breakeven, sexual harassment, interviewing, hiring, recruiting and retaining employees."

Hammond keeps up-to-date through trade magazines and books, and then incorporates that information into the program. "You have to stay on the cutting edge. Times have changed, it's a different generation. The employees have changed and the customers have changed," he says, citing social media, a movement toward environmentally friendly operations and the recent economic downturn.

"Look at recruiting employees. How do I find employees? Is it electronically? Is it through Facebook or Craigslist? Those are things that someone who's been in business for a while might not think about," Hammond says.

Patrick Porter

Human Resources Director

Rea & Associates

When Patrick Porter was hired as human resources director for accounting firm Rea & Associates in 2009, it was both a good and sobering time to start.

Porter, 42, arrived in time to give input into Rea's updated strategic HR initiatives: to be a top recruiting organization, to have superior employee development, and to provide a great culture. But it was a tough year economically, and one of Porter's first big challenges was cutting staff.

"Unfortunately, we had to right-size the organization twice in the last two years. Those decisions weren't made lightly or easily, but we had to do it in order to continue to be focused strategically," Porter says.

"He came in the beginning of the recession and had to deal with getting our organization properly staffed for that. In spite of that, he immediately gained a rapport with all our people," says Lee Beall, CEO of Rea & Associates. "They're comfortable to talk to him about anything." Today, Rea employs 200 people in 10 offices.

Porter says he stays focused on the Rea Way, a guide to the firm's values and principles established by founder Richard Rea. It's the backbone for several programs that promote staff development and work culture.

Employees can take advantage of a four-day retreat, which the firm's 85 CPAs can apply toward 40 annual hours of continuing education requirements. Rea also boasts a 212 Degrees annual award program. "Heating water to 212 degrees creates steam, and steam can do amazing things, like powering locomotives and generators. We wanted to recognize employee performance that was 212 degrees and then some," Porter says.

The firm also holds a golf classic, a summer outing for friends and family, and a three-on-three basketball tournament. What Porter is most proud of, however, is his own Rea Academy initiative.

"The Rea Academy focuses on three types of development: technical and compliance, personal development and leadership," Porter says. Staff accountants, for example, can expect training in accounting, audit and tax services, plus help prepping for the CPA exam. More experienced staffers focus on managing clients and engagements and managerial skills.

Porter previously worked in HR for organizations including J.W. Hickey & Associates, Delaware County, Deloitte, Wendy's International and PNC. He was bitten by the human resources bug during two internships with Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown, Ky., where he helped set up sports leagues, organized outings to Cincinnati Reds games and worked on an appreciation event that recognized perfect attendance. "They gave away 10 Camrys. They brought in Dick Clark to emcee and they created a 1950s dinner and dance event," Porter says.

Porter says his experiences with Toyota taught him to truly enjoy working in HR. "It's about being a business partner to the organization and helping us focus on our main priorities. For us, success is defined by growth and by our performance. Being an instrumental contributor to our overall success is what I'm trying to do day in and day out," he says.

Reprinted from the April 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.