Providing a Lifeline to Youth Dynamics’ Distributed Organization During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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In 1981, the nonprofit Youth Dynamics got its start in Billings, Montana, where it began by licensing foster homes and placing foster children. Since the late 1990s, the organization has evolved its mission to also encompass child and family therapy, case management, one on one mentors, and therapeutic group homes that offer a treatment-oriented environment. Today, Youth Dynamics is the largest children’s mental health provider in Montana, a U.S. state bigger in area than all of Germany. With 600 employees spread across 31 office locations and group homes that directly serve thousands of children in rural and frontier communities, the organization’s HR and People team struggled to keep its distributed workforce connected and engaged prior to adopting Sage People last year.

As an essential service, Youth Dynamics is still open and treating children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, its providers are meeting via telecommunications as much as possible, and about a third of its employees are currently working from home. These workers are not on the corporate network and therefore are unable to access Youth Dynamics’ Microsoft SharePoint intranet. Thankfully, they do have simple, easy access to their Sage People portal, which delivers critical employee communications about policy changes and updates related to the current health crisis. “Since we’re a mental health provider, we pride ourselves on being trauma-informed, so we have a resource section in Sage People for self care, where our employees can go for ideas to help energize them and get them through a rough week,” said Will Tedrow, HR Director at Youth Dynamics. “Being able to provide those kinds of resources, especially now, has been really cool.”

We recently chatted with Tedrow, as well as Amy Stone, Youth Dynamics’ HR and Education Specialist, and Kristin Thomson, HR Specialist, to learn more about their journey with Sage People. Our new customer success story describes how this forward-thinking HR and People team is leveraging Sage People to gain unprecedented people insights, speed up hiring decisions, and boost employee engagement.

Sage People has already made a significant impact across the organization, helping to:

  • Deliver critical communications to remote workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Speed time-to-insight for the annual HR data review by 75%
  • Increase survey frequency 4X, and boost response rates 2X
  • Accelerate hiring decisions by 66%
  • Fully automate 40% of manual HR processes

Reimagining HR Workflows Across Systems

The impetus for replacing the organization’s legacy People-Trak HRIS software actually started with a separate project. “Our learning system was falling apart, and we needed to move from that,” Tedrow shared. “That caused us to think about how we might integrate all of our systems together to do things more effectively. We started really looking at what the future of HR would be and how people analytics will play a role, which made us realize we needed a solid HCM system before we could do anything else.”

Once Youth Dynamics decided to deploy Sage People, their implementation proceeded smoothly—taking just three months to complete. “It was great to work with our Sage People consultant, who walked us through what we needed to know and encouraged us to try things on our own,” noted Thomson. Sage Professional Services helped the team scrub their employee data, define their processes, configure the system to their unique requirements, and integrate it with tools for applicant tracking, timekeeping, payroll, and benefits. “Sage’s customer service is one of the best of all the vendors I’ve ever worked with,” added Tedrow.

Transforming HR by Automating the Employee Journey

The impact of Sage People on Youth Dynamics’ HR and People operations was immediate. For its mentor program alone, the organization hires between 300-500 employees a year, so it was a big win to automate dozens of application tracking steps that used to be handled differently by each individual hiring manager and their assistants. Tedrow explained, “Previously, we would have to manually enter a job listing into our old system, then post it to different job boards one-by-one, and it was difficult to track information about applicants. Once someone did apply, it would take us 15 minutes to enter their application into our system and then email the hiring manager a PDF to review. Now all that work is essentially gone because everything is embedded right into the Sage People Workforce Experience portal, and automated. Managers know how to find everything, so nothing’s lost in email anymore. We get 3,000 applications a year, so that’s a huge chunk of time we’re saving by making the process of approving, opening, and filling each vacancy so much cleaner and faster.”

Sage People also streamlined benefits-related tasks by integrating with the organization’s insurance carrier, Allegiance. Employees simply enroll in their benefit plans through Sage People, and an EDI connection automatically sends the necessary information over to Allegiance. When it comes time for performance management, Youth Dynamics’ HR and People team greatly appreciates that Sage People reliably and securely tracks employee performance data right in the system (rather than through spreadsheets). Each of these improvements free up their HR assistants, payroll team, and staff development specialists for more strategic work. Stone commented, “Sage People drastically reduced the amount of time our HR Assistants were spending just on data entry alone. As a result, they’ve become more of a guiding resource for our staff, have time to do more trainings, and are improving the understanding and relationship between HR and all of our managers.”

Amplifying an “Actively Caring Culture”

Feedback and gratitude have also poured in from Youth Dynamics’ employee users. In particular, they enjoy how Sage People powers employee recognition by allowing managers and co-workers to provide real-time feedback and call out great work in a visible forum, as well as its easy-to-use directory, where anyone can find colleagues, see reporting lines, and access contact information across the organization. “I was talking to an employee about Sage People and everything it can do, and she had this huge light bulb moment where she said, ‘Oh my gosh, you guys got this because you care about retaining us as employees,’” recalled Stone. “I said, ‘Yes, that’s exactly why we have it.’ It has increased the trust people have in our HR department, and in Youth Dynamics overall.”

As an organization that works with over 100 foster parents, Youth Dynamics also needs to communicate with and track a lot of information about these external clients. “We’ve never even attempted to manage our foster parents through a digital solution before, even though they are huge part of our team,” noted Tedrow. “Sage People opens a huge avenue for us to support them by getting best practices information out, tailoring communications to what’s important to them, and collecting their feedback through surveys, all while efficiently tracking their licensing and relicensing updates every year.”

Next up, Youth Dynamics’ HR and People team plan to dive even deeper into vital people analytics, such as why or when employees are leaving, typical career progressions for particular positions, and other insights that will help them better understand their workforce and contribute towards organizational goals. Read our customer story to learn more about the many advantages Youth Dynamics gained by migrating to Sage People.