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Innovative educational nonprofit frees up time for closing the achievement gap

Teacher interacting with student

Rocketship Public Schools is a nonprofit network of public elementary charter schools that’s working to eliminate the achievement gap. More than a decade ago, the organization started out with some makeshift classrooms in a downtown San Jose, California church. They now serve nearly 10,000 students, or ‘Rocketeers,’ in 20 public charter schools across the California Bay Area, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Nashville, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C.

As Rocketship grew across the country, they expanded rapidly from 200 to over 1,000 employees. To learn more about this inspiring success story, we recently caught up with Mirachel Santa Ana, Associate Director of Talent Operations at Rocketship Public Schools. She described how their constant growth had contributed to time-consuming, frustrating HR processes.

After making the move to Sage People in 2014, Rocketship achieved the following results:

  • Gained a 360-degree view of each employee
  • Improved employee retention 28%
  • Increased people-focused work by 20%
  • Managed 400% workforce growth

 Finding an HR system to keep pace with exponential growth

Previously, the network’s HR and Talent team used a disjointed mixture of SilkRoad’s HR software, ADP for payroll, and a benefits portal. However, none of these systems were connected, creating several inefficient workarounds. The team struggled with their limited workforce reporting and employee self-service, so Rocketship went in search of a new HR system that would be easy to learn and use, work on teacher’s mobile phones and tablets, seamlessly integrate with other solutions, and offer flexible reporting capabilities to support unique sector requirements. Santa Ana explained that with a small talent team supporting so many widely dispersed schools, they desperately needed virtual workflows and automation to help boost efficiency.

After considering a few other HR systems, such as ADP, the team decided that Sage People had the most robust reports and dashboards, and stood out for its service and flexibility to meet their long-term needs as a growing educational institution. During the implementation, Rocketship appreciated Sage People’s expert support and adaptability in creating processes based on their specific preferences and internal language.

As a result, they now have one place for employee onboarding, streamlined benefits administration integrated with third-party benefit providers, and performance management. When it comes time for the bi-annual review cycle, managers and employees get automated reminders from Sage People with simple templates tailored to each team’s performance measurements needs—replacing the old, inconsistent process.

Increasing people-focused work by 20%

More recently, Sage People played a key role in helping the HR and People team work remotely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, teachers have been at their computers much more often and Rocketship saw a jump in system engagement organization-wide, as employees used it to update their addresses, check on training requirements, and more. This means that fewer people email the HR team to make changes or provide People data. “The combination of having employee self-service and automated processes in Sage People makes things easier on our team and increases productivity across the organization,” pointed out Santa Ana.

To help with ramping up new schools and maintaining their sanity during the annual summer hiring rush, Rocketship’ People team also built out a useful onboarding portal using pre-set policies in the Sage People Workforce Experience interface. It integrates with FormAssembly so that new hires can directly upload their own documentation, which is then added right onto their team member record in Sage People. The portal provides each new employee with one streamlined list of all their outstanding and completed onboarding tasks (e.g., submitting information for background checks and employment verification, or copies of their Teacher Development and Education plan, teaching license, and tuberculosis test results), including clear reporting on anything that’s still missing before someone’s first day of work.

“We have grown significantly since we first implemented Sage People and were only operating in California,” shared Santa Ana. “Back in the early days, we had three HR business partners supporting 200 employees. Now, we’re at over a thousand people using the system across our locations in Milwaukee, Nashville, and D.C.” She estimates that administrative tasks used to take up around 50% of her team’s time, limiting how much they could focus on people-centered initiatives. Since everything is now done directly in the system, transactional work has dropped to only 30% of their time, leaving 70% free for more strategic work. 

Simplified workforce visibility takes the pain out of reporting

In addition to these productivity gains, Santa Ana told us about the many advantages of Sage People’s analytics functionality. “The biggest benefit of Sage People is its flexibility and customizability as our organization evolves,” she noted, “When we need to look at a new metric, we can easily update our configuration to track workforce data in a different way. Ultimately, that lets us make decisions about what is in the best interests of our students, and how we can help put them on a pathway to college.”

She heavily relies on Sage People’s interactive reports, most of which the team simply didn’t have with their old system, and creates scheduled reports for certain stakeholders across the organization. For example, Santa Ana explained, “Sage People automatically sends our special education team updated rosters every week to show which staff at each school are a part of our integrated special education programs, including new hires. That way, they’re aware of who they should expect to onboard and can quickly grant them access to appropriate tools.”

Sage People also supports Rocketship’s compliance and charter renewal efforts, since state and federal authorizers ask for various workforce metrics, such as teachers’ education completion levels, years of teaching experience, and specific credentials. Santa Ana created a report with a matrix that shows FTEs and employee ethnicity by school, grouping classified staff members into certain buckets the government agencies require. This has also been helpful as Rocketship strives to create a more diverse workforce that reflects the communities it serves. In fact, the organization recently announced that 72% of its educators today identify as people of color.

Next, Santa Ana and her team look forward to building out even more Sage People dashboards and integrating the HR system with their other business applications, such as Sage Intacct. To find out more about how Rocketship Public Schools is benefiting from Sage People, read our new customer story.