The Land Institute is an independent non-profit agricultural research organization focused on developing sustainable perennial grain agriculture for food production. It’s an innovative, forward-thinking organization pioneering new ways of ensuring food security. Two years ago, The Land Institute implemented SentricHR, an all-in-one HRIS, to bring modern management practices to the human resources function.
With SentricHR, the organization bade farewell to paper timesheets, spreadsheets, lengthy manual reconciliation, and other unsustainable paper-driven processes. Onboarding and payroll are smoother, compliance is assured, and The Land Institute has even doubled its benefits offerings.
When Krista Robinson started as The Land Institute’s Human Resources Manager, she became the organization’s first-ever dedicated HR professional. Not only did she enter a new position, but her hiring coincided with another significant transition: The Land Institute was midway through implementing an all-in-one HRIS — SentricHR.
“The decision to adopt the software came from the organization’s growing understanding that many of their processes were outdated and didn’t serve their people. There were a lot of paper-driven processes,” she says — everything was done manually, from recruitment to time off tracking to expense reconciliation. “A year-and-a-half later, I’m still uncovering things we could have captured more accurately using technology to minimize human error.”
The Land Institute was also entering a growth phase, with plans to expand across the U.S. and internationally. Tax compliance and standardizing services across multiple locations were top of mind.
“It would be nearly impossible to hire people and be agile in that process of expansion if we weren’t using a system that was accessible no matter where you are,” Robinson says.
SentricHR’s all-in-one HRIS has helped Robinson implement streamlined, accurate HR processes. Onboarding is now faster (and friendlier), and hiring in multiple jurisdictions is much simpler with built-in compliance checks. Employees can now use a self-service portal to track their hours worked, time off allocations, and benefits. Automated workflows and paperless filing systems mean Robinson has time and space to tackle more value-added business tasks.
Robinson knew paper-driven onboarding was not what she wanted for The Land Institute employees. “I’ve worked for employers where, on an employee’s first day, the first thing you do is set a stack of paperwork in front of them,” she says. “That’s not the experience we’re trying to create.”
Using SentricHR’s Employee Self-Service portal (ESS), new hires can access paperwork — including forms, the employee handbook, and benefits information — before they ever come to the office. Employees can fill in and update their personal information whenever required.
“I enjoy that their first day isn’t us going through the paperwork together. They’ve already had time to go through it on their own time, at their own pace, and on their first day, they have questions prepared for me,” Robinson says. “SentricHR onboarding is a proactive process rather than a reactive one. That accessibility of information has been key in us being able to hire in different states.”
Another critical aspect of hiring in multiple states is managing compliance with tax regulations, as well as with standards of occupational health and safety (OHSA), equal employment (EEO), and family and medical leave (FMLA). “Trying to figure out exactly what taxes our employees needed to pay and what was required of us as an employer in each state was a big, time-consuming task before implementing the SentricHR,” says Robinson.
Sentric streamlines compliance, with the ability to efficiently capture and report on varying standards. “Sentric knows exactly what’s required to hire in each state, and they get us set up each time — it saves us hours and hours of work,” she continues. “It’s reassuring to have a partner that understands and has vetted that process. From a checks and balances standpoint, I can be confident that we comply.”
The Land Institute also availed of Sentric’s benefits broker services to great advantage. “I don’t know how we would function without our broker’s expertise,” says Robinson. “She actively participated at every step, helping us through the entire open enrollment process.” What sets the service apart, Robinson says, is the broker’s software access: the broker does not simply provide a list of benefits but can integrate them into SentricHR and set up enrollment.
With the broker’s assistance, The Land Institute has doubled its benefits package by offering several voluntary benefits.
When Robinson joined The Land Institute, “we had paper time sheets, and it was up to a human to calculate those hours as well as overtime, which is very organizationally risky,” she says. “I’m very confident that there were a lot of errors.”
Now, we log hours through the ESS, and information flows directly into payroll — no paper is required. SentircHR’s time tracking system has also replaced the individual spreadsheets that monitor each employee’s time off. “Having a system to do all that for us has been beautiful.” With the guidance of Sentric experts, Robinson could also switch from monthly payroll to bi-weekly.
Robinson credits the Sentric team with keeping HRIS implementation on track even through some staffing changes at The Land Institute. “They were the ideal project managers,” she says. “They laid out all the steps for us and supported us the whole way. The understanding and adaptability on their part were key in us being able to move forward.”
That didn’t change, even as they completed the Sentric implementation. “With Sentric, I’ve experienced a level of accessibility to their experts that I did not have at other software companies. They know who you are, and they take care of you. With Sentric, I always talk to someone when I need support. It’s not an automated system.”
Partnering with Sentric has benefited everyone at The Land Institute. “I don’t have a sense specifically of how many hours or how much money Sentric has saved,” she says, “but it’s been huge.”
“What I can say is the software provides us with adaptability, agility, and efficiency in processes — and it’s streamlined processes for employees too. If we can put systems in place that remove barriers for employees and make their lives easier at work, then that’s what we should be doing. Sentric serves that purpose.”
And Robinson is just getting started in her quest to fully modernize The Land Institute’s HR systems. “My take is that if anything can live in and can function in SentricHR, it needs to live there,” Robinson says, citing goal setting, performance reviews, and training as functionalities she’d like to add. “We want to get the maximum benefit from this system.”
The Land Institute co-leads the global movement for perennial, diverse, regenerative grain agriculture at a scale that matches the enormity of the intertwined climate, water, and food security crises. An independent 501c3 nonprofit research institute founded in 1976, the organization seeks to reconcile the human economy with nature’s economy, starting with food.