Kentucky YMCA Youth Association Coordinates Programs Across Kentucky Using GQueues and Google Apps
The Kentucky YMCA Youth Association provides leadership development programs for middle school, high school and college students throughout the state of Kentucky. Their mission is to support youth in becoming more caring, respectful, honest and responsible leaders within their communities and the world. They provide opportunities for service learning, civic engagement and personal development through youth and government programs, model United Nations programs, as well as year-round leadership conferences and service learning experiences. The KY YMCA Youth Association's main office is located in Frankfort, and their staff of 16 employees, interns and seasonal contractors live and work throughout Kentucky.
Senior Program Director, Amanda Chism, has been a part of the KY YMCA team since 2011, and has managed the Youth Association staff and ensured the success of several year-round conference and leadership programs since 2015. Chism recalled that in 2012, Ben Reno-Weber, former CEO, recognized that staff were challenged with balancing several programs at a time and set out to find a better way to project manage. With his extensive background in project management, he was drawn to GQueues as a way for staff to keep up with their own tasks and for him to know what they were working on without having to check-in all the time. The organization had been using Google Apps since 2011, so the ability to integrate with tools they were already using made GQueues an attractive option.
After choosing GQueues to manage tasks at the YMCA Youth Association, Chism explained that many staff took advantage of it right away, but usage was optional. In early 2016, she noticed that some individuals who weren't using it seemed overwhelmed with their work and were missing tasks. Knowing that GQueues had already helped her and many others stay organized, she decided that it was time to make it a requirement and got all of her staff on board.
Simple Project Management
Chism explained that there are many moving parts to the work they do at the KY YMCA Youth Association, so she appreciates the simplicity of GQueues. She shared that every staff person has a GQueues account where they organize and track their personal and professional tasks. Most people have it set-up where there's one task for the program they're working on at the time, then subtasks for related action steps. She noted that subtasks help her team manage projects really well. Chism and her current CEO, Beth Malcom, completed project management training in 2016, which provided them with tools that are structured similarly to GQueues. "It's really nice to have a system that is set up in the same project management style," Chism noted. She explained that deadlines are also a really important feature that help staff stay on track with tasks. Knowing when something is due helps people decide what they should be working on next. The team also loves the keyboard shortcuts in GQueues. "When something needs to be added quickly, we use the ctrl-i shortcut. We feel like that one simple feature has changed our lives."
Chism holds bi-weekly meetings with each of her staff, where they check-in about their progress using GQueues to guide their conversations. She has a shared queue for every employee that she supervises and explained that every two weeks they sit down together and update the tasks in their queues. Chism helps review what's on their workload and decide what needs to be prioritized or moved around. Chism explained that when someone gets busy during conferences, they might end up pushing back a meeting, but she's still able to open up their queue, see what's on their plate and make sure nothing gets forgotten. "I can check in with that person and say, 'Where are we with this?' or 'Do we need to push this deadline back?'" she noted. Throughout the week, Chism and her staff use notes regularly to discuss the progress of their tasks. "Notes allow me to collaborate with people, even if I'm not meeting with them."
Senior Program Director
The entire staff at the KY YMCA Youth Association uses Google Apps and Chism finds Google Calendar to be particularly helpful when it comes to managing her team. She explained that the majority of her team maintains a flexible schedule that varies depending on the season. Monday is the only day that everyone is consistently in the office, but Google Calendar helps Chism know where her staff are the rest of the week. All of their calendars are linked so everyone's schedule can be viewed at any given time. Chism has four employees who work out of their cars approximately 60% of the time, but Google Calendar and the GQueues mobile apps make it seamless for them to stay on track with projects and appointments while they're working out in the field.
In the short time that she has required staff to use GQueues, Chism has already noticed great improvements in their organization and accountability. GQueues has helped provide a working framework for setting clear and realistic expectations, and has equipped staff with a tool for tracking their progress. "GQueues has helped me become a better supervisor, and for my team, it's provided organization and accountability that we did not have before," explained Chism. "GQueues helps meetings become more efficient," she noted. "I'm no longer sitting there asking each person what they're working on. Instead, I can see it on my screen, go through their queues ahead of time and have an idea of where I need to support them."
Another noteworthy benefit that Chism has noticed since using GQueues is an overall boost in morale. GQueues has helped her create more collaborative relationships with her staff because she's able to support them both personally and professionally. She explained that most of her staff are young and are balancing several responsibilities other than work. During conference season, they put in long hours and sometimes live out of hotels for months at a time which can be exhausting and stressful, especially for those who are still going through school or planning life events. When employees choose to share their personal tasks in GQueues, Chism is able to factor those in when creating their priorities at work. "GQueues doesn't have to just be used in the workplace; it helps us support the human side of people, too," Chism stated.