Ep. 8: How Managers Can Foster a Healthy Workforce – TRANSCRIPT

Abby Rose Esposito, Marketing Specialist (00:10):
Hello and welcome back to the MediSked Podcast! Today we’re joined by MediSked Associate Director of Client Services George Steffler, and Director of Quality Brenda Harvey. They’re here to chat about employee wellbeing and appreciation as our country is in the midst of a workforce crisis, particularly in direct care. We hope that this episode can provide some insight that will help managers foster a healthy workforce. My name is Abby Rose Esposito, Marketing Specialist here at MediSked. George and Brenda, why don’t you get started by talking about your background?

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (00:43):
Hi, my name’s George Steffler and as Abby Rose said, I’m the associate director here of client services at MediSked. I’ve been in my role now here four years. And before that I was a customer service desk manager for a credit card processing company that had locations in Rochester and Phoenix, Arizona.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (01:03):
Hi, and I’m Brenda Harvey, as Abby said, the director of quality assurance. I’ve been here seven and a half years managing the software testing, automation development, and performance testing of the software. And then I have been in this business for 30 plus – I’d better not tell you how many plus years, but over 30 years. And I’ve been a manager for about 30 years as well. So, hopefully I can help with some insight.

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (01:33):
And Brenda we’ve worked together several years.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (01:36):
Oh yes. Yep. Yep.

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (01:37):
And not just together here at MediSked, but we’ve certainly had challenges of how to keep employees, keeping them happy, engaged, and feel that we really appreciate them.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (01:47):
Yeah, we definitely have, and we’ve done a lot. My god, we’ve done some fun things. I’m thinking like, George, what do you think is like one of the most elaborate things that you’ve done to show the employees that you appreciate them?

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (01:59):
Sure. One of the most challenging or elaborate item or things that we did to celebrate our employees was launching the customer’s appreciation week. And so it’s a week that’s filled with every day. That’s filled with events crossword puzzles. It was our first ever customer appreciation week. But what we did is we had crossword puzzles. We had every day like a raffle to give away prizes. We asked people to bring in food, do a big Cookoff. We gave, we offered away

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (02:34):
Wait, I have to say, I remember that cuz I won the ice cream cake. I won the dessert challenge. Yep.

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (02:39):
And one of the things that we gave away were these were just cheap gifts. They were, you know, we were able to give away iPads or TVs or the one that surprised me the most was people getting the day off a free day off of from work. There was a committee for the event. Certainly can’t take all the credit. And one of my favorite was though the we bowling competition, we did not lose any Wii remotes to TVs, but I thought we would cuz everybody was really, really going their best. And, and I just never knew how competitive everyone

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (03:09):
I think I lost.

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (03:10):
You did. You didn’t make it past the second Roundup. So Brenda tell me one of your most creative ideas that you used to get employee engagement.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (03:20):
Well, let’s see. So one of my jobs, there was about 150 employees in just technology. And we noticed that like the chief technology officer, we really felt distanced. Really wasn’t engaged with everybody as it was such a large team. So I created this really large sign with the word bingo on it. And like the ‘B’ came off, the ‘I’ came off, you know, the, the word came off and it hung on her door. And then what I did is I hid around the office, the letters at, at several people’s desk, right at the five people’s, you know? So we had her choose three people a day. And she had to go talk for them for five minutes and learn about them before she could ask if they even had a letter or not. Right. And then what we did is when we figured out maybe her vacations and stuff like that and how much time. So we gave her time limit and we said, listen, if you don’t, you know, find all the bingo letters, you know, within the certain amount of time you owe all 150 of us lunch. That’s why it was a riot. It was such a right. And you know what, she owed us treats. She <laugh>, she didn’t

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (04:26):
She didn’t get bingo?!

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (04:27):
She didn’t get bingo. She had to pay up. Yep. So, and I made sure, like, it was people that I felt like she would never have ever talked to mm-hmm, you know, to give her and, and she loved it because she said, she learned about these people who had dogs and cats and, and really getting to know the individual. So that was kind of one of the most creative ideas I felt I, you know, you know, had work in them, but, but George, remember when like, I, I, I loved when we did like, can jam and then we did like Bocce outside in the grass. That was a lot of fun. Like what other games did we do?

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (05:00):
We had in our conference room? Luckily no one lost an eye or anything, but we did a paper airplane contest for the longest flight. Yeah. And also the coolest lurking looking plane. And then one of my favorites though, in the office and I, I don’t remember what show we saw it from, but it was a Nerf gun battle. Now for those listening, don’t worry. We did give everyone, they, they did get Goggle. So again, we were focused on how do we not do any harm and HR signed up on all this stuff. And we did several minute to win at games too. Do you remember?

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (05:34):
I do. I think the fat Oreo cookie on the forehead you had in your mouth,

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (05:39):
For those listening, you buy a lot, the funniest faces you’ll ever see do the Oreo cookie that starts at the forehead and they have to sit in a chair and try and get it in their mouth. And then to just see how the face responds and all these different things. It’s absolutely. Yeah. Hysterical.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (05:56):
Or what about what was the box that we put on the back?

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (05:59):
It was a tissue box, uhhuh, and they had ping pong balls. I’m pretty sure we stole that right for a minute to win it, but everybody was shaking and dancing and trying to get as many balls out of the tissue box as possible.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (06:12):
I know. And that’s like, no, hardly any money, like just to do it competition. And everyone was just laughing so hard that, that that’s some good ones. Like if you go look at the minute to win it, they have a whole bunch of really low cost things that you can do. And it just makes everybody laugh. They get really competitive and it kind of brings people together.

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (06:29):
Absolutely. And then speaking of one that brought people together. So we had a gentleman in the office that was, I would say, like the class clown, so to speak mm-hmm and he was such a great sport. We had at one of our events, we did a water balloon launch. So it’s one of those that you have two people hold it and then another person puts the water balloon in and then they launch it. Mm-hmm. And what he did is he’s like, alright, I’ll treat it like a day in the beach. And he sat in the chair and he allowed everybody, if they wanted to, to take launch a water balloon, Adam, and these were like 200 yards away, it was not close. So and you had to shoot at high and all that stuff. And if they did, if they did hit him, if he did get wet, they were able to get, we, we gave him a free lunch the next day.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (07:15):
You think like Doug or Brian would let us do that for them? We gotta think about that here. Well, yeah. I mean, oh, and remember the mini golf. Oh, that was so cool. So we did it here in the old building. We gotta do it at this new building here in case you guys didn’t know we moved, but you know, just take anything. We took like old computer printers and we put a little cup at the end and we just brought in putters and we did minigolf around the office with just fun, different things that we had in the office. You might have to go under a chair, you might get whatever obstacles, but you reminded me something. What do you gotta watch out for

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (07:55):
The walls? So you might make sure that you put cardboard all over the walls, cuz we definitely there were ball marks all over the drywall, but that was a huge success

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (08:05):
That was.

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (08:06):
And Brenda, what are, what about, what are some of the favorite thing free things that you’ve done before and why?

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (08:13):
Oh, free. Well, I love free. Right? Everyone loves, they all love the deal. Well, so you know, things that I, I like to do is like every morning I always make sure to wish the team, everyone on my team. Well, of course, you know, I still wish of course you George, and some other people, you know in the morning, like verbally or a text, like wish ’em good morning. You know, everyone wants to hear that good morning. And I actually send a picture because we have teams so I can send a little picture and you know, the verbiage with it. And so I do, my pictures are based on things I know about the employees. So like a whole bunch of them, like for my team actually wanna go see the national parks. So right now I’m sending pictures of all the different national parks while wishing them a good morning so they can get ideas on their next vacations.
And I’ve actually gotten comments like, oh cool. That’s on my bucket list. I wanna see that one or whatever, but you know, it really, I really like to, you know, touch base that way in the morning because you can make sure like everyone’s okay. And you’re, they know that I’m listening to what they’re saying of things that they wanna do and what they’ve been telling me. So then I’m like zoning in it and focusing on, on items about them. So I think that really works out well. And then every other week I just do this like little, 15 minute meeting and it’s just for stress relief. And what I do in the 15 minute meeting is we tell dad jokes. I mean, I’m so like, I love it. I love it. You know, or if I let some of ’em, if they have a trivia question, but you know, it’s just, it’s a take a breather, you know, and it’s just to spend some time together. So

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (09:44):
Give me your best dad joke.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (09:47):
Oh, put me on the spot. It’s a little tough, but I’m gonna cheat because we just had one of these little breather ones. So what is the scariest tree? You know what it is? No, it’s bamboo <laugh> all right. See? Or like, okay. Maybe, you know, did you hear that? I accidentally rubbed ketchup in my eyes and, and now I have Heinz sight

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (10:14):
From Heinz ketchup. Yes.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (10:16):
Okay. See that’s how bad they really, what the 15 minutes is about me telling jokes and laughing at myself. And my, you know, my employees are like, oh my God, like, this is really weird, but then it makes them laugh. So we have a good time with that. But I also do, like, I send out a weekly useless, I call it weekly useless trivia that I send out to the company. And what I like about that, cuz it goes out to the whole company, is it gets engagement with people like I might not normally interact with. And some of the funny comments are like, oh my gosh, I didn’t know that. Or you know, they might be funny sending something back about the trivia that week. But I have to say George, I remember that one thing you really inspired me with. I never forget when we worked in the office, you know, at home and you would leave for the day and you would just go through and fist pump everyone on the way out.
And everyone loved it. You’re like have a great day, you know? And people just loved that interaction or when you were helping, you know, in testing, you working for testing and that like you would shout out when we finished testing a ticket, like ding, ding, ding. Yeah, we’re done. We finished one, you know, and it was just like little things to show accomplishments. Like it really made it fun, you know? So I mean, I think we need to add something we could do like remotely like that to follow that theme when you accomplish something like that, you know, ding, ding, ding for everyone, something like that would be cool.

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (11:40):
Yeah, absolutely.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (11:41):
Yeah. Well George. How about like, well we, we, we knew we had some expensive one and some free ones, but what about maybe some other like low cost that we think people can do for recognition event events?

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (11:54):
You know? Yeah, absolutely. So as Brenda said, I mean I’ll, I love to celebrate any darn thing. And one of the things that we did at our old and, and trying to bring here too is celebrate those special occasions. So these are like work anniversaries. And then also from an employees like personal life, if they share like new babies coming into the work or coming into a family and then also like people moving most recently we, we gave one of our employees a, a gift basket for moving just ways to recognize and say show appreciation there. And we also had a committee we, we surveyed our team and said, who wants to be a part of this stuff? And we had a, we called them the fun team committee and what they were responsible for is on an employee’s birthday, was to help us bake a cake and we would cover, you know, the baking supplies and all of that stuff.
And they supplied the time and all the effort. And when we were able to sing happy birthday for that person or tell everyone, coming into the break room to have lunch it was fantastic and it was, it was very successful. And then we always did like these mini games. We did bingo but they were for like small prizes, like here at our company to learn more about the industry every week. One of our folks sends out a newsletter and at the end of that newsletter, it’s a trivia and you get put into a pot for $5 gift card. Yeah. Ways to give coffee or whatever you wanna do. We’ve also have done like cornhole competitions, cuz everybody plays corn hole at this point I feel like, or can jam. And we also have done like a flower growing competition where the management team here, we all had flowers to plant and try and grow and then paper whites.
Yeah, yeah. Paper whites. Yeah. Whoever I don’t know who won, but certainly wasn’t me. I have no, I think Lauren did. But most importantly it’s having the team be part of something that they like. And then finding ways of even giving back to the community, like a day of service or you could call it like a day of caring or really great options that our team enjoys participating in. And I would say, you know, these are really good ideas for employment motivation, but you know, Brenda, what happens if you hear someone talking negatively?

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (14:09):
Oh yeah. I mean, I’m sure it happens to everyone, right. And I’m just such a joker, so I’m always trying to lighten up the mood. But also while I’m empathetic, like to what they’re saying, I really try and point out like the positives and do something to cheer that person up. And I, and I like to end the conversation happy note. So I’m just trying to keep that positive culture. So you start off with the empathy in that, but then get it to turn into positive and happy to just make sure that we’re really keeping a positive culture here because negativity isn’t really not gonna get us anywhere.

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (14:42):
Mm-hmm. Absolutely. and I know with your disabled dad living with you, you’ve mentioned that the healthcare workers sometimes have a rough time during the work days. Are there things that you’re doing for them that are the same or different?

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (14:55):
Well, that’s a great question. So my dad has vascular dementia. So he is great at the swear words, I can tell you that <laugh> you can always get a lot and especially like he’s in so much pain. He’s also disabled and in so much pain when we try and change him, the hands really hurt, you know, a lot of hurting. So, you know that’s a lot of stress. So when the worker comes in, like whether it’s during the day, you know, in the morning or in the afternoon, I always make sure I check on them and like, how are you doing? Did you have a good day? How’s it going? Like, so they know like, you know, how is it, right? Mm-Hmm, you know, that I care about them and that, and so, and at those most difficult times, like while changing, he’s a two-person assist, so someone always has to be there.
So it’s, it’s mostly me. Mm-hmm but I try and tell jokes to them. Some of ’em, I can’t tell here, but <laugh>, but I do tell some jokes and I sing and make up songs cuz he’s like in a, he’s in a sling, a Hoyer lift. So we do up, up and away in his blue sling and don’t I won’t sing cuz he keeps on saying, “you know, do you have a day job? Cuz don’t quit it cuz you can’t sing.” He tells me, but, but you know, I do think that try and make it not so intense because he can get very, you know, intense with what the names he’s calling you and, and, and very, you know, please don’t, you know, whatever. So, but you know, they tell you not to treat him as family, but I share treats or I might bake for them on their birthdays and buy them flowers every once in a while just to do something nice for them because you know, sometimes it can get a little stressful, you know, while you’re doing that.
But you know, and because you know, like individuals like to work with us now that, that, you know, the word is out there, Roy and it’s getting easier and you can do stuff. That’s like, I know the one loves peppermint tea. So I bought some peppermint tea so she can always have peppermint tea, you know? I know it nothing’s, nothing’s perfect at all. Right. You know, but I think listening to the individuals and just making sure you understand what’s like driving them and, and things that they enjoy. I think it really helps you have a better conversation and better ideas of like what things you can do to make them feel appreciated.

George Steffler, Associate Dir of Client Services (17:06):
Oh, absolutely. So, you know, and I’m always making time and my one on ones with, in individuals that we always have an opportunity to chat kind of, I always open it with, Hey, what’s on your mind or what do you want to chat about real quick and then dive into the other stuff. And you know, one of the words, one of the pieces of advice that was always stuck with me is it’s not about what you did that matters. It’s always how you make them feel.

Brenda Harvey, Director of Quality Assurance (17:28):
Oh, this great advice, George.

Abby Rose Esposito, Marketing Specialist (17:31):
That is awesome. Thank you both so much for all of your great tips and tricks. Here’s to the next podcast. Can’t wait to have you guys back on, thank you again so much and thanks to our listeners as always.