A Day in the Life of MVAA's Team 212

Office of Performance and Transformation's Communication Representative Monica Drake follows different State of Michigan employees throughout the year.

At 211 degrees Fahrenheit, water is really hot, but, at 212 degrees, it boils. Boiling water creates steam, and steam can power an engine. 

That’s how staff at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans came up with the name Team 212 – their employee engagement committee that strives to “rise to the next degree.”

Pharmacist Fred Ammerman, a member of Team 212, said, “We’re trying to encourage staff to interact better together and raise morale. RISE is our motto, and it stands for Respect, Integrity, Service, and Excellence. Team 212 has embraced those characteristics.”

The first week of December, Team 212 hosted a holiday party for all staff at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. There was a buffet, cookie decorating, an ugly Christmas sweater contest (judged by the veterans), a raffle, and holiday Mad Libs at each table.

“I think morale has improved quite a bit since the formation of Team 212 about two years ago. Parties like this give staff a break from the daily stress of their jobs and gives them the chance to communicate with other employees,” said Ammerman.

“For me, I’m stuck in the pharmacy all day so I don’t get the chance to interact with co-workers very often. But, at these parties, we encourage employees to sit with people they don’t know, so I’ve gotten to know almost all of my co-workers.”

Angie Nichols, administrative assistant with Maxim Healthcare Services, the veterans home’s CNA staffing agency, said, “At first, I thought only state employees could join Team 212. But Team 212 is made up of both state of Michigan employees and contractors.”

“There was previously a competitive culture of ‘Contactors vs. state employees.’ Now it feels like we’re all together, on one team, collaborating to support the veterans.” 

Nichols said working at a veterans home can be emotionally draining, so fun activities are important.

“We play taps every Friday in memory of residents who passed away that week. We get very attached to the people who live here,” said Nichols. “The caregivers here are the hardest workers – mentally, physically and emotionally.”

To show staff they are appreciated, the Veterans Homes Board president will pick an employee of the month who goes above and beyond the mission of Team 212. The team also recognizes employees by posting notes on the main hallway wall during Nurses Week, CNA week, Administrative Assistant Week, etc.

“One time, we handed out Kool-Aid packets and said, ‘You’re a cool aide,’” said Nichols with a laugh. “We try to think of different things to boost morale.”

Registered Dietitian Sarah Noling and Medical Transcriptionist Lynne Myszak are two of the founding members of Team 212. “We have an open-door policy. As long as it’s okay with their supervisor, anyone can join Team 212,” said Myszak.

There are currently about 12 active members of Team 212, and there’s representation from each shift. The group meets once a month to discuss employee engagement activities.

Team 212 designed brightly colored T-shirts and sweatshirts with the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans logo on the front, and the motto “Rise to Service” on the back. They sell the shirts to staff and their families, and the money raised from the sales and other fundraisers go towards the quarterly staff parties so no state money is used.

“Employees wear the shirts all the time – even after they go home. It shows that they’re proud to work here,” said Myszak.

One of Team 212’s goals for 2019 is to start facilitating Lean Process Improvement projects at the veterans home.

Noling said, “We want employees to be able to come to a group of their peers, talk about policies and processes that don’t make sense, and share their ideas for process improvement projects.”

She said the top priority of Team 212 is to create an environment where employees feel listened to, appreciated, and satisfied with their jobs.

“Our jobs are to take care of veterans, and happy employees equal happy veterans,” she said.

Noling and Myszak said that’s their favorite part of their jobs – the veterans.

Noling said, “Our job is to help the members here maintain purpose – which is really important for people living in a home care setting that isn’t their actual home. We work to reduce boredom and keep them from being lonely – being not only their caretakers but also their friends. Everything else is ancillary to fulfilling those basic human needs.”

Myszak added, “We’re amazed at where some of these guys have been and what they have done in their lives. I feel privileged to work here with them.”