Last year, employers found themselves communicating regularly about protocols that had never been part of their standard operating procedures before this. Now, social distancing and wearing a face mask are a normal part of doing business. And as pharmaceutical companies roll out their COVID vaccines, employers will again find themselves establishing policy and communicating with employees about that option.
Whether you’re in human resources or employee communications, you’re critical to helping employees be informed and aware of their options to vaccinate. In fact, according to a recent article from The New York Times, “Public health experts see employers as playing an important role in vaccinating enough people to reach herd immunity and get a handle on a pandemic.”
As you start communicating with your workforce about the COVID vaccine, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Communicate in a straightforward, informational way — just like you would with other well-being updates, such as the flu shot or preventative care.
- Share company expectations about the vaccine in an honest and transparent way.
- Develop a multi-month, multi-pronged strategy. Communications should be regular over a period of time, as many won’t be eligible to get the vaccine right away.
- Maintain a balance between highlighting the benefits while being respectful of varying opinions. Many are struggling with whether or not to get vaccinated, so provide educational resources that can help them make informed decisions.
- Reinforce CDC and public health recommendations.
- Provide communication with employees’ home life in mind. Spouses and dependents are also part of the decision of whether or not to get the vaccine.
- Be sure to assess how the process is going and make changes as needed.
Have a Strategy, Make a Plan
As an employer, it’s critical that you have a vaccination strategy for your company. A good way to determine your strategy is to get a gauge on employee attitudes. Consider sending out an anonymous survey. Companies will also evaluate their business reasons for whether or not to require the vaccine. While the majority of U.S. organizations (61%) intend only to encourage but not require the vaccination, some companies, given the nature of their businesses, have justification for requiring it.
Whatever you decide, make sure you:
- Communicate your policy or expectations consistently across your workforce.
- Identify ways to support those getting the vaccine.
- Provide reasonable, respectful accommodations for employees opting not to get it.
As COVID vaccinations roll out across the country and increase in number, feelings about the process will likely ebb and flow. Employees want a safe place to work, and everyone wants to stay healthy. Do your homework and stay up on the latest information. Your employees are counting on their workplace to be a source of accurate and reliable information.
Gary Spondike is the executive vice president of Westcomm, Inc., a marketing and communications company with offices in Detroit and Indianapolis. He has more than 30 years’ experience in business development, marketing communications and brand management. Equal parts creative and client focused, Spondike helps clients achieve their goals by ensuring creatives have a clear path to doing great work. He has managed programs for Oakland Housing, Detroit Historical Society, Quicken Loans and their family of companies, The Michigan Science Center and Eastern Market.