As COVID-19 vaccination distribution begins, organizations everywhere have critical decisions to make about their vaccination policies. A Gartner poll of more than 100 HR leaders shows that most will encourage, not mandate, vaccination — but that’s not the only issue at stake.
Ultimately, your strategy must balance employee health and welfare, legal requirements, and operational considerations. But like much of the pandemic response, your organization’s choices will telegraph your values and drive your brand as an employer, for better or worse.
Here are three key strategic questions to ask when planning your vaccine strategy.
Should we require that employees be vaccinated?
In a December 9, 2020, Gartner poll, 60% of HR leaders said they would encourage employees to get vaccinated, but wouldn’t require it. Less than one-third of polled HR leaders said they believed it to be ethical to mandate a COVID-19 vaccine, and only 3% said they would require employees to show proof of vaccination to return to the workplace.
In deciding whether to mandate vaccinations, remember that while many employees will likely welcome the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, others won’t.
Focus any campaign to reduce skepticism on the recommendations of health experts. Aim to reassure — not persuade — and make sure communication is localized, as levels of skepticism and even fear will vary widely by country.
As an organization, consider whether and how to support pandemic-related public health measures and community vaccine programs. Continue to role-model safe behaviors. In the Gartner poll, 60% said they would provide resources to employees on where and how to get a vaccine once one becomes available.
Remember that even if employees are vaccinated, there is no guarantee that others in their households will be. If you plan to provide vaccinations directly to employees, consider whether you will do the same for other household members — and how to communicate your decision.
Should we distribute and deliver COVID-19 vaccines directly to our employees?
Access to a COVID-19 vaccine, and the policies surrounding distribution, will vary by country, so be ready to develop regional and even local strategies. For some organizations, it may be faster and/or cheaper to vaccinate through the organization (if possible). In other cases, this may duplicate external distribution efforts or even reduce vaccine supply for those who need it most.
How will vaccinations change our current operations?
Uneven vaccine availability and acceptance rates, and protracted delivery schedules, mean there will be no overnight return to “normal,” pre-pandemic operations. COVID-19 vaccines won’t eliminate the need for social distancing and other health measures.
HR and other business leaders will need to run scenario plans to identify the ways in which changes to vaccine availability and efficacy could alter return-to-workplace plans, but it’s still paramount that employees perceive the workplace — and the vaccines — to be safe.
As with other phases of the pandemic, the variables of vaccine distribution will continue to evolve. While the executive leadership team and board of directors will ultimately sign off on any vaccine strategy, you need a cross-functional planning team to keep tabs on the situation and evolve strategy as needed.
Make sure to include internal stakeholders, including HR, finance, legal, and key business leaders, as well as coordinate with health insurance vendors and public health officials to stay current on vaccine costs, procurement, availability, and safety data.
The original article by Joe Coyle, director for advisory at Gartner, is here.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of HR&DigitalTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/Edson Souza