by HealthPartners

For many, it’s starting to feel like we’re making bigger strides on the path to a new, post-pandemic normal.

COVID-19 vaccine access and availability have been steadily improving. Millions of people have been vaccinated already, and millions more are ready to receive their doses. And guidelines for safely adding back or expanding certain business operations are increasingly encouraging.

So, is it time to just sit back, continue to follow health and safety guidance, and wait your turn for a vaccination appointment?

While things are indeed looking up, it’s in your organization’s best interest to develop a proactive COVID-19 vaccination strategy. A vaccination strategy defines your organization’s vaccine policy and goals, expectations for employees, the support you’ll offer employees during the vaccination process and more.

Why is having a strategy important? The vaccines are the key to getting your business to where you want it to be. And your vaccination strategy is the foundation of any vaccination program you’ll develop to effectively communicate with your employees and motivate them to get vaccinated.

Below we cover top considerations and benefits, and tips for getting started.

For starters, your organization’s outlook and the success of the vaccine are intertwined

We’re all ready to get back to some semblance of normal. But achieving long-term success requires you to rebuild and expand business operations in a way that keeps your employees, customers and communities safe. Doing your part to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts should be a key part of those plans.

We know the vaccines are safe and effective. Data shows us that the more eligible people who get vaccinated, the safer we’ll all be. And the quicker we increase vaccination rates, the quicker your business can get back to where it wants to be. In other words, the success of the COVID-19 vaccines is critical to the success of your business.

Your employees depend on you to help them overcome the massive impact the coronavirus had on their lives

Employees are the lifeblood of every organization. And like you, they had to shoulder a lot both inside and outside the workplace during the past year.

Among the most drastic implications of the pandemic was mass unemployment. According to Reuters, the United States ended 2020 with 9.4 million fewer jobs. On the flip side, those who retained their jobs were faced with a range of other challenges.

Health care and essential workers stood on the frontlines, working to keep us all as safe as possible and cared for, while also taking on a lot of personal risk. And for the 42% of Americans who’ve been working remotely during the pandemic, obstacles included mastering work-life balance, adopting new collaboration systems, missing out on face time with their colleagues and more.

But many businesses stepped up in a big way, implementing measures to keep employees safe, employed and productive. And in a time of uncertainty and COVID-19 misinformation, businesses upped their trustworthiness – being regarded as the most trusted type of institution worldwide right now.

So, your employees are likely looking to you for continued support and guidance – including accurate information about vaccine safety and efficacy, how your organization plans to keep them safe while expanding operations again, how they play a role in it all, and so much more.

Getting back to work safely has lots of potential benefits

A COVID-19 vaccine strategy is not just good for the safety of employees, customers and your community – there are also benefits that can boost your brand and bottom line.

You may increase employee loyalty and attract new talent

COVID-19 had people sheltering in their homes and their current jobs. But as companies are taking steps toward reclaiming a pre-pandemic normal, many employees are brushing off their resumes and preparing to make their next move.

It turns out that while many organizations have worked hard to support their employees throughout the pandemic, not everyone is content with their current gig. In fact, one in four workers plans to quit post-pandemic, according to a recent survey from Eagle Hill Consulting.

Of those surveyed, 57% say they’re in burnout mode, with heavy workloads and work-life balance challenges during the pandemic being common reasons. For many, making a job switch is perceived as an easy way to leave behind the stress of the pandemic.

So, there’s never been a better time to prove employee health and well-being is important to your organization – and your COVID-19 vaccination strategy, and the vaccination program that grows out of it, can be a compelling example.

Both your vaccination strategy and your commitment to wellness communicate the same sentiment: Your employees’ health and well-being are a top priority. When employees feel supported, they feel more comfortable expressing their needs and working toward a solution that doesn’t involve them leaving. And if your business has a reputation for taking care of its employees, it can be a tool for attracting new talent.

You might gain an advantage over your competition – but not for long

While several enterprises like Google, Target, Chobani and Dollar General have launched internal and public campaigns in support of the vaccine, many other businesses haven’t yet taken a position or developed a strategy.

Though vaccination efforts are underway, we still have a long way to go until most people are vaccinated. Taking a stand now can set you apart from the competition and make your business a leader on the topic.

As we just mentioned, this can bode well on the employee and customer retention front, as well as give you a possible edge in recruiting efforts. But having a defined strategy can also help you control the conversation about how you’re supporting a safe return to business, and use it as a marketing tool across your channels.

You’ll be more confident in planning for the future

Chances are your business has been more reactive than proactive during the pandemic when it comes to securing (and growing) your business. But by developing a COVID-19 vaccination strategy now, you can create a roadmap for reaching your employee vaccination goals and managing risk, and build a foundation for possible future challenges.

For example, as we learn more about new strains of COVID-19, your company may be able to pivot more quickly to overcome new obstacles if you have a thoughtful strategy in place. It can also serve as a foundation for other workforce engagement initiatives in the future or as a business scenario planning tool.

How do you start developing a COVID-19 vaccination strategy?

Developing an effective COVID-19 vaccination strategy requires thought and consideration. Here’s how you can get started:

Rally key stakeholders and define responsibility

Before any meaningful work happens, there needs to be alignment across the organization. Because a COVID-19 vaccination strategy affects the entire workforce, human resources may be a natural choice to spearhead the initiative. But legal, compliance, and health and safety teams – plus the entire executive team – will be important partners.

Gather insights from your employees

Your employees’ motivations, attitudes and beliefs about the vaccines are critical insights to build your strategy and fuel each tactic that comes after.

Based on Pew Research Center Data from March of this year, feelings about the COVID-19 vaccines are increasingly positive. At the time of publication, 19% had received at least one vaccination dose, and an additional 32% indicated they will definitely get the vaccine. But many people remain unsure about whether they’ll get vaccinated. Some common reasons include:

  • Concerns about side effects, especially if they have existing medical conditions
  • Skepticism about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines
  • Distrust of the government and how quickly the vaccines were developed and approved
  • The belief that their community already has natural immunity due to the high number of cases where they live and work
  • Religious or cultural beliefs

In addition, some employees may want to get vaccinated, but face other barriers to getting it done. For example, some may be unsure of how to schedule a vaccination, lack the means to travel to their appointment or feel they can’t afford to take time off from work.

But by taking the time to understand your employees’ mindsets, concerns and potential barriers to getting vaccinated, you’ll be able to develop a program and tailored messaging to address the specific needs of your workforce. One-on-one conversations and employee surveys are both options for gathering the insights you need to develop your approach.

Define your vaccination policy and vaccination program components

Determining whether vaccinations will be voluntary or mandatory, for some or all employees, is an important strategic consideration.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has determined it’s legal for companies to mandate employees who work on-site to get vaccinated, with some exemptions for religious beliefs, disabilities and women who are pregnant. But it’s important to consult with your legal team to review guidance in detail.

In addition, several other factors may play a role in your decision making, including employee attitudes and beliefs about the vaccines, whether on-site workers have direct contact with the public, the necessity for employees to physically return to work, COVID-19 infection levels in your communities, and more.

With your policy defined, your vaccination program – or your plan for encouraging and motivating your employees to get vaccinated – can take shape. Our frequently asked questions about workplace vaccination programs and our workplace vaccination program checklist can be useful resources at this stage. But some of the key components to consider next will be:

  • How you’ll communicate with employees and promote the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination – Clear and consistent communication with your employees will be key to bolstering confidence in the vaccines, setting expectations and motivating action.
  • How your organization plans to help remove barriers to vaccinations or incentivize employees to be vaccinated – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), best practices are to develop supportive policies for paid leave and transportation that make it easy for employees to receive the vaccine. The CDC also recommends allowing employees with vaccine side effects to take paid sick time for recovery.
  • How you’ll track employee vaccinations – Who will be responsible for the administrative aspects of your program? What hardware and software are needed?

Watch and learn how to develop a COVID-19 vaccination strategy

HealthPartners can support your COVID-19 vaccination strategy

There is a long list of factors to navigate when determining your vaccine strategy. And we’re here to help.

HealthPartners has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, and we’re committed to providing the care and information you and your employees need during these unprecedented times. For the latest news, information and guidance, check out our COVID-19 resources for businesses and workplaces.

And, if you’re looking for additional support, our Back to Business solution services help employers operate safely through the pandemic. We can provide input on your COVID-19 vaccination strategy, workspace planning, COVID-19 workplace testing and more.

We’re not just your health plan partner. We’re your back-to-business partner, too.

Learn more about our Back to Business solution

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