Communication: The Key To Adopting Vaccination Coverage In The Office
As more people gain access to COVID-19 vaccination, employers are reviewing their virus-related policies to ensure that the policies they are setting are appropriate for today's "new normal" and the public health tools available. Our position is that every employee should be vaccinated to ensure a safe work environment. While timely policy updates are key to maintaining a safe workplace, employee communication is critical to adoption.
5 steps to successfully sharing timely policy updates with employees
To help successfully deploy updated or new COVID-19 policies in a business of any size, we have identified the following steps:
Gather the facts about your company's policy process and how the final decision will be executed.
First, meet with those involved in creating and approving company policies, including members of the executive team, human resources, legal, regulatory and risk management. Now is the time to ask the questions that employees at all levels of the organization will soon be asking – the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, why) and the all-important H (how).
- Who does the policy apply to?
- How can employees ensure and report that they have received the vaccine?
- What is the process for exemptions or for those who choose not to vaccinate?
- When do employees have to submit documents about their vaccination status?
- Why did the company choose this approach?
- How will the company monitor policy compliance or identify those who qualify for vaccine-related incentives?
In addition to talking to policy makers, you can also collect data from another stakeholder group: employees. We found the results of a company-wide survey to assess your workforce's perception and knowledge of COVID-19 vaccines were helpful in completing the steps below.
Create a communication plan and support tools based on consistent and timely messages.
This is an area where the tactics can vary widely, but the need is absolute. Your communication must also take into account any preliminary masks and social distancing guidelines that may persist for the foreseeable future.
One of the most important elements is establishing a clear, established process for answering questions and concerns. Awareness campaigns are more than just sharing a message. This is where they become a cornerstone of your strategy. If you have decided to conduct an employee survey, as mentioned in step 1, you can identify knowledge gaps and problem areas so that the communication is geared towards meeting these specific requirements directly.
Of course, issuing a one-time announcement is rarely an effective approach. The best communication plan is consistent with messaging and cadence, but is different in terms of channels and resources.
Enable ongoing bidirectional communication and, if necessary, adapt it to employee feedback.
Just as an employee survey can be a helpful feedback mechanism to inform communication planning, ongoing dialog with employees is required throughout implementation to maintain engagement and identify potential problem areas or confusions that need to be addressed.
The tactic here may include giving out impulse surveys when you hit key milestones in the action plan. Maintain interactive town halls to allow open conversations in real time; Providing tools for HR managers to collect consistent, active feedback from their teams during groups and meetings; and creating accessible vehicles for employees to share their questions and concerns in a safe and easy way for them.
The golden rule is follow up. Make sure staff feel heard and that you come full circle on questions. Gathering feedback and encouraging conversation can actually backfire when employees feel like what they have to say is not being taken seriously by executives. For this reason, ongoing communication (versus a one-time issue of messages) is critical for complex issues that cross legal, ethical, and personal boundaries.
Develop your communication plan with a step-by-step guide as you plan how to communicate your company's vaccination policy in the workplace. This easy-to-use Word template is designed to help you develop your communication plan and align it with tactics that will produce results.
Maintain employee engagement by encouraging executives to celebrate milestones in returning to "normal".
Change is difficult, especially when exerted on us by external forces (such as a global public health crisis). That's why it's important to take a moment to acknowledge the small wins too. From a communication perspective, this starts with coordinating with executives to see what success looks like (e.g. percentage of return to work / implementation of a hybrid work model, X percent of the workforce vaccinated by the X date in 2021, etc.) and Exchange updates on progress towards this goal through communication channels established in step 2.
Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Remind leaders that they shouldn't wait until the end to celebrate success. Instead, consider identifying milestones along the way when you can see the momentum as you thank those who helped make this point. This can range from employee spotlight articles on the intranet sharing personal return to work or vaccine stories to a team group where managers hand out "I Got Mine" stickers and their appreciation for participation or team members take a moment to share details about why their new hybrid office layout works for them. This need not involve extreme pomp and circumstance, but rather should focus on leaders who convey their sincere appreciation for the commitment their teams continue to show.
Measure results and assess future needs.
Every time you start a communication about a new initiative or implementation of a new process, it's important to identify ways you can actually measure the results so that you can make adjustments if necessary.
At the highest level, the measure of success in a vaccination policy would likely be the percentage of employees who will receive vaccinations. In addition to this finding, there are important measures – not least the percentage of employees who feel positive about workplace policies regarding vaccinations and employers' support for good health. Also, take a look at your communication tools and see where to measure engagement based on views and clicks. Refer to the bidirectional communication channels to determine the effectiveness of the response and level of interest.
Ultimately, measurement is about improvement. So look for opportunities to identify and share both best practices and lessons for future planning.
Have you identified a group of employees who are particularly influential within the organization? How can you involve them in an ambassador program to help drive communication about your company's COVID-19 vaccination policy?
– Debbie FieldAbout Debbie
Debbie is Vice President at The Grossman Group, where she delivers a range of internal, executive, and altered communications solutions through strategic communications planning and delivery. She has worked with a number of healthcare, biotechnology, and health information technology organizations including Novartis, Medtronic, NYU's Langone Health, Kaiser Permanente, Oracle Health Sciences, St. Jude Medical, and the Texas A&M Health Science Center to name just a few. With expertise in public health and infectious diseases, Debbie led the crisis communication efforts for the state of Texas and the governor's office during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
When communicating your new or updated vaccination policy in the workplace, be more focused in your communication using this 5-step method. Click the image below to download your copy of this free tool – Take 5 ™ Planning Template.