As more companies move towards Covid-19 vaccine requirements, it falls upon Human Resources and managers with direct reports to have sometimes difficult conversations about vaccines with their employees. With misinformation rampant on social media, sometimes spread by political leaders and medical doctors, this can be a divisive and challenging topic.

Developing a Covid-19 vaccine strategy should include communications talking points that help your team stay on track as they deal with these challenges. Here are some tips on creating a communications strategy.

Establish a company point of contact for handling rumors

This could be a specific inbox for large companies, or a member of the HR steering committee. A plan of action for dealing with rumors and misinformation keeps management on the same page when these issues arise.

Provide fact sheets to help managers handle frequently asked questions

Employees can have concerns about vaccines, including strongly-held opinions which have been distorted by misinformation campaigns. It’s important to provide managers and anyone representing your company’s vaccine policy with thoughtful and science-based rebuttals to these campaigns. The CDC provides a fact sheet which includes information on vaccination timelines, vaccine ingredients, underlying medical conditions, and other common concerns. Find it here.

Management can use fact sheets as guidance for answering questions or leading team meetings.

Personalize the conversation to fit your company

When crafting team meetings and communications, consider how to keep it close to the company’s corporate culture. Why are vaccines important to the workforce? How does a vaccination policy fit into the company’s mission? How will vaccines help the company get back on track with production, missed hours, or expansion plans which benefit the entire workforce? Sharing the ways in which a vaccine strategy is part of the company’s long-term strategy and good for the workforce at large gives everyone buy-in.

Empathize and keep it human

As with discussions about mental health, time off, and other work issues which have grown worse with the pandemic, encouraging managers to have frank and thoughtful conversations with their direct reports is a proven way to win over hold-outs. Ask employees who are vaccinated against Covid-19 to share their stories about why they received the vaccine, how it has helped them tackle daily life during the pandemic, and what their vaccination experience was like (e.g. were there any side effects, any best practices offered by their physicians, etc.).

Provide support to employees, especially front-line or essential workers

When requiring a vaccine, it’s important to take note of the disruptions this can cause to an employee’s daily life. Incentives to consider include: providing paid time off to get vaccinated; providing paid leave if employee experiences side effects from the vaccine; providing paid time off to working parents who vaccinate their children against Covid-19 and may have to deal with their side effects, as well; and child care reimbursement if necessary.

Refer continued questions to physicians

Ongoing concerns or questions about high-risk patients, allergies, and others with specific medical situations should talk to their doctor about their next steps. This is an excellent opportunity to make sure your employees understand how their health care benefits work. They may need help accessing their benefits, locating a primary care physician if they don’t have one already, and exploring telemedicine opportunities. Coach your management team on how they should handle the extra workload associated with this. Some organizations might set up HR appointments, schedule a phone call, or request that managers assist their direct reports with learning how to use the system.

The ongoing pandemic is creating new situations for HR departments and managers of employees. Ultimately, the way your teams handle the communication of health policies will have ongoing influence on your company’s trajectory during and after the pandemic emergency. Are you ready to communicate your company’s vaccine strategy?

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