How Employers Can Encourage COVID-19 Vaccinations

In light of the Biden Administration's federal COVID-19 vaccination policies, here’s what employers can do to encourage widespread vaccinations through workplace mandates.

Air Date: November 15, 2021

Moderator: Carolyn Cawley, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Featured Guests: Matt Armstrong, Vice President, Global Government & Regulatory Affairs, Baker Hughes

On November 4, 2021, the Biden Administration and the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced details of policies to require employers with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccination or implement weekly testing requirements.

This announcement has employers once again asking how they can promote COVID-19 vaccinations and implement the mandate without alienating or losing their employees. Employers want their workforce to feel comfortable, while also creating a safe and healthy work environment for everyone.

To help employers roll out their COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the U.S. Chamber Foundation recently hosted a special program focused on the role employers play in promoting vaccines and implementing mandates.

Opinions Vary on Who Should Be Administering Mandates

In reviewing statistics about how people feel about a vaccine mandate, Carrie Schum, executive vice president of Hattaway Communications noted that there is a lack of consensus over who should be in charge of these mandates. While overall there was a general agreement in unity between them, there was much debate over who exactly should implement vaccine mandates.

“People don't really know who should do this,” said Schum. “About 20% said their state [should be in charge], about 30% said federal, another 17% say it should be the individual business and another plurality saying we shouldn't have these at all.”

“The important thing here is if you can get to [a] consensus,” Schum continued. ”If you can get your state, your federal, your business, all aligned, you will [have] 70% of people who say…’I believe that those people should be the people in charge of mandates.’”

Employees Want to Hear From Their Employers

As companies are deciding how to discuss vaccine mandates, one of the most important things they can do is talk directly to their employees. Crystal Son, the healthcare analytics director for Civis, shared statistics that showed how important it was for employers to have an open and honest discussion with their employees about the mandate, as opposed to just enforcing it.

“Seventy-one percent of employees said that they want to hear and get information from the people that they work for,” said Son. “We think that employers are in a good position to be a trusted messenger of important information and are in a position where they potentially could correct some misinformation that could be harmful.”

The Right Messaging Is Important When Discussing COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

When employers are talking to their employees about mandates, the messaging they use is essential. Son’s research showed that there were a few talking points that were most effective in persuading people to take the vaccine.

“We tested eight different frames or themes of talking about the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Son. “The winning message, or what was called most persuasive, was a message that talked about protecting children.”

“The second [most persuasive] message was about the financial costs of COVID,” she continued. “It was very neutral and just talked about the fact that if you get hospitalized, you could incur some medical bills [and] miss out on work, which also poses a financial strain for many.”

Other types of messages that had the most positive impact were about a fear of missing out on things due to vaccination policies, personal decisions, and patriotism.

On the flip side, Son revealed some messages that have the opposite intent and are likely to backfire. While many may think that sharing the negative consequences of being vaccinated would be persuasive, research has found that the opposite is true.

“Scary COVID vaccine statistics, personal stories, and vaccine safety [are] messages that had a very negative undertone,” said Son. ”[There’s] a lot of doom and gloom type of feelings and sentiment to those messages [that] are really likely to cause negative backlash amongst unvaccinated people.”