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Vaccination Communication

By Heather Claycomb

Everyone is talking about Covid-19 vaccinations. Pro-vax, anti-vax, doubled-jabbed, first dose, second dose, booster, ninety-percent targets.  These are some of the most-used words in our daily conversations, right? 

And those conversations can quickly heat up when you meet someone with an opposing, or just slightly different, point of view when it comes to vaccination mandates and corporate policy.

As a business owner or manager, one the most sensitive communications exercises you may need to implement in your career, is deciding what sort of vaccination policy you will put in place at work and communicating this to your team.

Even if you work in one of the sectors where Government has mandated vaccination, staff communication related to the mandate is still challenging.  While on one hand, communication is quite simple: “We will obey the law.”  On the other hand, communicating with care and empathy to those who are fearful, worried or concerned is really tricky.

Most small businesses will not fall under the Government’s vaccination mandates.  And it is these businesses who have the complicated task of developing new staff vaccination policies and communicating them to staff in ways that maximise respect while minimising staff angst and business risk.

If you are one of these businesses navigating the vaccination policy conversation, here are a few communication tips to keep in mind:

Acknowledge this is new territory

Show a bit of humility and vulnerability in this situation.  It’s important to acknowledge that, as an employer or manager, developing a vaccination policy in light of a global pandemic is brand new territory.  You have never been here before – no one in the world has been here before.  You and your team are all in this together.

Avoid communicating with a heavy hand or being too dictatorial in your approach.  While you need to remain confident to maintain the respect of your team, a little dose of humility will go a long way toward breaking down any staff communication barriers.

Involve staff in decisions

If you are able, it would be great to involve staff in developing your vaccination policy.  Doing this together with staff will demonstrate your willingness to listen.

An organisation I’m involved with as a director has done this really well.  They’ve worked with staff to rank all their company’s jobs in terms of each position’s ‘risk’ of contracting and passing on Covid-19 to others.  If staff have ranked a job position as a high risk, that position will require a vaccination whereas low risk positions will be encouraged to be vaccinated but not mandated as a condition of employment.  As the organisation finalises this policy, it will be much easier to communicate to the whole team as everyone was involved in the discussion from the beginning.

Be respectful

Every employer or manager will have the situation where you have staff who do not agree with your vaccination policy.  Remember that how you handle those conversations with these team members says a lot about your organisation.  Be respectful and caring no matter what.  And even when it comes to the point of people leaving the organisation when they don’t agree with the policy, transition them out with thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

Be clear                                                                                                                                          

This is a time when you cannot afford to mince words or blur lines.  You need to communicate your organisation’s vaccination policy very clearly.  Help staff to understand exactly what is expected of each and every employee from this point forward. 

Certainty, even if it’s not what some want to hear, is much better than uncertainty.  Certainty allows people to make decisions and sometimes that will be the decision to find another job.  Uncertainty can create disgruntled staff, gossip and division in the long run.

Remain open and transparent

Going back to my first point – this is new territory.  No one knows what the future holds with Covid-19 or future pandemics or epidemics.  It’s a whole new world for all of us.  So, remain open to feedback and be transparent in terms of adjusting policies to suit as the situation changes.

Staff will respect future corporate decisions if they don’t come as a surprise.  Keep an open dialogue with your team and make decisions with them, not for them, when possible.

Heather Claycomb;HMC;Vaccination Communication