Convincing Your Employees To Take The COVID Vaccine – An Idea Checklist

There may be no hotter topic among executives and HR staff today than how to ensure that each of your employees is quickly vaccinated for COVID-19. Any significant delay in getting a large percentage of your employees to take the vaccine will unnecessarily delay your organization’s return to workplace normalcy. And, of course, we all want that.

So, in my view, HR should immediately take the lead in getting your company back to normal by proactively developing a plan that will get all employees to take the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible. It’s also important to note that although, in some cases, it’s legally permissible to require every employee inoculated. Most organizations aren’t willing to commit to requiring every employee to be vaccinated because of the many complex legal, religious, privacy, and ethical issues associated with forcing everyone to take the vaccine. Fortunately, there are multiple less controversial alternative “encouragement approaches” that have proven to be just as effective. So, I recommend that your leaders pick the actions that best fit your culture and budget from the following idea checklist items. 

An Idea Generation Checklist

This list of the top 25 actions and approaches can speed up the inoculation of your workforce. It is broken down into six distinct categories.

Category #1 Educational Approaches For Encouraging Employees To Take The Vaccine 

This least expensive category of actions relies on the company providing education to convince your employees of the value of getting the vaccine as soon as it is available to them. 

  • Provide electronic, paper, and visual educational materials so that employees know the many benefits of receiving the vaccine. Have HR work with managers to create a comprehensive list of how being vaccinated directly benefits the individual employee, their team, and company. Also, include questions and answers covering the specific areas that employees are often most concerned about. Make that information available on your internal electronic sites and proactively “push” relevant information out to your employees via email and text platforms.
  • Provide information covering the “close by” injection sites. If you can’t offer the vaccine in your building, the next best thing to increase access is to provide your employees and managers with a list of the public injection sites that are easily accessible (i.e., on the way to and from work and during lunch). You should also proactively let individual employees know the minute that their demographic/health category becomes eligible for getting the vaccine.
  • Provide on-site and Zoom educational sessions. Hold conveniently scheduled live, taped, and remote corporate-sponsored educational sessions for your managers. Conduct separate sessions for your employees.
  • Offer a live Covid hotline.  Offer a telephone hotline service (run by HR or an outside vendor). Where employees can call and talk about their fears with a live person. 

Category #2  Get help from others

Partnering with others will increase your chances of success.

  • Utilize “Do it for the team!” helping motivation.  Rather than relying on economic incentives, stimulate your employees by making them aware that they “owe it to their teammates” to get vaccinated. Start by creating awareness of the many benefits that accrue to any team after becoming highly vaccinated if you have strong team cohesion, rather than focusing on incentives and recognition. Encourage everyone to be unselfish and “do it for the team,” and to benefit others.
  • Increase trust in the vaccine by having your executives vaccinated in a public session. Where feasible, it makes sense to hold and publicize a recorded event where the CEO and other prominent executives receive their initial shot to show that the vaccine is safe and that everyone is participating.
  • Utilize your internal affinity groups. If your organization has internal affinity groups, special interest clubs covering your employees with similar interests or backgrounds, work with affinity group leaders. Follow their advice on how best to reach their members.
  • Utilize your social influencers. Employees frequently share on internal only social media platforms. Identify and then work with your strongest influencers so that they encourage everyone to get vaccinated.
  • Offer buddy and referral programs. Have a best friend at work; they may be the best influencer of all. Encourage each employee to take ownership of the process of convincing “their buddy employee” to get vaccinated. And consider giving both employees a small reward if they come in together during a company-sponsored vaccination event. Your employees will also likely know of numerous other coworkers that have not yet received their shot. So, encourage each employee to work on getting these employees to participate. Recognize the referring employees that provided the largest large number of vaccine referrals.
  • Work closely with your healthcare vendor. If you use a large healthcare vendor, they may already have an established program set up to help companies—partner with your vendor(s) to take advantage of the resources and expertise.
  • Partner with larger firms that are close-by. If you can’t afford to offer an on-site injection program, consider formally partnering with larger firms close-by or local health clinics in a joint effort.

Category #3  Make getting the actual shot as convenient as possible

  • Provide on-site injection clinics. Make it easy for employees to get their shot by offering it at on-site pop-up clinics located in your lobby, gym, or parking lot, as well as coffee, lunch, and snack areas. 
  • Utilize team meetings. Where feasible, turn a team meeting into a vaccination opportunity. Simply schedule a nurse practitioner with access to the vaccine to attend one of your regularly scheduled team meetings. 
  • Make employees aware of close by vaccine locations. Every week, make your face-to-face employees aware of opportunities to get the vaccine at locations close to your facilities. Or during weekends at popular locations and malls.
  • Offer vaccine availability for your remote workers. Geography may prevent remote workers from attending on-site vaccination sessions. Provide your remote workers with information on the injection sites that are physically close to their home office.
  • Encourage family-eligible events. Where feasible, consider holding on-site vaccination events during lunch or after work where employee’s family members can also participate. Note: having family members also vaccinated may lower the chances that an employee will come to work infected by a family member they live with. 

Category #4  Offer recognition to encourage participation

Remember that individual state privacy laws can make it more difficult to gather vaccine information or recognize those that get vaccinated easily. Keep those issues in mind whenever you’re going to track or recognize those that have received the vaccine. 

  • Display percentage vaccinated posters. Encourage participation by setting vaccination targets for each group. And then provide visible posters in the team’s workspace that reveal the estimated percentage of vaccination participation in that group. Executives can also reward and recognize the teams that meet their targets.
  • I got my shot buttons and participation certificates. Provide employees with buttons and participation certificates that reveal that the individual employee has been vaccinated under a company-sponsored program.
  • Personalized “Thank You” notes. Provide senior executives and individual managers a weekly list of who has participated in your company’s vaccination programs. Then encourage them to send out personalized thank you notes to those that get vaccinated through a company program.
  • Recognition to managers.  Offer recognition to individual managers that successfully encourage their team to become fully vaccinated. Consider inviting each manager that met their vaccination target to an exclusive luncheon with the CEO. Finally, consider making reaching their vaccination targets part of each manager’s performance appraisal and promotion criteria during 2021.

Category #5 Provide incentives for employees and managers

  • Provide time off to get vaccinated. Provide paid time off for your employees that have to leave work to get their shots (usually two hours or half a day). Alternatively, make sure that employees know that they can use their sick time to get vaccinated. Also, consider paying for their rideshare or other forms of transportation to and from vaccination sites.
  • Offer small rewards for participation. Offer a free lunch, movie passes, or even cash to each employee that provides proof that they got the shot. 
  • Hold a prize drawing. Encourage vaccine participation by creating a drawing. That will reward the winning vaccinated employee a free trip, a lunch with the CEO, or a week’s extra vacation.

Category #6  Likely business impacts as a result of a powerful business case 

One of the best ways to ensure that managers and executives are fully involved in your vaccine program is to “show them the money.” A continually updated business case that reveals and qualifies the many economic benefits from an accelerated vaccine program. The benefits often include:

  • Higher workforce productivity – With more healthy employees that are physically capable of coming to work every day, you will have higher team productivity, and more customers will be served. Eliminating the worry of catching the virus will also lower employee stress. With no deaths from COVID, you will be able to avoid the malaise that is unfortunately associated with a coworker’s death.
  • You will have significantly lower absenteeism because many more employees will no longer miss work because they caught the virus and suffer from its symptoms. Saving on sick leave usage and its high costs. Also, a high vaccination rate means that fewer of your employees will come to work sick because they “need the money.” Therefore, you will have fewer of your employees needlessly infected by sick workers coming in when they shouldn’t.
  • You will lower your medical benefits costs – the vaccine will prevent many employees from becoming extremely sick, which means that your organization’s health care costs will go down.
  • Recruiting and retention rates are higher – because your company is going out of its way to ensure employee safety. Publicizing this program will make your organization more attractive in the areas of recruiting and retention.

Final Thoughts

Because vaccination has so many health and business benefits, it makes sense for HR leaders to develop a comprehensive process that will encourage even the most reluctant employee to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Fortunately, many of the recommended actions are free or inexpensive.

Author’s Note: If this article made you think, please share it widely among your team and network. Next, please follow and/or connect with Dr. Sullivan on LinkedIn, where you can also leave comments on this article. Finally, his 1,300 other talent management articles can be found at

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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