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Rita Men

Health Care

Three Ways Employers Could Help Fight Vaccine Skepticism

A survey shows people tend to trust their employers more than governments or the media

Published: Thursday, April 15, 2021 - 11:03

Ending the pandemic depends on achieving herd immunity, estimated at 70 percent or even 80 percent to 90 percent of a population. With some 30 percent of Americans telling pollsters they have no interest in getting vaccinated, that’s cutting it a bit close. The numbers are even worse in many other countries.

In the fight against vaccine skepticism, employers can play a key role. This is not only because it’s an important precaution for the health and safety of their employees, but also because a recent survey shows people around the world, including in the United States, tend to trust their employers more than governments or the media. Moreover, Republicans, who are more likely to say they won’t get the vaccine, are also generally much more trusting of business, suggesting employers may be able to have more influence on them than journalists or health experts.

As someone who studies how companies communicate with their employees, I have three research-based tips that can make their efforts more effective.

1. Building trust with transparency

Although many workers say they trust their employers more than some other institutions, trust erosion has been a prominent global issue. Just 61 percent of participants in the survey referenced above, conducted by public relations consultancy Edelman, said they trust businesses to do the right thing.

That’s why it’s essential for companies to communicate with employees in a way that builds more trust. And research has shown that transparency has been consistently linked to employee relationships with their employer.

By that I mean focus on giving employees the facts—while dispelling some of the myths—and being clear about where it all comes from. There are many ways to disseminate the information, such as through email, fliers, corporate newsletters, and social media, but inviting in local health experts is another good way to transparently lay out the facts while also helping skeptical employees get their questions and concerns addressed.

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer survey showed that people trust scientists and people in their local community more than national leaders. Scientists scored even higher than employees’ own CEOs.

Credit: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Source: 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer

2. It’s a two-way street

That brings me to another important point: Employers will be more effective if they treat employees as partners in the internal vaccination program. And that means listening as much as talking.

Research has found that companies that are pursuing a major change—such as a merger, layoff, or rebranding—are more likely to win high employee acceptance if they engage in two-way communication that emphasizes listening, feedback, reciprocity, openness, and trust. When employees feel their voices are being heard and taken seriously by their organization, they feel empowered and more involved, making them more likely to buy in to the organization’s decisions.

Besides inviting health experts for Q&As, employers could also host staff listening sessions such as virtual town halls to gather feedback and address even basic questions, like when people are eligible to get the vaccine, whether it will cost anything, and what that means for a return to the office. It also can help address unique concerns and issues of different groups, especially those who surveys show have more hesitancy about taking a vaccine.

3. Empathy works

Businesses that emphasize empathy, compassion, and genuine care for employees’ well-being have won applause from employees during the Covid-19 pandemic.

My own recent study—which is currently under review—examined leaders’ use of motivating language during the pandemic. I found that supervisors who gave clear directions, showed empathy for how the pandemic affected workers’ personal lives, and communicated support were most effective in fostering employee trust in leadership and the organization. While, understandably, trust that isn’t there can’t be built overnight, it’s never too late to do more.

I found similar results in past research: CEOs perceived as exhibiting genuine care for their employees engender more support for companywide initiatives.

Beyond the language being used, companies can show they care in other ways—actions speak louder than words, after all. For example, some companies, such as Dollar General, Instacart, and Publix, have offered paid leave time or cash incentive bonuses to encourage their employees to get vaccinated.

The United States and the world face one of the greatest health crises in history. Ultimately, I believe, it’s a collective responsibility of everyone—governments, individuals, and companies—to help turn the tide against the pandemic.

And if companies needed one more reason, surveys and reporting show younger generations increasingly expect companies to be socially responsible. Recent research also found that companies that engage in social advocacy tend to enjoy stronger brand loyalty.

In other words, it’s good not only for society but for companies’ bottom lines, too.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


About The Author

Rita Men’s picture

Rita Men

Rita Linjuan Men is an associate professor in the Department of Public Relations at the University of Florida. Men’s background is based primarily in corporate communication research and consulting.


Vaccination Data

I'm very disappointed that your organization ignores the mountains of data showing Covid for the media event it is.  It is certainly  not the Plague nor as serious as the media advertises and sells. To suggest that vaccination skepticism is supported by uninformed people.  It's not only intellectually dishonest, but is also insulting to those of us who examine the data and speak out against the sham that Covid is.  No doubt you'll right me off as a nut, but I'm unsubscring from your email, will no longer use your publications, and will be sure to let my fellow quality professionals know how you regard data vs.media hype.  Very disappointed. 

Covid 19 is real

I believe that the real disservice is to tell people that Covid-19 is not real and that people should not get vaccinated (or wear face masks) because this can result in death or serious harm to countless people. Most (about 99%) of the people who get it survive but some suffer life-long damage to organ systems including the brain. A disease that kills 1% of the people who get it, and spreads very easily, must be taken seriously. We lost hundreds of thousands of people because some people, and often not those to suffer the consequences, did not (e.g. college students partying, and then bringing Covid-19 home to parents and grandparents). I remember that I had an uncle in his late 80s so, when I went to visit him and his family in Illinois some time back, I decided to get my (live) flu vaccine after and not before to ensure that I would not expose him to even a weakened virus. The very thought of bringing full-strength Covid-19 home to senior family members and others is appalling.

Anti-vaxxers have been with us ever since the invention of the first genuine vaccine, which was based on cowpox. (Vache is French for cow, hence the origin of "vaccine.") Here is a depiction of people getting the vaccine and turning into cows. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_cow_pock.jpg, note the reference to tne "anti-vaccine society.") The truth is that Edward Jenner may have saved more human lives than anybody else in history, and smallpox is no longer a problem.

Covid-19 has killed more Americans than we lost in the Second World War, although we can perhaps deduct the 30 to 80 thousand who would have otherwise died from ordinary flu. The countermeasures used against Covid-19 were clearly not enough to stop it, although they probably contained it enough to avoid millions of deaths, but they also work against ordinary flu for which most people get the annual vaccine. The combination of the two (anti-Covid measures plus flu vaccine) resulted in an essentially nonexistent 2020-2021 flu season as I predicted about a year ago.

People should get the vaccine

I got my second vaccine (Pfizer) yesterday with no ill effects. The chance of death or serious illness from it is far less than that of the disease itself. About 1 in 1000 Americans have died from Covid-19, with many survivors suffering lifelong damage. The chance of harm from the vaccines is far less.

In addition, the lesser side effects (fever, cold symptoms) are actually evidence that the vaccine is working; the immune system recognizes it as something foreign and undesirable, and this triggers the symptoms. This is something that should be explained to people.

Or it could be

Or it might also be possible employers are more trusted because of what they say and how they say it, so that if employers start saying what politicians have been saying and how they've been saying it then employers too will be mistrusted.  But you do you.

Nice article but

a. With two of the gene therapy formulas - blood clots have reared their ugly heads Astra and Johnson.

b. A third gene therapy makes one more suspectible to the South African Variant.

The real solution is the anti-bodies formula by Regeneron that stops the virus if rendered in the early stages. And people are getting very sick after receiving these gene therapies - fever, aches, headaches etc.

Moreever, it seems to have been forgotten that President Trump and Ben Carson (both older men) were obviously significantly helped by the Regeneron formulation.

Shown to be remarkably effective.

The Biden approach is very disconcerning.