The UK is off and running with Pfizer's recently launched COVID-19 vaccine and it seems with recent US FDA reviews that the United States will not be far behind. Still, in article after article I read, there is a big question mark as to how to convince people to accept the vaccination for themselves and for the good of society and public health at large. Whereas democratic governments may have difficulty in mandating vaccination, companies can fill in the gaps and make a meaningful difference here. But it will take servant leadership to pull this off.
The first key is leveraging credibility and trust. There is a ton of misinformation being spread online these days, but corporate CEO's all the way down to line managers have significant influence and sway as well. You might not believe the news but you are far more likely to believe your line manager, VP, or CEO, especially if they position the need for the vaccine as a necessary tactic to maintain business continuity. Some decisions require a reservoir of built-in good will and this usually comes from the fact that the leader in charge has garnered this positive reputation by way of serving and supporting their people. If you have put in the work to build up your bonafides, now is the time to cash in.
Servant leaders know the way, go the way, and show the way. This is what was inspiring to me about three former president's agreeing to get vaccinated on live television to demonstrate to the general public that this is a safe procedure. If only the current sitting President would do the same, then we could move this along even faster. Because corporations are by their very nature non-political, they can cut through the quagmire of variances in belief and simply make vaccination widely available to employees while senior leaders step up and take the vaccine's first to influence more skeptical colleagues to follow their lead.
Finally, it is necessary to be consistent, inclusive, decisive, and to follow through on employee good will by tracking the reduction in COVID related sick days and gains in productivity. Make regular communication, especially on number of employees vaccinated, a priority. Ensure that the most vulnerable groups within your organizations are encouraged to get vaccinated first. Be clear on the consequences for those who choose not to vaccinate - whether that means they cannot come back to the office environment or some other punitive measure. And make progress in the fight against the pandemic highly visible from your corporate perspective.
Now is the time for corporations, with their large employee bases, preventative health programs, and inspiring leadership to step up for the good of society. Where politicians may fail in their ability to influence change, business leaders can fill in the gaps. Vaccination via corporation is the one sure-fire path to achieving herd immunity sooner rather than later. And by doing so we can return to some sort of normalcy!
What are your thoughts on the corporations role in ensuring people get vaccinated against COVID-19? Let's discuss in the comments below. If you found this article valuable, please like and share with your networks (send it to your CEO!).
Omar L. Harris is the managing partner at Intent Consulting, a firm dedicated to improving employee experience and organizational performance and author of Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams and The Servant Leader's Manifesto available for purchase in ebook or print on Amazon.com. Please follow him Instagram, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn for more information and engagement.