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Buck HR survey finds U.S. workforce ‘sharply divided’ on COVID-19 vaccination

Employers’ push to vaccinate must aim to correct misconceptions; HR communications target ‘moveable middle’ undecided employees

NEW YORK, April 6, 2021 – Buck, an integrated HR and benefits consulting, technology, and administration services firm, released findings from its survey report indicating that nearly one-third (30%) of U.S. employees plan to take a “wait and see” approach to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, with members of the same group describing it as “not worth the risk.”

The report, “Talking to employees about vaccine hesitancy” surveyed 820 full time workers at U.S. companies between February 25 and March 1. Leading Indicator Systems, which provides human capital research, conducted the study.

According to the report, approximately two in five American workers have at least some “anti-vaxxer” sentiments and 40 percent “don’t trust the government’s oversight of this vaccine.” Brand preference based on perceived effectiveness was also a concern: More than half (52%) say they are “waiting for their preferred choice of vaccine” from among the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J options.

The study also identified misconceptions about the perceived cost of the vaccine, which is provided at no out-of-pocket charge to the recipient. The majority (55%) believe there is an out-of-pocket cost for getting vaccinated, with the median cost estimated at $7. Fully one-quarter (25%) believe this cost will be more than $60.

“For employers who are interested in getting their workforce vaccinated against COVID-19, this research shows that many American workers are still either hesitant or opposed to getting the vaccine based on misconceptions about cost and effectiveness,” said Leah Reynolds, a Principal in the Engagement Practice at Buck. “As companies formulate their policy and communication strategies related to the vaccine, it’s critical that they understand how receptive their workforce may or may not be. This information can help them formulate effective messaging that leads to higher rates of vaccination, leading to better protection against transmission in the workplace.”

The survey also broke respondents into population clusters based on similar attitudes, beliefs, and behavioral intentions. Five segments of American employees emerged from this analysis with distinct vaccine personas: Hardcore anti-vaxxers (6%); The unsure (24%); COVID-affected (22%); Remote and stressed (23%); and Hardcore pro-vaxxers (25%). While only 6 percent are hardcore anti-vaxxers, there are varying levels of anti-vaxxer sentiments within the unsure, COVID-affected, and remote and stressed segments.

Buck analyzed the high prevalence of misconceptions within these five population segments and identified specific messages and combinations that could move hesitant employees closer to vaccination. The most impactful statements combined messages about no out-of-pocket costs and protection of family/friends (reachable to 56% of the population) together with messages about the vaccination process, paid time off for vaccination, and the knowledge about the small risk of side effects.

“At the extremes are the hardcore anti-vaxxers who are ‘un-moveable,’ and the hardcore pro-vaxxers, who are eager to get the next available appointment,” added Jill Spielberger, Engagement Practice Leader at Buck. “The ‘movable middle’ includes employees who have yet to make a decision on the vaccine and are members of the subgroups who are unsure, COVID-affected, or remote and stressed. Working with our clients, we’ve designed a quick pulse survey to help employers better understand their population’s attitudes and guide a more effective and strategic communication approach.”

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About Buck
Together with our clients, we’re defining a new social contract — a mutually beneficial agreement between individuals and organizations where both parties are rewarded for their contributions toward achieving optimal personal and organizational performance.

Our creative digital, consulting, and tech-enabled administration solutions focus on creating a culture of wellbeing, centered around the evolution of each person’s health, wealth, and career. This empowers the world’s most forward-thinking companies to embrace the new social contract, re-energize their workforces, and adopt an analytics-led talent marketplace in ways that improve how their people work and live. For more information, visit www.buck.com.

Media contacts:
Lumina Communications for Buck
Hollie Smith / Michael Gallo
646-741-8359 / 212-239-8594
Buck@luminapr.com