COVID-19: Some companies are offering employees incentives to get vaccinated

44% of companies will mandate their employees get the vaccine, and many are willing to offer incentives. Employee experience is also a high priority, a new report finds.

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Forty-four percent of HR leaders said their organizations will mandate that employees get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to work, a new report from human capital management system provider isolved finds. One of the ways this will be executed is through financial incentives--companies like Instacart, Aldi, Trader Joe's and Chobani are offering measures such as two hours of pay for each dose they receive, as well as scheduling flexibility for salaried employees and paid time off, according to Human Resource Executive.

The implications of doing this can be a bit dicey, noted Amy Mosher, chief people officer at isolved. "If you take into account the class markets and economic inequality that's been highlighted during the pandemic, there's a stark divide between those who work remotely and those in the office," Mosher said.

She said she has seen issues with internet reliability and the ability to work effectively from home, and further, some workers may feel they are being asked to compromise their personal health or religious views to get vaccinated. "That is putting them in a situation where a compromise may not be fair and can result in an overall negative impact to company culture and trust across the organization and the whole spirit of equality," Mosher said.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

That said, the retail/hospitality/healthcare industries require a lot of exposure to people and "can potentially justify that from a cultural and perception of safety perspective," she said.

Receiving paid time off to get the vaccine means employees won't have to dip into their vacation time, which Mosher said is likely what most employers will offer. "Then you're putting everyone on a level playing field," she said.

She noted that software companies like isolved and others that "don't have that level of exposure," may find the mandate "a cultural negative." In their case, isolved is offering its 1,200 employees "the option to make your own decision with regard to your healthcare," she said.

One of the most important findings of the isolved report is that 92% of organizations consider employee experience their top priority this year, Mosher said. The top reasons were because of the remote work environment (32%) and the need to improve employee retention rates (32%).

This means companies are thinking carefully about the cultural impact of the changes they make and how those decisions will impact employee engagement, Mosher said.

"They have to choose whether they make the vaccine mandatory carefully, and how they decide to incentivize [employees] and take into account … how to keep employees safe and happy," she said. "It's not all or nothing. The decision is tied to corporate culture and how they operate."

Other key findings

The report also found that 58% of HR leaders believe artificial intelligence will evolve their jobs rather than replace them by creating more opportunities for technical roles, alleviating burdensome tasks and improving compliance. 

HR leaders also expressed concern about data with their current HCM technology, the report found. Twenty percent of HR leader respondents reported experiencing security issues with their HCM system. "It's the top reason why 51% of companies using an HCM are considering switching in the next 12 months," according to the report.

Even though the remote work environment opens up the ability to recruit from anywhere, HR leaders across all seniority levels and company sizes are concerned with the negative impact remote work has on culture, hiring and retention, the report found.

HR budgets are increasing, thanks to digital transformation

Further, nearly two in 10 HR managers, directors, vice presidents and chief people/HR officers will lead a digital transformation project this year, according to isolved's survey. This presents an opportunity, the report said.

"While HR has always been a mission-critical department, they have never gotten their fair share of budget beyond headcount. With more distributed workforces than ever, more complex business challenges and more digital requirements, HR has suddenly become a hotspot for digital transformation," the report said.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said their HR budget will increase in 2021, although the reported also noted that these figures were skewed by larger companies.

In terms of industries, the ones most likely to experience budget decreases this year are those directly impacted by the lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic, according to the report. For example, 29% of transportation companies, for example, will experience an HR budget cut this year and 28% of travel and hospitality companies will as well, the report stated.

The latter two industries have been greatly impacted by not only revenue losses from multi-state, multi-month shelter-in-place orders, but also layoffs and furloughs due to less available work than a year ago.

The real estate and property management industry are most likely to have their HR budget stay the same, according to the report.

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By Esther Shein

Esther Shein is a longtime freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in several online and print publications. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of Datamation, a managing editor at BYTE, and a senior writer at eWeek (formerly PC Week)...