No jab, no job? This simple slogan brings complicated practical and legal implications for many businesses. With the acceptance of vaccination remaining controversial and the rising awareness of public and workplace safety, mandatory vaccination for staff is not just another HR policy — it is a critical business decision.
It is easy to understand why most employers prefer to see vaccination rates increase in operating markets. It could help businesses return to normal and avoid costly disruptions from further outbreaks within the workplace.
While more countries like Singapore and Fiji are encouraging businesses to enforce mandatory vaccination, other regional governments remain ambiguous, allowing individual companies to make their own decisions. Some global enterprises, particularly consumer-centric companies, have also taken the mandatory route.
Although mandate vaccination may bring businesses back to normal, it could also open widespread pushback.
“Employee pushback to a mandate is a real concern, particularly given the extreme pushback may lead employees to leave when retaining them is already a challenge,” according to Gartner’s report Considerations for Mandating Vaccines in Your Organization.
New normal is proving to be tricky
“No jab, no job” is not the only tricky business for employers in Asia. The way we work has changed tremendously from COVID-19. Many business leaders are walking on thin ice to navigate the appropriate HR policies in the new normal.
The pandemic dramatically changed the way we work, including where, when, and how we work. Such flexibility brings resilience to businesses during the pandemic, allowing employees from different backgrounds, age groups, and family obligations to keep the business running. But this flexibility also creates different expectations towards flexibility and perception of productivity.
“There is no one way to define and perceive the concept of flexible working,” said Carlene Baskerville, director of sales ANZ at Sage. “It is much more than employees having the freedom to alternate between the office and the home. Rather it is a two-way process between employer and employee to maximize efficiencies for the benefit of both parties.”
Productivity definition evolves
The perception of productivity also varies according to age groups, according to the State of Employee Experience Report 2021, a Singapore-based study that surveyed 7,900+ respondents.
When asked about how productive they feel among three working models — remote working, office working, and hybrid working — employees of younger age feel the least productive, regardless of the working model. The older they are, the more productive they feel.
Business leaders can no longer rely on a one-size-fits-all model for employee engagement by adding the vagueness of productivity and flexible working definitions with the increasing polarization of social issues, ranging from diversity and inclusion, vaccination, and social distancing measures.
“Listening frequently to the voice of the employee and responding to their needs in an agile way will help organizations keep pace with a fast-changing work environment, addressing employees' expectations,” said Chee-Tung Leong, chief executive officer and co-founder of EngageRocket, a Singapore-based startup that provides people analytics software.
Navigate the thin ice with VoE
This is the reason the voice of employees (VoE) matters more than ever. Leong added listening and responding to VoE is particularly important to handle the sticky subject of mandatory vaccination in Asia.
Leong said technology plays an essential role in supporting and equip business leaders with relevant insights and action plans to communicate with their teams in a meaningful way.
He noted that the first step is to collect honest feedback is by creating a safe environment where employees are comfortable to share their thoughts openly. “It’s critical to have a channel for strictly confidential feedback,” said Leong. “Trust in leadership is crucial to motivate employees to speak up in the first place.”
Feedback is only valuable when they are followed with actions. It is also vital to close the loop and share feedback results to demonstrate the company’s commitment to open communications. Sharing the results also help employees feel that their voice mattered.
“The power of collective opinion and insights can be useful for checking the pulse of employee preferences,” said Leong.
Technology also helps business leaders remain impartial and inclusive. He added that one-size-fits-all models are no longer viable when collecting insights; business leaders need to dive deeper into the opinion of each segment of the workforce.
Technologies can help. They can provide a channel for employees to declare their status voluntarily. A digital platform allows companies to balance the privacy sensitivities of the workforce like, for example, when it wants to track vaccination progress.
Although technology plays a big part in gathering data, providing insights, and aiding execution, Leong noted that technology remains a strategic support for new communication policies.
“Employers need to adopt clear, personalized, and transparent communication to build a culture of open feedback,” he concluded.
Sheila Lam is the contributing editor of DigitalWorkforceTrends. Covering IT for 20 years as a journalist, she has witnessed the emergence, hype, and maturity of different technologies but is always excited about what's next. You can reach her at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/Abdullah Kilinc