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August 2021

COVID Vaccine Incentives/Penalties for Leaders, Ranked by Harshness...

Editor's Note: This post was published before the proposed Vaccine Mandate for all private employers with more than 100 employees by the Biden Administration in September 2021.


We're just going to shut everything down for two to three weeks, and we'll be good.

--Everyone, late March 2020


In a pandemic, wouldn't it be cool to say, "I don't know?"

Masks, distancing, hybrid school, vaccines and more. The reasonable position on all of it is that most of it makes sense. But, if you become absolute about your position and your position turns out to be wrong, it kind of undermines your authority to be absolute moving forward. This is the problem with COVID hot takes eighteen months in. Lalapalooza

Three weeks to flatten the curve.

Masks are effective. Wait, two masks might be better!

Say hello to leisure travel and eating out with freedom once you get the vaccine.

You can't get COVID once you get the vaccine.

Uhhhh. Like a lot of moderates, I'm stuck in the middle. I'm OK with how we've handled it to this point. Pandemics seem to be tricky (shocking!), and we've tried some stuff and have a vaccine. It makes sense. But we've been wrong enough on all the non-vaccine stuff that it's human nature that some people are going to be skeptical of the vaccine.

That's where you come in, HR Leader. Time to rally around the Covid vaccine.

What's that? You say you don't want to be involved? Good luck with that. Having no plan or point of view still means you have a position. With FDA approvals starting to roll out, you're going to be looked to for an opinion on how to maximize the percentage of your workforce that is vaccinated.

I'll stop here and offer up the reality. Different companies have different views on COVID and using incentives/mandates/penalties to get people vaccinated. If you are at a business that's not going to get involved with mandates/driving behavior, that's fine from my moderate point of view—you do you. This post is for HR and Talent leaders who have to help find the path to higher vaccination rates, because their business, leadership and/or boards make it a necessity.

Maximizing vaccine rates at your company is a game of incentives, threats and intrigue.  Especially in a tough labor market where it's hard to find people. In a morbid turn, the Delta variant probably makes it easier for you to take a stand related to vaccination.

That's why I'm here. To rank the Vaccine incentives/penalties—by harshness.

Here. We. Go. On to the rankings, from softest to hardest:

1--Incentives - You're so nice. Kind even. You're throwing out extra PTO days or $500 to get the vaccine. This is the least harsh of all the options. It's also the one least likely to move the needle, because you're likely just paying for someone to get the vaccine with more urgency than they would have anyway. They were likely to get it, and you gave them the final prod with a free Honey Baked Ham. Well played. Not likely to get you to 90% vaccinated, however.

2--Vaccine Mandates - I know what you're thinking. This isn't the harshest one? No, it isn't. If vaccinations are important to your organization, this is the one that signals where you're at. You can also talk about all the reasons why you're doing it: keeping people safe (really important for healthcare organizations), etc. There's nothing like clarity when you're trying to lead.

3--Medical Insurance Penalties/Surcharges - Delta Air Lines will impose a monthly $200 surcharge on unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company's health care plan, CEO Ed Bastian announced in a memo earlier in August. This is undoubtedly the harshest way to deal with employees when you want them to get vaccinated.

Why are additional premiums a dumb idea? Let's start with the broad strokes. If you want all your employees to be vaccinated, LEAD and go to vaccine mandates as your strategy. The whole, "it's going to cost you" strategy just leads to ill will, indecision, and creates a long trail of dissatisfaction in your organization. You're creating a class of people and asking others to look down on them. Just cut the cord, mandate the vaccine if that's what you want to do, and get ready to recruit.

If you need more of a reason than pure leadership to know why insurance penalties are a bad idea, let's so some math. I'm using the Georgia workforce for Delta Air Lines as an example:

Total Delta Employees in GA: 33,000

Estimate of count of non-vaccinated: 9,000

Annual cost of non-vaccinated insurance penalty per employee: $2,400

Total pool created annually by the penalty payments: $21.6 million

Cost per COVID hospitalization: $24,000

Number of Hospitalizations that would need to happen to use the entire pool: 900

I'd note here that Delta says their cost is north of $50,000 per COVID hospitalization. Clearly, they are self-insured and have access to the data, but all cites available show average hospitalization cost from $17K to $24K, so I used the higher number of those two.

To give you a sense of COVID hospitalization rates, Georgia has had 72,822 COVID hospitalizations since the start of COVID on a population north of ten million. If I plug in those numbers to the Delta population, it comes to a projection of roughly 237 hospitalizations (versus the 900 they've funded via the penalty) that could be expected over the same period. You could argue that the rate would be lower since we now live in a world with many vaccinated, but variants like Delta put that analysis at risk, so let's assume the run rate might be the same.

So the Delta program isn't looking to simply pay the costs of hospitalizations; they had to make the number much bigger to provide the penalty needed to move human behavior. Anyone who stays and pays that penalty is going to hate the company for the rest of their life. Gallup says employing people and making them hate you is a bad idea.

All of that to say the following. If you are at a business that's not going to push, that's fine from my moderate point of view—you do you.  

BUT, if you're going to push for vaccinations, incentives won't get you there. You can stop short of the vaccine mandate, but I'd argue things like the Delta COVID penalty are just going to create ill will. If you want people to be vaccinated, make the call and lead—and mandate the vaccine.

Good luck with the educational campaign. And fire up the recruiting engine regardless of your approach.

Leadership is hard.

1-to-1 Business Introductions: There Are Rules, You Animals

Most people don't worry about having to do business introductions. I'd say that for 90% of the world, introducing someone to a person inside your network for the express purpose of mutual gain isn't a thing. Biz card exchange

For 10% of us (myself included), the requests come on a weekly basis. It's a thing and it's full of peril, as the tweet below (email subscribers, click through if you don't see the tweet) from Valley investor Chris Sacca outlines:

If you ask for an introduction, once it’s been made, it is on you to follow up first.

If you make an introduction without double opt-in, it’s on you to come up with your last words before the firing squad.

— Chris Sacca 🇺🇸 (@sacca) July 26, 2021

Sacca's fired up about it and and as a top .01% target of unsolicited business introductions, he believes the following to be true:

All business introductions you make to me should have my permission before you proceed with the introduction (this is the double opt-in) reference.

Is that true and necessary?

Maybe. Maybe not. Two years ago, I remember hearing from a CHRO, who I would consider a tier 2 network contact of mine (close, but not vacationing together, LOL), that he hated when people made introductions without asking him. That gave me pause, and I started asking that person before I introduced people to him (average of one to two per year).

But just because Sacca and that CHRO think you should always ask doesn't make it true. Here's my rundown of whether permission should be requested and granted before I make an introduction to my network. You can think about your own network if you're a person who makes introductions as part of your normal business life:

--RULE #1 - Don't make sales intros for people you don't know well and aren't at least a tier 2 person in your network (see below).

--Intros to Tier 1 People - These are the closest people in your professional life. You naturally protect these people but also 100% know what's good for them. With that in mind, they get intros from me WITHOUT their approval. I get them and know them best. (this is 5-10 people in my life)

--Intros to Tier 2 People - This is the next circle of influence out. You're more than a casual acquaintance with these folks. Whether you need to ask permission probably depends on the value your introduction is providing to them. If they get as much or more from the introduction as the person being introduced, they get an intro WITHOUT an opt-in. But the value has to be that obvious. If not, getting opt-in is probably warranted. (this is probably 30-40 people in my life)

--We Interrupt This Lecture to Talk About the People Who Report To You and are otherwise in your span of control—see Tier 1. You know what the people who report to you and are in your organization 2-3 levels down need, right?  And you're the boss? Asking for permission seems to be a timid action that wastes your time and undermines your authority. #fireaway

--Everyone Else - Asking for permission seems to make sense, unless there's so much value to the introduction that it couldn't be called into question.

You know, like introducing them to Chris Sacca.

See what I did there?

BTW, this is all based on the authority you hold in your domain. If you're a baller, you're going to ask permission less than the average person. Do you think Chris Sacca is asking for double opt-in when he makes introductions?

KD out.


HR Capitalist Chart - The Assessment Profile of a High Performing Recruiter...

Hiring Recruiters is Hard - This Makes it Easier

When it comes to Talent Acquisition, there's one thing that can sneak up on TA and HR leaders - hiring recruiters for your own team. As good as you are at serving the needs of the businesses you support, having a strategy to land the best recruiting talent can be challenging.

I've always used an assessment layer when we hire recruiters at our firm, so this Kinetix Labs paper, The Assessment Profile of a High-Performing Recruiter, outlines everything we've learned about using an assessment to hire the best recruiters and prevent false positive hires. Download this paper and you'll get the following:

  • Eight Assessment dimensions to evaluate recruiters 
  • Ranges you need in each dimension to predict performance
  • Notes on the best way to read an assessment and get to a go/no-go decision

False positives when you hire suck. "False Positives" is the fancy way to say, "Damn, I missed again." While there's no silver bullet, adding an assessment layer can help.

Hit this link to download. Enjoy!