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How to boost employee confidence and participation in workplace testing programs

By now we're all aware of President Biden's mandate requiring US businesses with 100 or more employees to have their workers either vaccinated or agree to weekly testing, but few are clear on the next steps for businesses. And with the new omicron variant, businesses are even more on edge about how to proceed with testing procedures. To remain compliant and keep employees safe, US businesses need guidance on how to bring in a workplace testing program.

As part of our role within the US Rapid Action Consortium, Genpact has published insights and lessons learned on how testing can enable safety as new variants emerge and more people return to work. But a topic that we have not talked about in depth is how to respond to employees' feelings toward testing and get their buy-in. It's not unusual for employees to be hesitant about frequent testing, and if their concerns aren't properly addressed, it could hinder participation, leave employees feeling unheard, and expose them to sickness.

To help, we've identified three strategies for organizations to use to increase employee confidence in a testing program and ultimately boost participation.

1. Deliver authentic communications

Start with a clear and authentic communications plan. Be transparent about how the testing program will work and what employees can expect.

I recently spoke with the vice president of human resources at Genpact, Genine Mikucki, who gave me the following insight: "It's important for communications to be authentic and heartfelt to demonstrate that the testing program is being rolled out to protect employees. It should eliminate any fears about the invasiveness of the test and what happens should anyone get sick."

To that end, thoroughly explain the details of the testing program to employees, including:

  • Where testing will take place and on which days
  • How to report results
  • How the program will use the results

Give employees time to review all the information and ask questions, and address questions with empathy so that employees feel safe voicing their concerns. This will help dispel any false rumors about the purpose or process of the testing program.

For Antoine Chagnon, CEO of Lallemand, a baking company in the specialty yeast market and member of the Consortium, reminding employees about the positive impact a testing program can have outside of work has helped drive participation. He recently shared with me, "We communicate that this testing program is important not just for the company, but for our employees' families and communities as well."

Providing peace of mind is core to all testing programs.

2. Work with internal influencers

Positive reinforcement from senior leaders and colleagues can help employees feel more comfortable participating in a testing program.

At Genpact, senior leaders and other managers have recorded themselves getting tested to ease fears about how invasive the test is. Vice president of operations at Genpact, Corey Sobkowiak, told me, "We found that when we had leadership be the first ones to get tested in the office, it helped some people get over the fear of doing it. It set an example in a big way."

Managers at Genpact and Consortium member organizations have even turned testing into a team activity to hold each other accountable and create a sense of camaraderie. However, leadership goes beyond someone's position in the company. Finding employees on the ground who are willing to advocate for your testing program can also help drive participation.

3. Put employee wellness front and center

Of course, the goal of any testing program is to improve employee safety, but successful programs take that one step further by reassuring employees that their wellbeing is always the central focus.

At Genpact, we experienced low participation in our testing program at first because employees reported that by not making it mandatory, the program could not adequately enable safety. After we made testing compulsory, both participation and sentiment improved.

Enabling wellness is also about making sure the testing process is smooth, so look for ways to remove friction from the program so that it's accessible to employees. That may mean allowing at-home testing or permitting employees to take tests at their desks for more convenience. Several Consortium members offer Zoom calls with a testing lead for employees to ask questions.

For Chagnon, going the extra mile to put employee wellness at the forefront of the testing program improved participation and even helped morale. "Our testing program has reinforced our culture. Employees see that there are a lot of actions around COVID-19 and around taking care of each other."

As employees return to the office against the backdrop of a new variant and testing mandates, it's crucial that businesses drive participation in workplace testing programs. And it's achievable through authentic communication, leaders leading by example, and employee wellness remaining at the forefront

Tap into more insights and advice on the US Rapid Action Consortium resource hub.

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  • Katia fox

    Katia Fox

    Vice President of Operations

Published

12/09/2021