Kroger CEO: Why every company should incentivize employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Kroger offered a $100 financial incentive to associates who took the coronavirus vaccine.

This past year called for many of us to meet the greatest challenge of our lifetimes. Covid-19 changed how we live, when and how we see our friends and family, where we work and even how we shop.

At Kroger, it has changed how we approach nearly every aspect of our business. We had to reimagine selling groceries, because it wasn't just about the groceries anymore. It was about safeguarding our nearly half a million associates and 11 million daily customers; managing our ever-changing and often challenged supply chain; and accelerating our e-commerce services to provide fresh food through low-touch or no-touch shopping.

Now, with almost 39% of Americans fully vaccinated, we're anticipating life's slow return to normal. To better protect ourselves and our communities, we must all do our part to get vaccinated and to encourage others to do the same.

Unfortunately, misinformation about the vaccine's safety and efficacy continues to spread, leaving many still hesitant — and even reluctant — to get it. About a quarter of US adults have said they will not try to get the vaccine. That's why companies like mine must play a role in making sure employees understand the benefits of getting the vaccine, and also incentivize their employees to do so.

We will see an increase in full vaccinations and a steady decrease in Covid-19 cases if we create widespread trust in the vaccine. Most importantly, we'll all be able to socialize and be safely together much sooner, not only in our grocery stores, but also in our restaurants, churches, small businesses, stadiums and homes. This is where businesses come in. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, businesses are among the most trusted institutions in American life.

Business leaders have a social responsibility to lead with facts and act with empathy. At Kroger, we've found that our associates became less hesitant about vaccinations after we offered a financial incentive of $100 and provided consistent, factual information from trusted authorities about vaccine efficacy and safety.

For many, receiving the vaccine may require time off work, travel time or childcare. By offering solutions with financial support, it makes the decision to get vaccinated less of a burden. To help address these practical challenges, our family of companies is awarding a $100 payment to each associate who becomes fully vaccinated.

Beyond rewards, education is key. There are unfortunate misconceptions and skepticism about the vaccines, so being proactive with employees and sharing the facts about the science is extremely important.

We also launched a content series featuring Kroger's chief medical officer, Dr. Marc Watkins, who shares his professional opinion, answers employees' questions and offers a good dose of myth-busting facts to help people make an educated vaccination decision. And our leaders are sharing their confidence in the vaccine, their personal vaccination experience and also their "why" — the often deeply personal reason they chose to get vaccinated, whether it's to spend time with aging parents, to protect a spouse who is a cancer survivor or to safeguard customers and each other.

Kroger is proud to play a lead role in helping America's vaccination effort. We deeply appreciate the many scientists, medical professionals and innovators who have created safe and effective vaccines. Because of them, we're getting closer to normalcy. As of today, Kroger's pharmacists and health care technicians have distributed 4.3 million Covid-19 vaccines — and that number continues to grow daily.

The best thing that can happen over the next couple of months is for as many people as possible to receive the vaccine. I encourage all employers to lead by example and, where possible, to incentivize their employees. More shots in arms will rapidly bring us closer to our normal lives, hugging our loved ones and building our path forward together.

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