SmartRecruiters Hiring Success Journal

How Improving Your Employee Referral Program Will Make You More Successful

Sure, you might have an employee referral program. But is it something you make a recruiting priority? Or has it been sitting on a shelf, getting kind of dull because you haven’t dusted it off for months or maybe even years?

It’s well accepted that employees can be your best source to add to your talent pipeline. After all, employees know what your mission and values are, so are in a great position to refer others who share those values. One Ohio State University study shows candidates hired through referrals have a 25 percent higher retention rate than employees hired through other sources.

That’s exceptionally valuable for hard-to-fill roles. So dust off that referral program and make it shine.

One reason many employee referral programs don’t reach their full potential is that they seem more like a “policy” than a program your team can get excited about. You can’t bore people into taking action, so words alone that merely describe incentives and rewards won’t be very compelling.

Make employee referrals part of your culture

The most effective programs are those that are not merely administered by talent acquisition and HR teams, but span across all areas of the organization and are backed by top managers. Company leaders need to commit to promoting these programs as a key attribute of your workplace culture.

Some companies hold regular meetings on the value of referrals, reward top referrers with not just monetary incentives but also praise, and make it loud and clear that being on the lookout for great candidates is part of everyone’s role.

Yes, monetary rewards are always welcome, but other perks boost promotional value. Perhaps leading referrers can have lunch with your CEO, win free tickets to an event, or use a special parking space for a month? Word will definitely spread quickly inspiring everyone to think more about referrals.

Be more strategic and more targeted

When specific roles need to be filled it may make sense to target the promotion of referral incentives to employees most likely to know others with those skill sets. For example, you may promote referrals to technical teams when you need to fill similar roles. Or if you need a social media expert, ask for referrals from employees who work in that specific marketing area.

Also consider zeroing in on employees who may have previously worked at companies you generally see as a high-quality source for candidates. And while you’re at it, your former employees, employee friends and family members, and even your vendors could provide excellent leads.

Respond quickly to demonstrate commitment

If you expect employees to refer others in a way that sells your organization, pay extra close attention to those candidates.

Perhaps you can guarantee that referrals will be “fast-tracked” so they are interviewed within a week, or provide a special contact for referrals so questions can be quickly answered. If they are left aside and don’t get extra attention, you’re not visibly demonstrating your commitment to referrals.

You can reduce hiring costs, hire excellent talent for hard-to-fill roles more quickly, and acquire new team members more likely to be successful with an effective employee referral program.

But you must bring that program to life and pay ongoing attention to it.

The next time you find yourself complaining about how difficult it is to source candidates for hard-to-fill roles, think about your employee referral program. Take it off the shelf, dust it off, and make a few changes. Your recruiting efforts will shine again.

Nupur Vilas

Nupur Vilas

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