Tips to an Effective Employee Referral Program
As the talent war intensifies, organizations are gradually moving away from conventional sourcing platforms, and thinking “out-of-box” in their sourcing methods to increase the candidates pool. Besides focusing on external sources, organizations are doing “housekeeping” and placing more emphasis on their internal “structure”. “Structure” in this context refers to 3 main elements: Organization, Employees and Processes.
- Build healthy corporate culture. By inculcating a culture where “everyone is HR”, it encourages each and every employee to take responsibility in contributing to the desired corporate culture that they want, which should be a collective effort. Building a healthy corporate culture stimulates multi-folds benefits such as higher productivity at work, more motivated and engaged employees, higher happiness index at workplace, which will drive overall business efficiency and excellence.
- Build strong company branding. Especially in times like this where talent hunt is alarmingly vigorous, big players such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, are capitalizing on their strong company branding to attract talents. It is of paramount importance to build a strong company branding which will act as the “talent magnet” to attract and retain talents. For instance, Ikea Australia’s recruitment campaign was targeted at its own consumers who already loved and believed in its brand and culture. It was a great success, resulting in 280 new hires out of 4,285 applicants.
- Improve employee engagement. People are the key assets of an organization hence it is important to ensure that the workforce is constantly engaged and motivated at work. Conscientious effort should be put in by respective line managers (this should not solely be HR’s responsibility) to improve employee engagement and working relationships, which can be achieved through a hybrid of work and social activities, such as mentoring them in meaningful projects, having teambuilding and retreats etc.
- Make them your brand ambassadors. Employees are the best “mobile advertisements” for an organization, as they can showcase highlights at work which are real and close to heart. Their referrals are likely to respond better to such “advertisements” as compared to a painstakingly-detailed job posting. Such “advertisements” can emerge in various forms, such as publishing it on the intranet, monthly newsletter, recruitment video etc. Citing an example, Microsoft encourages their employees to publish a snapshot of their career on the corporate website and share with their network of family and friends and possibly potential referrals.
- Exercise empowerment. Building a culture where “everyone is HR” and exercising empowerment go hand-in-hand. Empowerment transfers the autonomy of “choosing your co-workers” to the employees and encourages them to take on the responsibilities of being the cultural gatekeeper and recruiters. Everyone would love to work in a healthy and fun-filled workplace hence they will exercise discretion when referring quality candidates.
- Train-the-“recruiters”. Most of the time, it is the “how” that is bugging employees and deters them from making referrals. By equipping them with the resources and trainings on building professional network, it will cause ripples effects downstream, as they are more competent in building their own networks and exercise professional judgement in making referrals. Taking reference from 2008 Core Benchmark Survey, 51% of more than 15,000 employees indicated that providing training on how to cultivate a stronger professional network was the utmost priority in improving employee referral program in any organization.
- Give recognition to employees. When employees make a successful referral, it is imperative to thank them for their contribution and give recognition on their effort and time invested in engaging their referrals and seeing through the initial stage of recruitment. This sends a strong message to the employees that for each and every referral they have made, they are a step closer to building a healthier corporate culture and workplace. For example, Vistaprint embarks on creative methods in honouring their employees for successful referrals by giving out prizes at high profile company events, featuring them in employee referral program videos, and creating gamification.
- Keep application process simple. Complicated and cumbersome processes will only impede one’s motivation to make a referral therefore it is critical to keep the application process simple by having:
- Clear and simple policy for easy comprehension and to avoid misunderstanding
- Short application form with few essential fields which can be completed easily
- Endorsement-free form removes the need for approval from immediate supervisors or Department Head thus reducing the possibility of delays due to red tape
- Electronic submission via email or intranet facilitates the process within few clicks, especially for employees who are constantly on the move or stationed onsite
- Brand and “sell” the program. Treat the referral program like a new product, which requires packaging and marketing before launching it in the “market” (refers to employees and referrals).
- Packaging: A catchy tagline adds “punch” and illuminates the purpose of the program. For example, Sodexo brands their referral program as “Star Finder” and this heightens the morale and spirit of the employees as it resonates in them that they are a step closer to finding “stars” to join the family for each referral they made
- Marketing: Creative marketing methods definitely catch the attention of your employees hence higher chances of inoculating them with the importance of referral programs. For instance, Vistaprint markets the program through various platforms, such as launching it through a company party, sending weekly emails, sending postcards to employees’ homes, displaying posters in office etc
- Maintain easy access to resources. In this digital age where use of technology is prevalent, organizations should leverage on technologies such as social media, intranet and company website, to maintain easy access to resources such as application form, guidelines and policy, job postings and recruitment-related materials etc. This facilitates internal and external sharing of information with the employees and their referrals.
- Implement seamless communication. Having a robust feedback loop system is very important as employees should have visibility on the application status of his referrals since they are the first point of contact. Most of the time, employees are clueless about the progress of their referrals and have to constantly ask for updates, which does not reflect well on HR.
- Deliver prompt service. The incentive pay-out for successful referrals should be prompt and without delays, and of course not having the employees to constantly “chase” for their incentives. The process should be simple and easy to administer, for instance companies are leveraging on their payroll services instead of issuing cheques, which reduces unnecessary administrative tasks.