Increase the effectiveness of your Employee Referral Program

May 9, 2014 Deb Broderson

We live in a business world where organizational success is increasingly reliant upon our ability to attract and retain talent.  To many of you, that’s an obvious statement.  What may not be as obvious is how to leverage the new social tools, technologies and related business practices, to engage the increasingly fickle talent pool that exists both within and outside your organization.  The most “in-demand” talent has increased visibility into the organizational culture of prospective employers and a far greater understanding of their fair market value.  Your Employee Referral Program should offer both strategic and tactical advantages that will help win the war on talent.

First, a thriving Employee Referral Program should exist within the overall framework of your current Employee Engagement initiative.  Unless and until your employees are engaged with your organization, and understand what engagement means within your company, they are not able to identify and actively refer qualified candidates.

Second, there is a strong correlation between the training Millennial and Gen X employees receive and engagement.  When training programs are aligned to company goals, Millennials and Gen X employees are more engaged because they connect the dots between their developing skills and the needs of the organization.  If it’s clearly communicated that a pressing organizational goal is to be an employer of choice and to attract top drawer talent; then training programs for helping millennial and Gen X employees attract talent fit the bill as a driver of engagement.

Current employee referral programsLastly, not all Employee Referral Programs are created equal.  Just because all cars have four tires and a steering wheel, does not make them all the same. That analogy is also true with legacy referral programs, some of which have real challenges, leading to less than stellar participation rates.  To better understand why, let’s look at some core design and execution flaws in many employee referral programs.

Many companies use web forms and/or emails for their infrastructure and that is probably adequate for a small company.  However, in a mid-to-large size Employee Referral Programs, you need both infrastructure and automation to facilitate success of the program.  Without a strong back-end solution, the program management will become unwieldy and the lack of analytics will limit your ability to make smart, data-driven decisions.

In addition to technology challenges, there are some other issues that impact underperforming Employee Referral Programs, any one of which has the potential of derailing your program. Key amongst them are:

  • Recognize referrers through-out the process.  This can be done in a number of ways including email thank yous, personal thank you notes, adding referrals to a social feed, assigning points for qualified referrals, etc.
  • Have a strategy.  As mentioned earlier, integrate the Employee Referral program into your overall Employee Engagement Strategy.  Develop an ROI plan, develop KPI metrics, then monitor and adjust accordingly.
  • Timeframes.  If an employee refers a friend and doesn’t hear anything or receive any reward for 90 to 120 days, they lose interest and engagement.  Keeping people informed throughout the process and potentially rewarding small amounts to them along the way, will keep engagement levels high.

Leveraging new social tools, technologies and related business practices will help your organization engage the increasingly fickle talent pool that exists both within and outside your organization.  The most “in-demand” talent has increased visibility into the organizational culture of prospective employers and a far greater understanding of their fair market value.

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