Create a Culture of Referrals in 5 Easy Steps 

I’ve been passionate about creating engaging and effective employee referral programs for most of my talent acquisition career. Many studies prove that employee referral candidates complete the application and interview process faster, are more engaged, and stick around longer than non-referral candidates. Plus, who doesn’t want to work with their friends and respected former colleagues?

I’ve conducted research on referral trends and benchmarks (you can access my 2014 Referral Trends Report here) and am in the process of updating the research for 2015 (I’d love for you to take my current survey). Also, I speak on the topic often, through webinars and at various referralprogramsconferences. Most recently, I presented on my research at recruitDC’s Spring Conference and had a lively and engaged audience with lots of questions and ideas.

Parts of that dialogue led me to the conclusion that most companies don’t create a culture of referrals, and thus don’t meet their referral program goals or reap the rewards of a more engaged, retained workforce. So, here are 5 things you need to do now if you want to create a culture of referrals at your company.

  1. Make it easy for employees to refer candidates. Get rid of the 10-step process and required forms. If they can give you a name and email address of someone they recommend, take it and run with it.
  2. Respect your employees and the candidate. Contact the referrals (even if it is an email to say there isn’t a fit at this time) and provide an update to the employee. Your employees are providing you with information about people in their network. They don’t want to be the one saying “I don’t know” when their friend or family member asks what’s going on with the hiring process.
  3. Educate your employees on what makes a good referral at your company. Shoot a short video and put it on your intranet. Hold Lunch and Learn sessions to talk about the types of candidate you are looking for. Visit your employee resource group meetings and team staff meetings and talk about referrals.
  4. Pay the referral bonus as soon as the new hire starts. I could write an entire rant post about the pathetic practice of making your employees wait 6 months or more to receive their bonus. You don’t make a recruiting agency wait that long for payment after they place a candidate. Why would you treat your employees worse than your vendors? The data prove that referral candidates stick around, so stop worrying about the one that might quit in the first few weeks and focus on instant rewards.
  5. Recognize, recognize, recognize. Provide some sort of recognition to everyone who refers candidates, everyone who has a candidate selected or an interview, and everyone who has a candidate hired (even if you don’t pay bonuses). Also, recognize the referred new hire and they will be likely to make referrals of your own.

Follow these 5 steps and you can quickly create a culture of referrals. This culture will increase your quality candidate pools, decrease your time to hire, decrease your turnover, increase your engagement, and reduce your recruiter workload.

Want to learn more about referral best practices and network with your program management peers?  Register for our TalentBlend conference taking place August 19 & 20 in Reston, VA.

What other things do you do to create a culture of referrals?

About Kara Yarnot

Kara founded Meritage Talent Solutions to provide tailored talent acquisition solutions to employers and employment services companies. Kara has over 17 years of leadership experience in talent acquisition and recruiting for several FORTUNE® 500 organizations, including Boeing, Intel, and SAIC.

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