10 Creative Ideas for your Employee Referral Program

When it comes to setting up a referral program most companies focus on how to spread the word about their products or/and services. But let’s be honest, how many companies actually consider this strategy also with regard to their recruitment needs? Few companies offer in-house referral programs in which employees are being encouraged to find the most suitable talent for the company and future work colleagues to work with.

The benefits for a company to set up an employee referral program and involving their own employees in future hiring challenges should not be ignored. Some of the advantages are as follows:

  • A cheaper alternative (instead of outsourcing this task to recruitment agencies which often charge a fee of 10-20 % of a person’s annual gross salary)
  • Increase of employee engagement and level of responsibility (employees would feel more empowered)
  • Higher retention rates (it has been proven that referred employees stay longer)
  • Higher number of passive candidates
  • Increase of the organisation’s brand profile
  • Referrals are getting hired quicker (according to Jobvite applicants start a new job after 29 days compared with 39 days via job boards and 55 via career sites)
  • Referrals make a better cultural fit (they are familiar with the way the current employees are working)

What approach can your company take to implement an effective referral program among their employees? First of all, you need to realise that having a positive work culture in a company is of paramount importance in order to attract great people. Secondly, everyone needs to be given the opportunity to participate, no matter in what position they are working in. Thirdly, everyone needs to know all the details for the open vacancy so that everyone can act like a great ambassador.

Don’t expect that a referral program works by itself. Your company needs to think of a well-thought through plan in order to get the best out of this strategy. I would like to give you some ideas as to how you can create an effective referral program that works and which will help your own employees to attract their next colleagues.

  • Train your staff in terms of rules and policies surrounding recruitment. Teach them how to talk positively about the company to recruit the best talent. Ask them to watch out for every opportunity they might have during or outside of their working hours to spot great people. For example, when attending seminars, conferences, professional association meetings or even in their spare time. Let them know that the candidate pool should go beyond their own personal networking circle which they are already familiar with.
  • Create a corporate Career website in which candidates can get really insightful information about the job, company, culture etc. (Don’t miss to read my previous article which will give you 12 ideas as to how you can approach this task:
  • Let your employees spread the word on various Social Media Websites, such as Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+. Give them some samples as to how they can grab a reader’s attention. Make sure you write compelling job descriptions and mention that it doesn’t just have to be words; pictures and videos are often more effective. Remind them that they should portray the company’s professional image at all times.

  • Get T-shirts printed which read “We are hiring”, show a team picture and mention your website address. Encourage your employees to wear these t-shirts also in their spare time when going out.
  • Get stickers printed with the same content and ask your employees to put it on their cars.
  • Show people that they make a difference and that their efforts are being rewarded and appreciated. Reward them with some incentives. It can be highly motivating for your staff if you offer different options from which they can choose. Personalisation does make a difference! Some people might want financial rewards, while others might prefer getting more extra time off, a holiday trip abroad, shares or products of the company, a paid educational course of their interest or the option to donate the reward fee to a charity. Now what would be the best moment for giving the reward? The choice is yours: you can give small rewards for having referred great people (who were not hired now but could get hired in the future for similar positions), and bigger rewards on the new employee’s first working day or upon completion of their probationary period.
  • Printing small cards (in business card format) for each employee is another way of spreading the word. These cards should differ from the normal business cards and should be created for recruitment purposes only, think creatively! Apple, for example, has cards which say on one side “You’re amazing. We should talk.” While on the other side it says ”Your customer service just now was exceptional. I work for the Apple Store, and you’re exactly the kind of person we’d like to talk to . If you’re happy where you are, I’d never ask you to leave. But if you’re thinking about a change, give me a call. This could be the start of something great.” Think of something similar and give your employees tools to facilitate great new hires.
  • You might also consider setting goals for team referrals. In that case reward the team with the highest volume of referrals.
  • You could give it a try with a third party software but letting your employees think more creatively on their own might be the better choice.
  • Show also all those employees who were able to find and hire a great candidate for the company what impact that person had on the company’s performance/success. Giving them a hand-written card would be something unexpected and surely appreciated. It would motivate them to work even harder in the future again! (And which boss does not want to see that?)

I consider it as important to let your staff know about what worked well and what didn’t work so that future mistakes can be minimised. You also need to make clear to your employees that if they keep on referring poor candidates (who initially get hired but get fired shortly afterwards) they will not be given the opportunity anymore to search for future employees. It will have a negative impact on a company’s image and hiring the wrong people can become costly. That’s something that nowadays no company can afford anymore in the long run.

These were some suggestions for your employees but if you want to take your hiring challenge a step further you might even want to involve also other stakeholders too, such as: suppliers, clients, retired employees, your twitter followers, Facebook fans, Linkedin connections etc. The more people you involve in this process the bigger and more diverse your candidate pool will be from which you can choose the most suitable talent. Offering a recruitment referral program should not be the only hiring strategy but can supplement your traditional techniques.

Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a passionate Public Speaker, eBook Author, and a freelancing Online Content Producer. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 18 years of international work experience in Italy, the UK and India.