6 ways to bring a human touch to employee referrals

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4 mins, 46 secs read time

It’s no secret that referrals are the best way to find the best talent. Hires coming from referrals are more likely to be a good fit, perform better, and stay longer in a company. Some companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on referral bonuses and HR technology solutions to source the best referral candidates from their employees' networks. But spending a lot of time and money is no guarantee that your referral program will be successful.

What can you do to keep employees engaged in making quality referrals? Keep reading for a few tips!

1. Stay in regular contact with employees about referrals

A good relationship starts with good communication. As a recruiter, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day demands of your job, but communicating with your current employees is key—especially if you’re trying to get their help with referrals. Be sure to have a plan about how you’ll communicate your referral needs and acknowledge progress throughout the referral process. Will you hold regular meetings? Communicate via email or Slack? Be sure to have a plan in place that makes sense for you and your company.

2. Help employees understand what you’re looking for

One of the top complaints from employees is that their referrals are never moved forward in the hiring process. If this sounds familiar, consider holding regular company-wide meetings and workshops to educate employees about what you’re looking for in job candidates. This will keep employees up to date with your needs and policies and help them feel more confident in making referrals.

You could start by outlining which positions need to be filled most urgently and what types of candidates would best fill them in terms of background, work experience, and attributes. Perhaps the future manager and teammates of the hire could outline their ideal coworker or employee and what qualities or skills that person must have. Team-based hiring activities like this will not only make employees feel included in the hiring process, but will also make them feel more confident in making referrals.

3. Give employees the confidence to make referrals

Employees are often shy to make referrals because they fear that a poor choice in candidate on their part will reflect poorly on them. It’s your job as a recruiter to change this by instilling confidence in your employees.

Tell them it’s okay to make referrals and that their choice of candidate will not carry any negative impact on their career. Emphasize to your employees how important they are in the hiring process and that their referrals will be a much-appreciated contribution to the recruiter’s search for top talent.

4. Follow up!

Make sure you are sending out regular reminders via email and whichever communication channels your company uses. Consider scheduling regular meetings between recruiters and employees where recruiters can check in with employees to address any questions or concerns about the process. This simple practice of regular check-ins reinforces the culture of referrals and ensures that all parties are up to date with the process.

When employees do make a successful referral, be sure to let them know when their referral candidate has moved to the next stage of the interview process. (Hint: Some ATS and referral program software can automate this process for you!) This will keep your employees excited about making referrals and may even help them make more successful referrals in the future.

5. Build excitement

Get employees pumped about your company’s mission statement and empower them as craftsmen of their own company culture. This is their chance to help build a team! Set aside a company-wide time to make referrals—maybe even make it a competition so that recruiters can fill their pipeline faster with quality referrals. Inciting a little friendly competition between employees can make the referral process fun and encourage employees to go the extra mile to think of great contacts in their network. Consider giving the winner of the referral competition a small reward like a gift card to their favorite restaurant.

6. Acknowledge and reward employees for participating

Give small, frequent rewards to employees for participating in the referral process. For instance, instead of giving one large bonus at the end of a successful hire, give your employee something like a gift card or a pair of movie tickets for making referrals during a specified time period. These small rewards keep employees engaged in the referral process.

One thing to consider is to gift employees experiences rather than cash for referral rewards. This way employees can directly attribute their referral efforts to a meaningful experience, one which they can share with their friends and coworkers. Liquid cash rewards tend to just melt into their bank accounts and be used for everyday expenditures like groceries and gas. Companies like Blueboard are taking a dynamic approach and offering experience rewards for adventures like kayaking or wine tasting. Talk about motivation! Experience rewards can be more exciting for employees than cash bonuses.
Tying it all together

Working with employees to get quality referrals is about clear communication, regular incentives, and intrinsic motivation. If you want your employees to act as company ambassadors and reach out to their networks, you not only have to make it worth their while, you also need to make sure they feel properly informed and acknowledged for their efforts.

As with any good relationship, establishing clear communication and expectations will produce the best results—in this case, you’ll be able to source the best quality referrals from your employees.

Want even more tips on setting up an employee referral program? Download a copy of the How to Build a Strong Employee Referral Program eBook.

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