Deep in the collections of the British Museum in London is a relic that has historical importance and is interesting to HR professionals, too: a decree from Julius Caesar from 55 B.C.
The letter offers 300 sestertii (not a small sum) to any soldier who brought someone else to join the fight in the Roman army. Even way back then—literally thousands of years ago!—employee referrals were successful.
As Caesar knew, an employee referral program is a key part of any recruitment strategy that can jumpstart your hiring process and bring people into the fold faster. But only if it's done in a strategic, consolidated way.
What can companies do to build a strong employee referral program? Here are seven actionable tips on how to build one.
1. Start From the Inside
It’s worth reiterating: no one will refer others to work at your company if they don’t like working there themselves. If they don’t like what they do, their boss or the culture of the company, they won’t recommend their buddy to work there. It paints a poor picture of the employee doing the referral in their referral’s eyes.
Before you begin creating an employee referral program, take a step back and ask yourself a tough question: How is your company culture? Do your people like where they work and stick around for years, or is turnover a crippling issue?
2. Offer the Right Referral Reward
What’s the right reward for recommending the next A player on your team? $500? An airline ticket? A cool pair of headphones?
The answer: all of the above, perhaps. When you introduce awards into the mix, you add further incentive to your current employees to make referrals, especially when it comes to finding expert sales professionals.
Regardless of how much or what you offer, people like to pick what they receive. Tie it in to current recognition programs on a centralized employee engagement platform and let them choose.
3. Communication is Key
Don’t just sit back and wait for the referrals to roll in. Get the word out. Communicating your program to your team is imperative to success. After all, people won’t participate in a program they’re not familiar with.
With a mixed-media approach to getting the word out, you’ll get and keep your audience’s attention, no matter their preferred choice of communication.
An important thing to note with your communications: often, people dissuade themselves from submitting employee referrals because they don’t know someone that well. Make sure you let your people know that you don’t have to be best friends with the people they refer, and reiterate that they won’t be looked at negatively for referring a candidate that doesn’t get the nod.
4. Make it Easy
If you have a current referral program, take a look at what’s involved to submit a referral. Does it require printing a form, filling it out by hand and digging up a ton of obscure information about the applicant?
Make the process easier. Try an online platform that keeps the amount of information required for a referral to a minimum—name, contact info, a quick outline of their experience.
5. Leverage LinkedIn
Everyone loves LinkedIn. Your sales team loves using it to discover connections (your high school buddy works for the company you’ve been trying to close? Who knew!). Job hunters love it to get a foot in the door at great companies.
It’s really no different than going through your traditional channels of employee referral and puts your staff in direct contact with potential hires. On top of that, it’s a breeze to use.
6. Mingle with the Community
If you’re at the forefront of your industry, chances are you’re involved with a group or two outside your office that works closely with what you do at work. Sales pros might hang out at young professional events. Marketers might belong to a social media club.
Not only will you get some interested candidates, you’ll prove to the community your company is at the top of its game and really knows its stuff.
7. Transparency is Necessary
A referral program is like juicing an orange: you can squeeze it and get a spritz, or you can toss it in an automatic juicer and press every last bit of juice out of it.
If you’re going to have an employee referral program, make sure you utilize a dynamic, scalable platform that helps you get all the information you can out of it. Make sure you’re able to quantify:
- The ROI of your referral program
- How long referrals are staying with your company
- How referrals are performing compared to similar hires
- And more
Take it from Caesar: a smart, thought-out employee referral program works, and will work, for years to come.
Katie Nguyen, a supervisor in the People and Culture department at ITA Group, has been with the company for more than eight years. Together with her team, she focuses on identifying candidates to bring on board at ITA Group and partners with managers to facilitate interview and selection processes. She enjoys helping new team members begin their career at ITA Group and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes win.