Referral programs can do wonders for a business. Referred employees have higher retention rates and increase employee engagement in their company. But generating a successful referral program takes a lot more than a few free toasters. A good referral program starts with creating a work culture that has a positive employer brand . Becoming a company that people will refer takes some work.

Consider some best practices from a pro in the field of advanced employee referral programs. Dr. John Sullivan takes the guess work out of creating an effective employee referral program by outlining some of the common characteristics of successful programs. Here are some of his discovered best practices from over 10 years of study:

Communicate in a Timely Manner

Communication could not be easier than it is today. With so many efficient ways to reach out to or respond to candidates, slow response times shouldn’t even be an issue. But it seems that the main reason that referral programs fail is slow or no responses to referrals or inquiries.

– Report feedback or responses with in a max of 72 hours.
– Give precedence to referrals (put them in the fast lane for processing and evaluation), and have specific and seperate deadlines for interviewing these candidates.
– Allow these referred candidates to choose the time and date of their interview, and/or offer online assessments. These flexible options are enticing to candidates, as everyone is interested in saving time.

Allow More of the Right People to Make Referrals

Opening up the opportunity for more people to make referrals only increases your chances of finding good talent , that is if the right people are doing it. Keep in mind that this isn’t about filling a slot, this is about filling the right slot with the right person.

– Allow managers and recruiters to refer outside of their own areas of expertise. These are your well-connected players, let them use their connections.
– Allow non-employee referrals. Anyone who is interested in the advancement of the organization like clients, retired employees or stakeholders should be encouraged to participate.
– Discourage or ban bad referrers. If they have consistently referred irrelevant or poor candidates, they should lose their privileged to participate in the program.

Step Up Your Rewards

Quite often employees respond better to rewards other than financial compensation . Putting the human element back into recognition goes farther in encouraging employee engagement. It’s not always about the benjamins.

– Concentrate on relaying the importance of good talent to their employees and effectively communicate how that affects them. Job security and improved company performance are two serious motivators.
– Recognize a good referral. This can be done in so many ways, social sites, personalized thank yous, a special lunch or via the company site (bonus branding alert).
– Reward all relevant, quality candidates, not just the ones that are hired-on. When employees bring in agoodcandidate, this should be rewarded and encouraged regardless of the outcome.
– Set goals for team referrals. Create targets for the volume of referrals from given teams.

Proactively Encourage Referrals

Building this program means building a pipeline . To generate a constant flow of talent, you have to encourage the use of the program and keep people engaged in the advancement of the organization.

– Request referrals from new employees right away. Implement this as a step in your onboarding process.
– Create notifications to go out to relevant people or consistent referrers. Keep them aware of needs and updated on the status of leads.
– Referral cards and events are great ways to generate visibility and interaction.
– Encourage! Always offer feedback on each referral. Tell your employees what worked and what didn’t.

These were just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the possibilities concerning improving a referral program. The benefits of snagging good referrals include expanding your talent pipeline and saving money and resources while you do it. If you can gather quality leads through already established connections, half of the dirty work is done for you. Nurturing a successful candidate referral program is well worth the time spent.

photo credit: jazzylolo {Lauren Kennedy Photography} via photopin cc

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