Develop Your Own Employee Referral Programme


Employees: your golden geese that provide employee referrals for the happiest, most engaged, and most retained members of staff your company will ever have, provided you know how to illicit them. Bundled-up into the term “networking”, numerous studies have shown that employee referral programmes deliver team members that stay longer and deliver more to an organisation than those recruited by other channels. Referred employees save time and money, but they aren’t the easiest candidates to attract. For that, you need to engage your golden geese. With the current cost-per-hire (depending on seniority and candidate source) standing at £4,000 – £22,000 per employee, developing your own employee referral programme has never been so essential.

Identify where your referrals should come from

Do you struggle with a particular skill-set? Do you have projects coming up that will require expertise not in your current talent pool? Do you have a large technical department that has issues securing the right skills? Every employee is a potential referrer, they just might not know it yet. Start with where your need is greatest. Managers, technicians, administrators, each one will have a personal network of professionals you aren’t aware of that they can tap into at a moments notice, make sure your team know you need their network.

As the old proverb goes, “birds of a feather flock together.” Your golden geese hang out with other golden geese, get them squawking about the amazing things your company does and you’ll soon have them flocking! (sorry) And don’t forget to encourage staff to tap into their social networks, LinkedIn is a limitless resource of professionals in every field, and adept Twitter users will know how to find the people you want.

Reward your team

Recruitment is expensive and time consuming. Anyone who has taken part in a recruitment drive (big or small) is aware of the lengths one must go to to find the right people. Employee referrals shorten the time and cost to hire and your team know this. Money talks. A 2010 survey by CareerBuilder discovered that 48% of people would happily participate in a referral programme if there was a cash incentive. No big surprise, but the incentive offered shouldn’t be a £20 gift voucher. Employees are wise to the cost of hiring and a stingy incentive is no incentive. Give staff a compelling reason to refer people, don’t be cheap. Speak to your team and find out what a good reward would be, don’t go for a one-size-fits-all approach and tailor your rewards to the individual.

Encourage referrals

Creating a convoluted and complex referral programme is going to turn everyone off. Make it simple, motivate your team to take part, and be absolutely clear on the terms and conditions – before you start and throughout – your referral programme will only work with everyone adhering to the rules. Be proactive – have you asked your employees recently if they can refer anyone? Show staff how to build a referral network and reward employees that successfully refer staff – and do it publicly. There is no better way to motivate your team to refer than by showing them the rewards they could get for a successful placement.

Communication is key. Identify where your referrals will come from and ensure the people that should be referring, are referring. You can lead a horse to water…but can you make it refer candidate to you successfully?

The most important part of implementing an employee referral programme is to make sure every employee is aware of it. Do you send emails to the team with your latest vacancies? Have you alerted staff through online forums? (company LinkedIn groups, for example) How proactive are your internal recruitment and HR departments? Do you remind your team of the rewards on offer for a successful referral? Extend your referral programme beyond your employees. Let clients and business partners know that you’re hiring and that you reward for successful placements. This will not only strengthen your organisation, it will develop the commercial bond you have with your clients.

Why are companies able to retain referred candidates more easily? Simple, because referred candidates, mostly, have a good insight into the company through the person who refers them. Politics, environment, team cohesiveness, management, all the important stuff is familiar to them before applying and can be part of the reason for wanting to join a company. Employee referrals end with engaged and happy team members. Not tapping into this natural resource means you are losing out on the best employees you never had.

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