How To Create An Effective Online Employee Referral Programme 

Picture a never-ending pipeline of high-quality candidates feeding your growing team.

And you didn’t have to proactively seek them out on LinkedIn, sift through hundreds of resumes from online job boards, or pay a recruiter fee.

It almost sounds too good to be true. But it’s one hundred percent achievable with an employee referral programme.

Still not convinced?

Research shows that 88% of employers agree that employee referral programmes are the best source of candidates.

Why? Because referral candidates are 4 times more likely to receive a job offer than any other source. And once hired, they stay at a job for twice as long.

As the name suggests, an employee referral programme is a programe where employees can refer their friends, family, and colleagues to your organisation. The employee may receive a reward (typically cash) in return for referring someone that accepts a job offer.

Employee referral programmes are popular among hiring teams because they have a proven track record of attracting high-quality candidates, given that their peers have already vetted them.

Are you ready to join 71% of companies using a referral programme?

Here’s everything you need to know about how to create an effective online employee referral programme.

Create a project plan/proposal

Before jumping into the deep end, you must develop a plan and get management buy-in to support your endeavours.

The easiest way to get management on board is to research referral programmes and the benefits they’ll bring to your organisation (cost savings, better cultural fit, shorter lead times, etc.)

Your proposal should include how you plan to implement the programme across all levels of your organisation, including executives and non-traditional teams.

Set a budget for the programme based on the industry average and the size of your organisation. For reference, the average employee referral bonus ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 in the USA alone.

Regardless of the range you choose, this amount should be material enough to encourage your employees to participate. Some companies, especially smaller ones, replace monetary rewards with incentives like thank-you gifts and extra days off.

Finally, your proposal should include clear guidelines for employees participating in the programme, including eligibility requirements and expectations regarding their involvement in recruiting referrals who meet those requirements.

For instance, eligible candidates need at least one year of professional work experience and can’t come straight from college. You might also want to add a limit for the number of possible referrals in a calendar year.

Develop a tracking system

Once you have your plan fully laid out, and management gives you the green light, there’s one thing left to do before you can hard launch your programme.

Your employee referral programme needs a clear tracking system for the best results. The last thing you want is to waste many manual hours trying to complete the puzzle of figuring out which employee brought in what candidate.

To help save you this stress, you can use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) like Recruiterflow, Jobvite or Oracle Taleo.

Invite employees to a seamless dashboard where they refer candidates for open jobs and track the status of the referred candidate and rewards balance. Plus, ATS software makes it easy to share job openings and provides one single source of data for applicants.

But if you are on a budget or a small startup with less than 50 employees, keeping track of referrals in a spreadsheet is also an option.

It’s important to ensure that every employee receives a reward for their referral after meeting the eligibility requirements. An employee referral programme aims to score quality candidates for your organisation, but also to show appreciation to your current employees.

promote the programme

Now that you have crossed all of your t’s and dotted all of your i’s, it’s time for the fun part – spreading the word about your new employee referral programme with your employees.

If you choose an ATS, you can share push messages with your employees directly through the software. Prepare a welcome message that tells them how to sign up for an account and refer a job to their first candidate.

If you opted for the more manual route, internal announcements via various channels (email, phone, Slack,  Zoom, etc.) are another great way of spreading awareness about your referral programme.

For example, employees who successfully refer a candidate during the programme’s first quarter can enter a raffle for an additional prize or bonus check. Three weeks before the quarterly deadline, send an email reminder to keep people engaged with what they need to do while also reminding them why they should participate in the first place.

For a more creative approach, use online photo editing tools to create guides, pamphlets for your HR website, or printed copies.

Employees love seeing their coworkers succeed and want to help them get there. So when you schedule an internal job fair and invite people to talk with you about opportunities within the company, they’ll flock to it like moths to a flame.

They’ll also be excited about the event because it gives them a chance to chat about it with their friends on other teams — something that doesn’t happen often enough in our busy work lives.

Employees will be excited that their referrals can get one-on-one time with hiring managers who can answer all their questions about whether they’d be a good fit for that position, and it helps speed up the hiring process too.

Tweak as needed

Online employee referrals can be a great way to find qualified candidates for open positions, but they also have some notable downsides.

For one, there can be a need for more diversity in the pool of referrals since employees may refer people from similar backgrounds or experiences. And employees may only sometimes have access to referrals with the proper skill set or qualifications, making the process inefficient if referrals don’t qualify for the role.

Also, if an employee refers a friend that receives an opportunity for employment, it may lead to their separation from the rest of the team. 

If two people are already friends outside of work, they’ll likely continue to be friendly and socialise together while at work. This can create issues such as forming cliques, increased tension between employees, and people feeling excluded. All of this can have a detrimental impact on the office’s culture, morale, and environment.

To make online employee referrals more effective, make sure your hiring managers know your diversity goals, have clear referral qualifications, and use an automated system to manage referrals and track progress. These tips and tricks will help ensure that employee referrals are productive and effective while shedding light on areas that need improvement.

For example, consider adding an onboarding programme for new referrals to help them familiarise and learn about the company culture. Introducing a referral into the company culture from the start, should set a precedent for workplace behaviour, preventing anyone from feeling isolated or excluded.

An online employee referral programme isn’t a set it-and-forget it hiring initiative. It needs constant attention and adaptation to ensure long-term success of hiring the right people for your organisation.

Key Takeaways

If you’re looking to grow your team, there are endless ways to do so. You can go through a staffing agency, post an opening on job boards or social media, and even use your brand recognition to drive candidates to apply directly on your website.

But with an employee referral programme, you can reduce the time and cost of hiring while still finding top talent. This way of recruiting has become increasingly popular in recent years for a good reason — it works.

By following these steps closely and creating an effective employee referral programme from scratch, your company will be well on its way to becoming more successful than ever before.

Author: Ezekiel Cohen – Freelance SEO & Marketing Specialist at Contently.

Photo credit: Cottonbro studio

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