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PhD Expert Series: Advice from 15 Practitioners on Starting Your Employee Referral Program

Posted by Bridget Webb on Jan 31, 2018 10:53:00 AM
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The employee referral program is one of the hardest programs in HR to not only start but to keep employees engaged. We sourced our own networks and the networks of others in order to find the best advice from a practitioner who has either started or maintained a program all the way up from the 10,000 person company to a 100 and below company. The advice these practitioners are giving transcends industry and in most cases --- company size. 

So sit back and join us for what we're calling the PhD Expert Series on employee referrals. 

15 Practitioners Give Advice on Starting an Employee Referral Program

The most unique thing about this group of individudals is they've either started an employee referral program from scratch or they have helped maintained and saw the growth of it. The PhD (short for Preferhired) Expert Series will be a four part series asking practitioners from companies, like Dell, HomeAway, Microsoft, and Zenoss, for their advice on a sucessful employee referral program.

PhD Expert Series"Do you have any words of wisdom for those who are just starting to build their ERP?"


Jennifer Newbill
Director, Global Employment Brand
LinkedIn Profile

"Pre-wire and get a buy-in from the leadership that influence the program (HR leader, Payroll, Finance), have an executive sponsor – the most senior level person that you can find. At Dell, we reported updates and got feedback all the way up to our CHRO. Don’t underestimate the importance of a well-designed program and works and is reliable." - Jennifer N.

Liz Bronson
Owner/Lead Recruiter
Liz Bronson Consulting
LinkedIn Profile

"Know your company, and build a process with management buy-in that works for your culture, is manageable and will encourage your employees to bring their best contacts to your organization." - Liz B.
Al Pollard
Manager, Human Resources 
LinkedIn Profile
"First, ask why do I/we want an ERP? I look at it as a way to increase the candidate funnel. My requirements were that I needed a name and a telephone number, that's it. They can run ads or start cold calling people, but they don't have to have grow up with the person or put their "approval" on the person. I just want them to think, "this person may be a match for a specific position at our company." At Enterprise I got our people to start paying attention to the servers when they ate out at restaurants. Many of them have their college degree and are sales focused. So, make it as easy as possible for them to refer someone. Pay big and pay fast. Companies that delay payments don't trust their selection process." - Al P.
Robin Schooling
Vice President, Human Resources
Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge
LinkedIn Profile
"An effective ERP doesn't have to be built around monetary rewards and, in my opinion, those that are become rote and meaningless have no value associated with them because you're 'rewarding' the wrong outcomes. First of all, the referring employee has absolutely MINIMAL impact on whether (1) their referral is hired or (b) stays for xx number of months. Don't pay for those sorts of things; rather, if you are inclnded to offer prizes or rewards consider doing something more 'experiential" - it could cost you NOTHING if your staff are content with just being recognized for their role in the ongoing success of staffing initiatives!" - Robin S.
Carmen Hudson
Principal Consultant
Recruiting Toolbox
LinkedIn Profile
"Link your ERP to your EVP - why do employees refer their friends? Use that pride to build your referral campaign." - Carmen H.
Amy Miller
LinkedIn Profile
"Be prepared for "noise" - some well meaning employees will blast resumes regardless of fit or interest - you can put some parameters in place to lessen this, but not everyone will listen." - Amy M.
Aaron Kraljev
Manager, Employer Brand 
Wells Fargo
LinkedIn Profile
"Know the constraints of your ATS." - Aaron K.
Tiffany Lee
Manager, Global Employee Brand
LinkedIn Profile 
"Be patient. Make it about the employee and the candidate and provide an awesome experience. Consider buying a tool that takes some of the pressure off of recruiters." - Tiffany L.
Pam Rosenburg
Talent Acquisition Recruiter
LinkedIn Profile
"Hashtag everything." - Pam R.
Alex Brown
Recruiting Manager, Candidate Experience and Social Media
Fiserv, Inc.
LinkedIn Profile
"Consistent marketing as an ongoing effort; don't "set it and forget it" unless you want an initial spike in activity with no follow through." - Alex B.
Brie Bastidas
Senior Recruiter
Upstart Talent
LinkedIn Profile
"Communication is the backbone of an employee referral program. My one piece of advice would be to communicate with your department, your employees, and every stakeholder involved in the premise behind you starting one. Tell the mission and the reasoning — that’ll hopefully resonate a little more and everyone will be more inclined to participate." - Brie B.
Bretney Skipp
HR Operations Specialist
LinkedIn Profile
"Try your best to follow up with every referral, even those that aren't a fit. Employees will be hesitant to submit referrals if either of them have a bad experience." - Bretney S.
Jeff Waldman
LinkedIn Profile
"Keep it simple. ERPs work well if your employees are engaged. If not, don't roll out a ERP. Fix the engagement problem first." - Jeff W.
Amy Esry
Human Resources Consultant
Hausmann-Johnson Insurance
LinkedIn Profile
"You don't have to spend a lot of money. If your employees love the company, they will refer their friends without getting paid for it. Offering a lot of money for a referral wont help if your employees dont care enough about the company to tell their friends about it. The money is really just a token of appreciation for the referral, not an incentive." - Amy E.

Andrea Devers
Human Resources
LinkedIn Profile

"Start small and get a good solid base in place - be consistent - promote it often - celebrate successes and wins keep some good metrics and report them out." - Andrea D.

Check out our latest eBook, 5 Building Blocks to a Better Employee Referral Program, as it walks you through the five critical steps in building a program that has the potential to save you thousands. Don’t wait. Grab your free copy of our eBook here.

Topics: employee referral program

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