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5 Signs It May Be Time to Rethink Your Referral Program

Posted by Michael Bachman on Oct 18, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Statistically, referrals yield the one of the most reliable and smoothest hires availableWhich makes having an aggressive Employee Referral Program (ERP) a no-brainer for any talent acquisition team. However, what doesn’t come as easily to a talent acquisition team is how to identify obstacles that may be causing your current program to be ineffective.

Here are five signs that it’s time to step back and re-evaluate your ERP to improve overall efficiency.

Stuck in the Stone Age

Like all good things in life now, there should be an app for that! If your employee referral program consists of a poster on the break room wall and an email campaign, a major opportunity is being missed to engage with your current employees at a deeper level. These static communications have a few problems. First off, they don’t provided up to date information on current open positions and incentives. Second, they don’t make it easy for your employees to forward information to potential referrals. And lastly, they don’t allow for easy submission of the referral to the hiring team. Having a mobile presence for your job openings can be a simple but effective fix.

What Program?

Having an ERP in place is one thing, having one that employees know and care about is another. In the course of a busy day information about ERPs, whether it be posters or emails, tend to become mentally categorized as extra junk and employees don’t have the time to think about. This is why quality, modern promotion is necessary. If your current employees can’t tell you what the ERP incentives are there’s a problem. Your messaging and how you present your ERP is just as important as the frequency of your communication.

Poorly Administered:

When a new ERP program rolls out there is normally some light buzz in the office. The buzz can quickly become negative gossip though if an employee puts forward names and they don’t feel like their referrals were given real or timely consideration. Establishing expectations with both referrers and amongst hiring team members involved on how communications are managed and how a referral will be reviewed is often lost in the hurry of putting forward a program. Additionally,  not taking the time to set expectations on how rewards will be distributed can lead to dissatisfied grumbles, which can sink you in the long run. 

Meh Rewards

ERP rewards can take many forms from promotional items (paid time off, TVs, Tickets, etc.) to straight cash incentives. The real question that needs to be asked is if the reward is enough for the average employee to give a hoot about? If it’s a cash amount, it’s a pretty straight forward process to figure out. If it’s a promotional item, the question has to be asked if it is truly in line with the needs and wants of your employees. Also, evaluate at what point in the process a referrer may reap a reward. Too often, a lengthy time between referral submitted and a reward earned stifles it’s worth. Place value and incentivize, not just on the referral's hire, but on the quality of the referral submitted as well. Instant gratification goes a long way when building an ERP with engaged employees, who are rewarded quickly, while encouraging them to refer time and time again. 


Members Only

Nothing breeds disengagement like blatant exclusion. There are many organizations out there that have rules on who can and can not claim a referral bonus. Those excluded are often senior leaders and individuals in various HR roles. While some restrictions might be practical, these are also some of the best people in the organization to lead by example. Moreover, these individuals and assets are often the ones most highly connected to professional networks. By completely excluding them, they can become disengaged from the program, rather than being some of it’s most visible promoters. 

These are but 5 signs of an employee referral program that may be struggling to stay afloat. However, with the right tools and partnerships, these problems can be easily corrected.

Topics: referral programs

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