Referrals continue to add the most value for hiring managers as a top source of hiring, representing 30 percent of hires in 2016. Referred candidates convert to hired employees faster and stay in their jobs longer than candidates from any other source.
To attract top talent, lots of companies implement employee referral programs, incentivizing their current workforce to refer candidates - but they often face the same problem. Why don't more employees refer candidates?
1. Employees are too busy working
Your employees have a day job. They’re working harder and longer. In 2017, almost 50 percent of employees forfeited their vacation days, citing fear of falling behind at work. Making a referral isn't usually at the top of anyone's priorities.
If your referral program is complicated or requires a substantial time commitment, your employees won’t participate. Do your employees have to submit documents to you outlining critical facts about the candidate? Or can your employees refer a candidate with the click of a button on your employee portal or through social media? Employees will more likely participate in a referral program if it’s simple, easy, and understandable.
Implement technology into your referral program to help ease the process. In the email, create a compelling description of the opportunity and highlight your excellent culture. Don’t just send out the job description - by using powerful search capabilities, you can increase your talent pool tenfold, while allowing your employees to participate in the process.
2. Employees aren’t thinking about recruiting
Your employees aren’t recruiters. They aren’t focused on attraction and retention like you are. Perhaps they would like to refer, but they don’t know what positions are open at your company. This is a classic example of a failure to communicate.
Communicate with your employees about how to refer clients. Announce the positions that need to be filled, and what skills you’re seeking. Make sure your employees understand how your referral program works, and explain how to refer and how they can receive rewards. If your team doesn’t understand the referral process, how can you expect them to participate?
Show your employees the big picture. How do referred candidates benefit the company? Give them insight into your company’s future goals. Share how your employees fit into the referral program by contributing to the future growth and success of the company.
It's also vital to focus on your culture. Does your culture promote employee referrals? Your employees are your top ambassadors for recruiting talent. If your employees like where they work, they’ll want to share that information with their friends and acquaintances. If your employees love where they work, they’ll want their friends and acquaintances to work at your company too. If those employees are top-performers, you’ll definitely want them to refer. High caliber employees typically refer high caliber candidates, which can be a huge win for you.
3. Employees don’t think they know anyone to refer
When asked if they know someone to refer for an open position, employees may think of one or two people, if any. In other words, they’re thinking about people who they actively engage with on an ongoing basis. They tend to forget people that they might be connected with through social media that aren’t in their close friend group.
Employees have access to hundreds, if not thousands, of potential candidates through their social media connections. Many of these connections aren’t looking for a job, but would consider a new job if the right opportunity presented itself.
Passive candidates refers to those people who aren’t actively looking for a job - many of them may even be very happy with their current position. If you have an enticing job opportunity, however, those workers may consider moving jobs. Eighty-seven percent of both active and passive candidates would consider switching jobs for the right opportunity.
Seventy percent of the global workforce consists of passive talent with the remaining 30 percent actively looking for jobs. If you don’t target both active and passive talent, you’re severely limiting your search. In the current talent shortage, you should encourage your employees to search their connections for passive talent, or at least make it easier on them. Implement technology that will do the searching for your employees. By connecting to your team’s social networks through technology, you’re creating a high-performance talent pool, driving both active and passive referrals.
4. Referral program incentives aren’t that attractive
Your employees may lack motivation to refer because of ineffective incentives. Examine how you reward your employees. Have you asked your employees about what drives them? Would they rather receive a day off work or a gift card to a local restaurant?
One common misconception about creating a referral program is that your incentives need to be high dollar amounts to catch the interest of your team - and this can be true of monetary rewards. Most monetary rewards, though, range from $1,000 to $2,500.
You may decide to offer a higher monetary rewards for hard to fill positions, such as a senior level engineer or head of sales, but it's important to also encourage the behavior of referring. Your employees may be dissuaded from referring because there’s only one reward paid out at some point in the future, and this delay in gratification and appreciation can cost you access to top talent.
By offering smaller, non-cash incentives, such as movie tickets, extra time off, or a premier parking spot for one month, you’re encouraging your employees to participate in the referral program. You can provide different rewards at different milestones of the hiring process, engaging your team along the way.
Be transparent about your employee referral program and your recruiting goals. By including your employees in your plans, you’re allowing your team to take ownership in the company’s future. When you help your employees see that by referring top talent, everyone benefits.