Give Your Employee Referral Program a Facelift

Yesterday’s Leadership Daily Advisor examined the growing reliance on talent scout programs among employers looking to modernize traditional employee referral strategies. Today, we offer four additional tips to help achieve the revamp.

Cast a Wider Net

Open up the program to a friendly and trusted audience beyond current employees: such as including recent retirees, certain company alumni and employees’ spouses, advises John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University’s College of Business and CEO of HR consultancy Dr. John Sullivan & Associates in Pacifica, Calif.

Help scouts dodge the “Homer Simpsons.” Once employees accept the talent scout role, convince them to help the team by only turning turn in quality referrals—not weak ones. Share your own best practices for identifying top-most prospects, specific guidelines and required qualifications, plus a set of what Sullivan calls “authentic, compelling stories” about your organization, its industry accomplishments, employee successes, working environment, benefits and more.

Ditch the ‘Post-and-Pray’

Add a “most-wanted” element. A most-wanted list of candidates is a strategic approach that is borrowed directly from the sales function. Taken one step further, assigned referrals can improve your chances of landing sought-after recruits—scouts can then build a relationship with them and turn it into a referral. The big plus: This strategy, Sullivan says, confidently delivers you up and out of the traditional “post-and-pray” hiring approach.

Plan simple, but meaningful reward and recognition. Cash awards, a bonus, a contribution to the charity of choice, getaways or paid time off are all options that recognize the talent scout’s special efforts. Work to tailor the reward for maximum effect. Examples: At pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, for each candidate who is hired from a referral, the referring employee receives a $2,000 award. At St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., however, exotic locales helped the HR team successfully fill 80 hard-to-fill positions in 80 days with incentives of a trip to Tahiti for the top referrer and trips to Hawaii for four, second-tier referrers.