Sudarsan Ravi

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3 Elements that move your Referral Program from Good to Great

3 Elements that move your Referral Program from Good to Great

Employee referrals is the leading channel to hire talent today. The quality of talent coming through referrals is better than other channels. The time taken to hire is reduced and the candidates transition smoothly to a productive employee. 


A strong referral program leaves the referring employee with a sense of satisfaction along with a bonus. The retention rates of both the referring and referred employees are known to be better. Given the benefits of a referral program, it becomes imperative to run it well.


This channel though is not easy to run. For starters, talent acquisition is a sales function while employee referrals is a marketing function. Traditionally, recruiters look outside the company for top talent. Whereas, in referrals, it becomes hard to engage with your workforce. Employees then get you access to top talent. Our prospects tell us that every time they run an initiative or campaign, they get some candidates. The top question bothering them is “How do you run a program to get steady talent right through the year?”


A good referral program process consists of three main sections.

You start by advertising positions to your internal employee pool on a set frequency. Then, make it ridiculously simple for your employees to give you good candidates for those positions. Finally, you respect their candidates and share feedback promptly. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?


In reality, there are numerous challenges in each of those steps. Often, sharing positions with employees is ad hoc or an afterthought. Employees find it frustrating to search for the right position on internal job boards. Existing applicant tracking systems are not made keeping the employee and their experience in mind. To top it off, providing timely feedback is hard. Much harder than you can imagine.


Now, a great referral program process looks like this.



The three key elements to take your referral program from good to great are:


#1 Discipline


A high trust quotient is key for employees to contribute their friends to the hiring process. And discipline is the lever for driving a trustworthy referral experience.


Discipline is the lever for driving a trustworthy referral experience.


Discipline on the part of your recruitment team for identifying and sharing hard to fill positions. Having the discipline in communicating that out promptly. Inculcating the discipline to do this consistently week in week out is a key ingredient for driving success.


#2 Responsiveness


Regardless of whether employees trust you with their friends or if you are building the relationship again, it is key to understand that the only way to retain trust is in being responsive.


The key to retaining trust in employee referral programs is being responsive.


Responsive with giving feedback on their candidates. Responsive with employee questions or concerns. Build responsiveness into your recruiting DNA to drive a strong referral program.


#3 Ownership


Maintaining discipline and responsiveness is hard. Super hard. This is why ownership is the third pillar to bring the necessary balance. Identify a dedicated owner for the referral channel. Your “CEO of Referrals” job is to align your recruitment team and their targets with your vision for hiring through the referral channel. They are your internal champion for both recruiters and employees. It is important for identifying the right metrics to measure for them as well as the recruitment team. Once your key performance indicators are set and measured then you will naturally see the health of your referral program improve.

Ownership, discipline, responsiveness are the three pillars for a great referral program.


Running a great referral program is complex and requires paying attention to both employee and candidate experience. Using the three levers of discipline, responsiveness and ownership, you can take your referral program up a notch.


Referral technology just helps you deliver a consistent experience and make referral hiring part of your recruiting DNA.

I would love to hear from you on your experience with this channel and any pointers that would help other readers benefit. Please share your thoughts below.

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