Pillars for Referral Success

Pillars for Referral Success

Here is my take on ways to build a successful Employee Referral Program.

Yet another "how to" article on Referral Programs? Yes. And if your organisation or RPO team is struggling to deliver on an existing program or implement a new one, it is probably because you don't have all or any of these things:

1. Culture.

If your company is one where employees are not entirely pumped about working for, then getting everyone on board the Referral Program will be tough. Having a sense of Mission, Vision, and Values in place will be a significant positive for the talent acquisition team to execute on their ability to not only leverage the team to identify talent, but to engage the team and collaborate on candidate engagement and attraction.

Tip: Culture building is an obvious key to successful collaboration.

2. Leadership.

Backed up by a strong sense of Mission, shared Vision and Values, the leadership team can drive the message of how important referrals are to hiring and provide massive support to the talent acquisition cause, which is the company's cause. Ideally this is done in an inspiring manner that raises everyone's sense of responsibility.

Inspiring leadership will also help when the culture is an ongoing "build". Even without a strong sense of purpose, the team may be more open to cooperate on referrals if there is a call to do so from a respected voice from up high.  

Tip: Drive the message from top-down.

TA teams that are empowered and enabled to deliver on their mission... will be trusted as a reliable and trusted partner by the business... to deliver great employee experience

3. Collaboration.

As mentioned, culture and leadership are major drivers for collaboration, however when it comes to the recruiter, processes become important. Assuming all recruiters are equally charming and fun to engage with, let's compare employee experience in a couple of scenarios.

First up, consider the plight of employees who take their time to help a recruiter go through LinkedIn project folders or some kind of spreadsheet. In a single month if 100 people take 1 hour to help the recruiter by going to the meeting/call, icebreaking, hearing the needs, actually collaborating, having more chit chat, returning from the meet/call, etc, then that process could result in 600 hours of productive employee time taken. Let me rephrase that: 25 days!

This may be fine for some, but less so for others and supportive employees may play ball once or twice out of courtesy to the likeable recruiter, but they will eventually shy away from the burden. Now imagine if that recruiter leaves the company. How hard will it be for their replacement to pick up and do all that again (equally likeable or not)?

Talent acquisition teams need systems and processes to make for smooth and easy collaboration. The lesson is: review your current process and look for ways to improve. If you find them, explore them!!

Tip: Improve processes for collaboration and avoid anything that disrupts employee productivity.

4. Technology.

Talent acquisition leaders need to invest into tools that supplement or enhance the ATS - because let's face it, most ATS kind of suck in general, but they really suck at candidate sourcing. Recruiters hardly love using them, let alone the rest of the company.

From direct sourcing platforms, dedicated Referral Management Systems or advances in ATS that aide referral capture, recruiting technology has never been so exciting. As one of the newest solutions, Referable goes beyond what these RMS offer by enabling the recruiter to proactively solicit feedback on less intimate connections that may not show on social networks. We believe that this will be the new frontier in referral generation.

At the very least, all of the referral and recommendation data must be secured as an asset for future use. Today's silver medal referral (i.e. the candidate who almost got the job) may be tomorrows gold medalist. In the same manner, today's hot prospect who may be tomorrow's hot applicant, may be lost to all if the recruiter doesn't log the information into the ATS, or automatically stored in the RMS.

Built around the ATS, your talent "tech stack" should cover processes from talent identification, engagement, attraction, application, all the way through to offer and onboarding. From there it is over to the HR Management System.

Tip: Explore new technologies and build your "stack".

5. Information.

The problem with most referral programs is that they are one way traffic. Some kind of notification goes out to employees, who respond when they can with ideas on good candidates they can recommend or refer for a job. The recruiter may prompt them with profiles of people they know - usually 1st degree contacts from LinkedIn because that is all that is loaded into the Referral Management System.

The problem with most of this is that the recruiter is asking the employee to recall a candidate (or prospect) from their memory without sufficient cues. Recall is so much harder than recognition, so if the recruiter can prompt the employee by showing them names or other information of people they may know, such as past colleagues, the employee's job is made easy.

Tip: Provide the information.

6. Accountability.  

Someone has to own it. If that someone is the recruiter then shame on you, as a good tradesperson never blames their tools! Accountability should fall on the shoulders of the hiring manager who owns the requisitions (and potentially the budget), with the recruiter there to execute. If the hiring manager defaults on ownership and fails to hire the business will suffer, and likely that manager will suffer consequences.  

If this isn't sufficient motivation for all hiring managers to get on and help talent acquisition, then what is? Perhaps a reminder of roles and responsibility from senior leadership will help. However it is far too commonplace that new line managers get all of zero training and guidance on this, which gives HR the opportunity to step up here, provide that training and save the day. Everyone is a winner!

Tip: Make sure everyone involved knows who is accountable.

7. Budget.

Whether it be money to implement new technologies, money to retrain recruiters and managers, money to use external agencies, or all of the above, there is a budget required by talent acquisition to be successful. Right now most talent acquisition leaders are being told to stop using agencies, to drive more candidates through referral and direct sourcing, but they are not being given budget to make the shift. You can't take the agency budget to zero without bumping resources for the new strategy, but all too often this is what hampers good TA's.

On the flip side it is commonplace to provide employees with an incentive reward for introducing great hires. If your culture or urgency is such that this referral bonus doesn't need to be high, then great! If it is not, then you probably need to pay more than you want to. Either way, it will help the cause greatly if you provide a referral bonus.

Tip: Find the budget to support talent acquisition and referral bonuses.

8. Feedback.

This relates to both Processes and Technology outlined above: the people who collaborate with recruiters expect some kind of update and feedback on how their introduction is doing. If your processes or systems leave you dependent on the recruiter to remember to provide those updates, then you have multiple points of failure for your referral program and leaving employees feeling stranded.

Get the right systems in place and ensure that those who make the referrals get timely and helpful updates or feedback on why their referral didn't get through. This could be through your ATS, weekly emails from the recruiter, or an automated alert from your Referral Management System. Whatever it is, make sure that it gives people what they need to feel valued as a talent acquisition partner.

Tip: Provide employees with updates and feedback.

9. Trust.

Common knowledge is that trust is so hard to build and so easy to break. If your talent acquisition team lacks credibility with the business, they will not be trusted as a partner and will struggle with collaboration and delivery. Facts.

Employees need to trust that the talent acquisition team has collected and curated the information that has previously been given, and that they won't have to repeat the process of support ad infinitum. They need to know the talent acquisition team is competent and reliable: That they have their sh1t together!

Keep it simple stupid is the old adage, and trust is further consolidated when the rules for, and communications on referral programs are clear, concise, and not broken mid-flight. If the whole process is too complicated, gamers will game and the intent gets lost. If the goals are poorly communicated, there is potential for confusion and breakdown at some stage of the referral process.

Tip: The team need to know the recruiters have their sh1t together, and KISS.

10. Empowerment

All of the above comes from empowered recruiters who have the resources, training and technology they need to be successful, reliable partners to the business. This empowerment ultimately comes not just from the TA lead, but from the business at executive level.

Companies that incorporate a "Talent First" culture are great to work for as a recruiter: the job is made easier through the mix of factors outlined above: culture, accountability, mission, vision, values, inspiring leadership, collaboration, and budget for systems, information and technologies.  

In a time when most talent acquisition teams are being stripped of budget, resources and ability to deliver, TA teams that are empowered and enabled to deliver on their mission through investment in technology, training and resources, will be trusted as a reliable and trusted partner by the business. They will easily deliver on world beating referral programs because all the pieces are in place to deliver great employee experience, which ultimately is what it is all about.

Tip: Empower the team to deliver great employee experience.  

Referable is an app that enables easy collaboration for recruiters to leverage the team and massively boost referrals, recommendations, employee experience and recruiter productivity.

Feel free to drop us a line at hello(at)referable.ai