The Secret to Producing Employee Referral (ERP) Results
- Alen BubichJanuary 26 2018
On the surface it may appear that all employee referral programs (ERPs) are made alike, much like most dishes of spaghetti and meatballs look exactly the same at first glance. But we all know that it’s the little details—like spices, and just the right cooking time and temperature—that can make one dish of spaghetti utterly forgettable, and another so perfect in its ingredients and execution that you remember that meal for years.
Most things are like this. Similar on the surface, but distinctly different in the details—often in ways that seem small, but can make or break its effectiveness. ERPs are no different. While many operate with the same set of basics, like incentives or bonuses, companies often add extra “spices” to their own programs that fit uniquely into the brand, culture, and goals of the organization. Some of the most interesting and effective tweaks to these programs we’ve seen are:
Automation and Metrics
Administering an employee referral program comes with a list of often exhaustive tasks, including tracking referral sources and incentives, evaluating new hires and their performance and longevity within the organization, and manually sifting through results to find weak spots in the program. Investing in technology that provides tracking automation and system metrics can free up a substantial chunk of time for your recruiting and HR staff, allowing them to focus on ways to improve, enrich, and expand the program and its benefits.
Like any policy that’s built around people, technology, market, and economics (internal or external), an ERP must be revisited and revised frequently to stay relevant and maximize an organization’s resources and returns. Program guidelines should flex with changing times and company goals and culture. Analytics should be considered with a reflection on new ideas and creative ways of measuring the program’s success, as the most interesting results aren’t always obvious in top-level data. Most importantly, incentives should be shaken up regularly to infuse interest and excitement in the program, and drive growing engagement.
Double Agent: Recruiter and…Marketer?
Some of the best ERPs we’ve seen have been built by a recruiting team that thinks and operates like a marketing department. They know the company’s employer brand is just as important as the consumer brand, and that to stand out among a sea of standardized recruiting practices, they need to think outside the cubicle. The incorporate concepts like storytelling and networking and even ‘selling points’ into their recruiting game, treating their quest to win new referral hires no differently than the quest to win new customers.
Fast Shipping on Incentives
The more archaic employee referral programs sometimes hold on to employee bonuses or incentives until the end of the quarter, or even the end of the year. Not only does this delay gratification (and probably induce frustration) in the referring employee, but it misses out on the opportunity to generate organic internal buzz about the program by moving incentives closer to the referral win. If your current program requires that an employee be on board for a period of time—three months, six?— before an incentive is issued, and there’s no way around that, consider allowing for smaller incentives to be given after 30-days, or even on-hire.
Above all, find ways to recognize that an employee making a successful referral did their part, whether or not that new hire works out long term.
Split Rewards into Phases
Riffing on the fast ship idea, a similar way to build excitement and buzz around a referral program would be to have not one large incentive issued at the end of a defined period, but smaller rewards for each phase of the referral and hiring process. Issue rewards when a referral makes it to the interview stage, another when they accept a job offer, and a final reward after they reach the three-month mark. This keeps the employee engaged, excited, and reminded about the program throughout the process, and spreads out the company investment over a period of time. And overall,
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