What Really Motivates Employees to Refer Candidates

Recruiting methods have changed over the years—as they should. We work differently today than we did even ten years ago. So, why shouldn’t the way we attract and retain talent?

Today, our attention is divided among several communication platforms—from websites to social media to word of mouth. To snag that high-performing candidate, employers have to diversify their approach to recruiting.

One stand-out way to attract talent to your organization is through an effective employee referral program. With 50 percent of candidates using word-of-mouth as a top resource in their job hunt, having your employees engage with potential talent is a win-win. Not only do you exponentially expand your recruiting reach, but you position your employees to become involved in and committed to your growth.

Employees aren’t going to refer without some motivation, though. Many companies want to establish employee referral programs, but struggle to get their employees to participate. They might have tried large referral bonuses, but seen only a handful of referrals as a result. Let’s take a look at what really motivates employees to refer.

Strong company culture

If employees don’t like where they work, they’re not going to refer a friend or acquaintance. If you have a fantastic culture that embraces your employees, though, your team will be your best ambassadors. Remember, your culture is your top competitive advantage. When your culture is thriving, your employees will want their friends to work with them.

By encouraging referrals as part of your culture, you’re inviting your employees to be part of your company’s growth. Let your team know what positions are open and how those positions contribute to the success of the company. Ask your employees for their thoughts and opinions on who would be a good fit through both skills and culture.

Encouraging your employees to participate in recruiting also strengthens team bonds within your company. When employees refer their friends into positions, your team is contributing to their happiness in the office. Thirty-five percent of employees provide referrals to help out their friends. Coming in at a close second, 32 percent of employees refer to help out their employer. Having close friends at work makes employees happier and boosts morale. Establishing these connections in the workplace elevates your team’s performance, productivity, and loyalty.

Feeling involved

Allowing your employees to participate in the growth of the company dramatically enhances their level of involvement (and consequently, their engagement). If employees feel like they have the opportunity to influence and contribute to the company’s success, their happiness at work increases. Your employees will feel like they have ownership in the company, improving retention and loyalty.

If your employees are choosing who they work with daily, they’re more connected in the workplace. Having close friends at work makes you seven times more likely to be engaged in your job. Having someone at work that employees can turn to—in good times and bad—critically impacts everyday stress and satisfaction.

An easy referral process

It seems simple, but employees will refer candidates if the process is understandable and straightforward. The more open and communicative an employer is about the needs and growth of the company, the more employees will understand how they can contribute. Further, by making the process of referring candidates quick and easy, employees can refer quickly, without taking too much time away from their daily workload.

You don’t want the referral process to burden your employees. Allow employees to refer easily from their office computer, laptop, or phone with the push of a button or two.

Implement technology that works for you and your employees—such as programs that identify potential connections through your employees’ social media platforms. Companies can expand their recruiting searches 10x by utilizing their employees’ social and personal networks. The right technology can help you grow and scale while involving and rewarding your employees in the process.

Appreciation through smaller, more frequent incentives

When developing your referral culture, be sure to recognize and reward your employees for their contributions. Although a reward shouldn’t be the driving factor in encouraging your employees to refer, rewards add fun and appreciation to the process.

Expand your rewards and recognition, and watch your employees become more involved. For example, instead of giving out one cash reward when a referral is hired, give mini-rewards along the way. Recognize your employees throughout the hiring process, such as at the time of referral or when the referred candidate interviews. What better way to say thank you than giving movie tickets, a pizza party, or a day to work from home to a deserving employee.

Take time to develop customized rewards. Ask your team what motivates them – is it a coffee gift card or the chance to leave work early? Would your employees rather have some company bling or a craft beer tasting in the break room? By giving meaningful recognition, you’ll engage your team and encourage them to continue participating in the referral program.

Don’t forget to publicly acknowledge your employees for their referrals at a monthly meeting, or maybe by posting a thank you list in the break room. Praise your team for bringing talented new employees into the organization. This recognition strengthens your referral culture, and as an added bonus, making your team feel valued increases retention.

There’s no question that employee referrals benefit employers. But when you focus on engaging your employees, you’re not only widening your talent search, but you’re also increasing your employees’ retention, production, loyalty, and happiness.

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