4 Ways to Train Employee-Referral Rock Stars

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Employee-referral programs (ERPs) are among the hottest trends in human resources. However, they are more than just a cool new idea for acquiring talent — in many professionals’ eyes, employee-referral programs are essential.

A 2016 study from LinkedIn found that 32 percent of the 3,894 talent acquisition professionals surveyed considered these programs to be a top source of hire — and for good reason. A 2015 ICIMS study found that more than half of the 107 HR professionals surveyed agreed that employees hired through referrals stay longer, feel more satisfaction and are better cultural fits.

Managers need to learn, then, how to train their staff to be referral rock stars. After all, an employee-referral program doesn’t just find success overnight. Invest in training employees on how to make the most of their connections.

Here are four ways in which companies can run a successful employee referral program — and it starts with the current workforce:

1. Offer awesome incentives.

Each ERP needs incentives: a motivational tool to encourage participation. Don’t settle just for cash incentives, although they are effective at motivating employees. Concentrate on diversifying offerings and getting creative.

Incentives can range in size and price, from a magazine subscription to a ski trip. Tier the rewards so the further a referral gets down into the recruitment funnel, the more the employee earns. Market this program clearly so employees understand what they can earn.

One of the biggest mistakes employers can make with an ERP is to drag their feet when it comes time to give out rewards. This diminishes the credibility and value of the program.

Always follow through with incentives as soon as they are earned to show that the program is important to the company. When employees are inspired to participate and want to earn rewards, they are willing to find and submit strong referrals.

2. Keep employees informed.

Make sure everyone knows what positions are posting, when they will post, what is required, what traits are being sought and any other details important to the open position. This directs the staff in aligning referrals with job requirements.

This simple truth is common knowledge: Vague job descriptions result in lower-quality candidates. By having specific details regarding job openings, employees will be able to align their referrals’ competencies with each job opening and find the best match among their contacts.

Hold meetings to discuss upcoming talent needs, send emails and provide other notifications to ensure that employees know when it’s time to submit names and whom they should be considering. Also, let them know how their referrals fare in the recruitment process so it doesn’t seem like their efforts are for nothing.

Engage with them throughout the process and provide feedback on the quality of their referrals. For example, if they are submitting underqualified candidates, show them how their submissions are off target. Ask for feedback as well because perhaps the company’s hiring professionals are not being clear enough in describing talent needs.

3. Teach communication.

Sometimes, talent acquisition teams are swamped and may drop the ball on keeping everyone in the loop. In fact, the time it takes to hire someone has dramatically increased in the last few years.

A June 2015 Glassdoor study found that the average job interview process in the U.S. takes 22.9 days. It’s no wonder that HR departments can often fall behind on communicating to the team.

Train employees on how to communicate to ensure the process is being followed. This politely holds everyone accountable to the ERP. It’s easy to lose sight and start to forget about the program. The best way to fail is to administer the program inconsistently, fail to promote it within the company and lose sight of its role in the culture.

An ideal ERP is always evolving with company changes because it becomes a part of the culture. Open communication is how employers keep these programs alive and thriving.

Don’t let the HR department become a black hole. In the end, a team that communicates well creates an interactive, fast-paced program that effectively attracts talent that is aligned with company culture and role fit.

4. Provide employee-referral toolkits.

Most employees don’t know how to source and screen job-seekers. Employers can’t assume they all know how to become excellent recruiters overnight.

Educate staff membersby providing them with employee-referral toolkits. Host a training seminar and hand out content that guides them, with best practices. This content should include tips on how they can expand their reach by using social media outlets, as well as present a written process that provides a clear vision of the company’s hiring goals.

An employee-referral rock star is consistent and driven to find the best cultural fits for his or her employer’s hiring team. When companies build a whole team of rock stars, they are bound to find A-players who will fuel company growth.