referralsEmployers, listen up! Stop tearing your hair out trying to find the best employees. We know where they’re hiding and they’re closer than you think — Look no further than your own network.

Referrals are used by many organizations to source and hire the best employees.  In addition, when used properly, referral programs can result in stellar employees and an even stronger organization. Plus, it’s no surprise that employees who are referred usually are of higher quality and tend to stick around longer.

The easiest way to get those referrals is through a strategic referral program. However, there are some steps to keep in mind before you launch. Check them out below.

1. Understand your audience

Who you’re targeting internally and externally is important. Internally, what sort of employees do you have? Mobile, telecommuting, in-house? In addition, how much time do they have to dedicate to the program? These answers will help you to shape your referral program, as well as to create a strategic plan to get everyone on board.

Externally, what sorts of employees would you like to have? What do they have to have in order to fit into your company culture and what are some deal breakers? Understanding what you want out of potential employees can help your network find them. Creating company videos of what it’s like to work at your company, as well as thorough job descriptions, will help you reach your target candidates.

2. Create a career site

Most companies have a company career site, but it is how it’s maintained that can change the way you get candidates. For instance, career sites are the first place your employees can point referrals to. They typically house materials such as the job description, company history, testimonials, contact information, etc. This not only adds a beneficial component to your employee referral program, it also helps to brand your career site.

Branding your career site means it’s specially tied to your organization. For instance, custom logos, text, images, and company videos will help to brand your career site, as well as help to promote job openings.

3. Illustrate the power of social networks

It’s no surprise anymore that social networks are a great place to find candidates. In fact, 92 percent of recruiters use social networks to find hires. So, when you engage your employees social networks in conjunction with an employee referral program, you’ll likely gain some great employees.

In order to make this work, there a few things to note. First, you have to teach your employees how to search for the right candidates once you launch. They can do this by looking for keywords relevant to your job descriptions. For example, if the job description calls for someone who has five years of experience in UX designing, they should seek out professionals in their network who meet these requirements. There are platforms that help you automate this so employees don’t have to do any heavy lifting.

In addition, make sure to let your employees know that you respect their privacy, as well. This will help them feel more secure once they do start searching for candidates.

4. Engage your employees

Though a referral program is valuable, your employees may not understand the importance or they may think it’s not necessary for them to participate. Make sure you let them know how much you value their referrals, and find different ways to engage them in the referral process.

In order to avoid a drop-off in participation rates, you can do a few things to up the ante. Gamification, which allows recognition for good referral efforts that bring in qualified candidates, is one method to consider. Essentially, this method uses game mechanics to encourage engagement and instantly recognize the efforts of employees who proactively participate in the recruiting process. The referral process then becomes more fun since they will use game elements while participating in activities you want them to perform in.

Another option is to offer tiered rewards. For instance, you can offer gift cards for qualified leads and cash rewards for leads that result in hires. That way, your employees are given an incentive to participate in each step of the referral process.

5. Manage efficiently

Keeping a handle on your employee referral program is essential. Which teams are doing great and which ones need a little boost? Do your employees know how to use the program correctly? Are you making participation as easy as possible? What about rewards, are they good enough?

In order to do this, be sure to check in with your team at least once a week. Find out how they’re doing or ask they to submit their feedback. This way, you’ll understand how they’re doing in real time, you’ll be able to tell what’s working and what needs to be improved, and you can adjust your strategy as needed.

An employee referral program can be a great addition to your hiring process. Take the above steps into account when you launch your program in order to gain the best results.

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