next hire


One of the greatest challenges being faced by business leaders today is how to attract the BEST talent for open jobs.   If you are doing a great job of engaging and retaining your current employees, over 40% of your new hires should be referrals from your current employees.  If that is not your reality, it may be time to upgrade or totally revamp your internal employee referral program.


As a leader, you must hire the BEST talent to achieve goals and objectives.  You can customize  your internal employee referral program around the information you receiving during stay interviews which reveal the reasons that your employees enjoy working for you and your company.

Most of the people who work for you know other people who could become great employees.  The difficult questions is how do you encourage them to share the names of these contacts and friends?


Unfortunately, more internal employee referral programs fail than succeed.  To help differentiate programs that succeed from those that don’t, I want to share a case study about Carson who had worked as an HR Professional for most of his career.  Carson also knew the people he attracted, hired and retained helped his company hit or surpass goals and objectives.  It was getting more difficult in this candidate-driven market for his recruiting team to attract top talent to fill many key positions.


He decided to establish an Employee Referral Program.  He knew there would be an established level of trust with a person who was referred.  He also understood that the onboarding process and employee engagement is easier because the new hire personally knew another employee.


Carson spent six months creating an Employee Referral Program with the support of the Leadership Team. The company announced the new Employee Referral Program through the company’s intranet and company bulletins to encourage participation.


For lower-level positions the referral fee was $1,000, for middle management positions $1,500 and upper level positions $2,000.  All paid out after six months of employment.   An annual bonus of $2,500 would be paid to the person with the highest number of referrals.


Six months after launching the Employee Referral Program, Carson realized it was not working.  The number of employee referrals had not increased, and the Human Resource Department was still struggling to keep up with the demand for top talent.  He decided to survey the employees to see why the program was not working.


He was shocked to discover that most of the employees didn’t know about the Employee Referral Program.  Most of the employees who were aware of the program were confused by the amount of referral fees paid for specific positions.  Most of the employees didn’t know who to refer so they didn’t refer anyone.  There was also confusion about how to qualify for the annual bonus.  Was the award based on the number of hires or the referral fees themselves to win the

2,500?  Several employees complained that they were not sure who to contact to submit resumes or CVs on their referral.


After the failure of the Employee Referral Program, Carson studied successful programs offered by other companies.  He surveyed employees to see what would motivate them to provide referrals, changed the referral fee structure and provided training to the employees to teach them how to ask for referrals.  He also published a list monthly to inform employees of jobs that were hard to fill, so they knew where to put their efforts.  He then put one person in charge of the program who came up with a theme “Got Friends” and monitored the program.


In addition to the referral fees, the referring employee was featured in the company newsletter, received a plaque, thank you notes and had lunch with the executives of the company.  The individual referring the most hires received a cash bonus, had lunch with the CEO and was given an executive parking place for one year.  These changes resulted in a dramatic increase of employee referrals that were hired and retained and much higher level of participation in the program.


Employee Referral Programs that were the most successful included the following:


It’s not only about the money.

The amount of money paid isn’t the only contributing factor to the success of a referral program.  Employees must clearly understand what’s in it for them to participate.


Program is managed by one specific person

The referral program should be delegated to and managed by one specific person.  This person should survey employees to see what would motivate them to provide referrals of future employees.


Easy to remember “theme”

The program should have a theme that is easy and memorable similar to “Got Friends?”  Southwest airlines provided employees with a referral card that resembled a boarding pass.   They promoted others to board Southwest as a new employee.



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