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Getting Buy-in for an Employee Referral Program

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno is the Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse, where she gets to share her love of the written word and endorse the use of the Oxford comma on a daily basis. Before joining Greenhouse, Melissa built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing tips and tricks to help you build an employee referral program—or improve your existing one. This is the second post in the series. To get some quick stats to make the case for an employee referral program at your company, check out the first post in the series here. Or, to get all the info in one place, download a copy of the entire eBook here.

There’s a good chance that you’re already aware of the positive impact a successful employee referral program can have on your company. But it can still be challenging to get buy-in from the rest of the organization. These are some of the most common reasons that employee referral programs fail to get traction:

  • Executives don’t understand the value of the program, so they don’t give it their support.

  • Companies can’t get employees to use their applicant tracking system (ATS).

  • There’s no clear process for submitting referrals.

  • Referrers feel excluded from the process after submitting a contact.

In order to move forward with a referral program, you need both resources and high employee engagement, two tricky things to secure. Here are a few suggestions for how to gain resources and boost adoption.

Getting executive buy-in

In order to get the attention of execs, you can start with some statistics about how referrals boast better performance and retention while reducing hiring costs.

If that doesn’t work, you can also pull in the concept of Employee Lifetime Value (ELTV). This topic is so big, we wrote an entire white paper on it, but here’s a quick overview:

Consider the contribution an employee makes to your organization during their tenure at your company. You can represent it in a graph like this:


If you’d like to increase the value of ELTV, there are four basic areas where you can focus your efforts. You can shorten their ramp time (with better onboarding), increase how high someone can go (by making better hiring decisions), increase how much higher someone goes over time (with better learning and development), and lengthen the time someone stays (with better management practices).

So by making smarter hiring decisions with the help of referrals, you’re also making a BIG impact on someone’s ELTV (and the return on your hiring investment). That should get your execs’ attention!


Encouraging employee adoption

Are your execs already on board with your referral program? Awesome—you’re halfway there! But getting employees to participate can also be a major challenge.

Your biggest priorities are to make it as easy as possible for employees to make referrals and to make the system as transparent as possible. Choose an ATS that makes it easy for employees to submit and track their referrals. Also, be sure to put a clear plan in place so employees know what happens on your end once they submit a referral, whether or not you decide to move forward in the hiring process, and the logic behind your decision-making. 

Make it meaningful to employees. Show them how they have the ability to make an impact on your company and what you'll be able to accomplish if you meet your hiring goals.

Finally, don't forget to make it fun! Look for creative ways to reward and incentivize participation.

Want to learn more about what this looks like in practice? We share tons of tips, tricks, and case studies from Airbnb, Thumbtack, and more in the “How to Build a Strong Employee Referral Program” eBook. Download your copy by clicking the button below!


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Referral Programs

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