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Employee Referral Program Ideas: Fill Open Positions Faster

Hiring Manager's Guide

Frontline businesses are facing an unprecedented labor shortage crisis. In what is being called the Great Resignation, frontline employees are quitting their jobs at record rates, leaving companies (and entire industries) with an uncertain future. 

When employees leave an organization, workforces are understaffed and employees are stretched too thin. As a result, the quality of the customer experience plummets. All of this contributes to employee burnout and fuels higher turnover rates. 

To protect workers and businesses, employers need fast, innovative, and sustainable ways to build a healthy candidate pipeline and fill open positions. Relying on online job postings and word of mouth isn’t enough anymore. Increasingly, business leaders need the kind of direct connections that come with employee referrals.

An employee referral program is a powerful way to tap into employee networks and attract new talent while energizing workers. Here are some simple and effective employee referral program ideas that create a better workplace and a stronger workforce.

Why Referrals Matter

Employee referrals are widely considered the best way to hire. 

  • Hiring referred employees is faster
  • Referred employees stay at their jobs longer
  • Inbound referral reduces hiring costs

One of the greatest advantages of referrals is access. 70% of the workforce is what’s known as passive talent. These are people who have jobs and are not actively searching for a new one, but if a connection tells them about an opportunity, they may be interested. When employees source from their own networks, business leaders can reach great referred candidates who would otherwise not have been on the radar. 

Employee referral can also have tremendous employee benefits for existing employees. Referral programs help employees feel valued, foster camaraderie, and help build a strong company culture. 

4 Top Employee Referral Program Ideas

These tips can help you get started on creating a sustainable program that encourages and rewards quality referrals.

1. Offer Meaningful Rewards

The heart of any program is offering meaningful incentives to your team in exchange for high-quality referrals. 

While it’s common to assume that money is the best incentive for employee referrals, a LinkedIn survey actually found that financial rewards only drove 6% of referrals. 

The top reasons for referrals were:

  • To be seen as a valuable employee: 26%
  • To help the company: 32%
  • To help their friends: 35%

But just because money isn’t the primary motivation for submitting a referral doesn’t mean that your referral program can run on good intentions alone. 

The best way to find out what employees want from a program is to ask them. Sending out a company-wide survey is a perfect way to open up a dialogue, gather ideas, and ensure employees have a voice. 

Here are a few options to get the conversation started:

  • A direct financial reward
  • A donation made in your name to a charity of your choice
  • A trip or adventure (like a kayaking trip)
  • A personalized gift (within financial limits)
  • Lunch for the employee and new hire 
  • A team outing if a certain amount of new hires are met

Involving frontline employees in the process not only sets the referral program up for success, it also boosts employee engagement and generates excitement. 

2. Communicate Clearly

If employees don’t understand the specifics of the program, they’re less likely to participate. The best way to make sure everyone is on the same page is clear communication

This includes providing information about:

  • Program rules
  • Rewards and incentives 
  • Timeframe (if any exists)
  • How to make a referral

A digital workplace for frontline businesses makes communication easy. By centralizing communication across the organization, these platforms ensure frontline workers have easy access to program information and encourage participation. 

3. Keep Referrers in the Loop

Employees want and deserve to know what happens after they refer candidates. One of the best employee referral program ideas is establishing a way for employees to see where their referrals are in the hiring process. 

This is especially important if a referral program uses staggered rewards for different stages of the hiring process. Being able to see what rewards they have accrued, and could accrue in the future, is exciting. You can also give people points for successful referrals, encouraging them to continue to find quality referred candidates in their networks. People love games and friendly competitions, and having a centralized hub to track results adds an element of fun.

4. Recognize Employees for Their Referral Efforts 

Everyone loves being rewarded for their efforts, and rewards are key for an employee referral program. But people also need to be recognized after they refer candidates. 

Recognition is vital to retention. In fact, lack of recognition is the main reason why employees leave their job. Turning an employee referral program into an opportunity to recognize frontline workers increases the value of the program.

A digital workplace for frontline businesses is a perfect platform for employee recognition. It’s a centralized place to thank employees for bringing in great new workers and where they know everyone can see their referring efforts, from peers to the C-Suite. And the excitement can be contagious, encouraging others to get involved and make referrals of their own.  

Make Your Program a Success

The employee referral program ideas above engage and empower employees at every stage. That’s what Beekeeper is all about. 

Beekeeper’s innovative operating system for frontline businesses is a powerful platform to drive and support employee referral programs. We give frontline-majority businesses the tools to turn the best employee referral program ideas into reality and hype people up about becoming part of the referral process. And that matters. Better morale boosts retention and builds stronger company culture. 

With Beekeeper, frontline businesses are able to implement highly successful employee referral programs that make a real difference. As an employee referral example, Wanzek Construction generated over 525 employee referrals in just 3 months.

Today’s labor shortage means businesses need better strategies to connect to existing employees and referred candidates. Beekeeper makes it easy to do it all. 

Want to bring buzz to your employee referral program? Need help creating an employee referral program template? Talk to one of our experts to learn more about what Beekeeper can do for you.

Download our Savvy Hiring Manager’s Guide to discover how to hire (and retain!) frontline workers better.