Enhance Your Employee Referral Program Marketing Approach

Nov 4, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 1.34.47 PMEmployees will refer talent into an organization when it’s easy and convenient for them — push and prod them too much and you risk disengagement. Effective, targeted marketing of your program is a key driver to adoption and success.

In an effort to increase engagement, we encourage our clients to focus their efforts on customized messaging and marketing of their referral programs delivered broadly, the message may appeal to everyone at the company, but will likely only engage a few).

Here are five techniques for enhancing your referral program marketing approach:

Segment Your Employees by Function and/or Location

If you have a domestic or globally-distributed workforce and are hiring positions that require proximity to a specific geographic location, your employees in London probably can’t add much value to your job openings in Los Angeles. The same goes for skill sets — if you are ramping up hiring in your sales department, your software engineers likely won’t have many referrals to make in that area. As such, segment your employee base and drill-down your marketing to these segments.

One company we work with uses Mailchimp to send out email newsletters to its employees promoting the high-priority open positions that are most in need of candidate referrals. A system like Mailchimp allows you to segment your mailing lists, With a few clicks, they can take their base of 300 employees and create sub-distribution lists by function and location. This way, they can send specific job openings to employees most likely to know people with those skill sets, or in that specific location. Just like you wouldn’t post an accounting job on, don’t ask your employees in one functional area to refer candidates in another area entirely unrelated to them.

Promote Successes

In order for your referral program to be effective, employees need to know that their efforts are making an impact. Ensure that with every “ask” email you send (i.e. “please refer for these open positions”) you “give” some newsworthy information to demonstrate that their effort will make a difference.

This doesn’t need to be limited to referrals that have led to hires. You might think about highlighting an employee who made a key referral regardless of whether their referral was hired. You can also feature a candidate referred a year ago and describe the impact they’ve had on the company since getting hired.

Be creative about what you successes you celebrate and ensure that you are constantly reinforcing to employees that your referral program is not a black hole and their efforts to lead to big successes.

Use Video

Words are static but video lives and breathes. As recruiters, consider recording a video once a month calling out specific employees who have had success with your referral program, and share a link to the video in your email campaign. It doesn’t need to be professional – but should convey passion and energy. Record the video with your iPhone, send the video file to your email address and download/upload it to a video sharing service like Vimeo or Wista, which will provide you with a shareable link.

Enable Employees to Market for You

Consider ways that employees can help promote the program for you. When a referred candidate generates an interview, or better yet, a hire, that’s news that the referring employee will be happy to share. Get that news to the referring employee and give them an easy way to share it internally — on Yammer, for instance.

Your most active referrers can be ambassadors for your program and effectively turn their successes into advertisements for you if you give them the tools to do it.

Less Is More

Your employees receive an overwhelming stream of information all day, every day.  Unfortunately there is only so much they can focus on, and the last thing you want is for them to delete your latest employee referral marketing email before even opening it.

Be conservative about when and how often you promote your referral program. One generic email a month is more then enough, with targeted/segmented messages in between for specific roles in specific departments/locations.

Referrals can be your best and most effective source of candidates and hires, but unlike job boards and third party recruiters where the work is essentially outsourced, referral programs are high-touch and require finely-tuned marketing campaigns to keep employees interested, motivated and educated. Third-party employee referral software can help, but it’s up to you as talent acquisition professionals to get creative with how you market your program to your employee base.

Solicit feedback and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Don’t assume that just reminding employees to make referrals is enough to promote your referral program. Like anything else, with employee referral programs, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.

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