A friendly referral of a refer-a-friend scheme

Following one of my previous posts, which touched on the importance of not forgetting your own referral scheme and keeping it as simple as possible, I thought I'd share a relaunch of a head office (c. 250 employees) referral programme I took charge of a while ago. Oh I do love a anecdote.

The launch I'm referring to (no pun intended) was achieved with no budget.  When I say, “no” I’m not talking figuratively.  The well was dry.  The shoe string well and truly snapped.  Any grand ideas of a lavish marketing campaign to promote the launch and maintain ongoing awareness crumbled as quickly as I’d built them up in my over active imagination. I wanted fliers, glossy posters, a dedicated online portal to direct referrals to... Fireworks, special guest appearances the works, (I wasn’t joking about the imagination thingy). But alas, reality soon set in.  I had no money and needed to increase candidate traffic.  Sound familiar?

To begin with I surveyed approximately 30% of the head office population (using surveymonkey.com [a great site]) on what would encourage folks to make referrals, and what had prevented them doing so previously. The main  findings were very interesting:

  • It wasn't about the money.  The rewards of the dwindling previous scheme were generous enough.  Upping this wouldn't have motivated people to make more recommendations.
  • There was a severe lack of awareness regarding the old referral scheme - other than a couple of dog-eared posters clinging on to walls in low-viability areas of the offices.
  • Over the years I've often found people only consider making referrals when they know a vacancy is live within their organisation that's suited to the friend / contact they're considering referring.  This situation was no different.   The thought of making recommendations when there were no relevant vacancies was alien to the population surveyed.  This would need to be overcome to enable the scheme to become a pro-active feed into any planned talent pools.
  • A reasonable proportion of people surveyed were reluctant to make referrals through fear of them turning out to be poor performers and having a negative impact on the perception of the individual who made the recommendation.

I countered the above findings with the following:

  • To raise awareness I tapped into the company's communication cycle.  In this instance it was a case of having a presence in the monthly internal magazine.  I also booked a 15 minute slot on each departments' team meeting and delivered a small presentation promoting the refer-a-friend scheme.
  • With regards to making "talent pool recommendations," again, the key was in communicating and educating. Encouraging employees to refer people even if there weren't relevant vacancies.  A service level agreement was guaranteed promising whoever was recommended would be contacted within 5 working days with relevant communication.  Additionally, the referral's expectations would be managed accordingly RE the potential of future opportunities arising matching their skill-set and experience.
  • When it came to alleviating concerns RE the perceived potentially detrimental impact a poor referral could have on a referrer it was a case of, again, countering this throughout the communication process.  I reinforced the fact they would simply be making a referral.  The candidate would still go through a robust selection process.  If they got through that and still turned out to be hopeless then the issue wouldn't be the recommendation made, it would be the mechanisms in place throughout the selection process to identify whether or not the candidate was as useful as a chocolate tea pot or not.  (Obviously you apply an element of belief in others that they won't recommend someone they believe to be completely inappropriate.   There always comes a point when common sense should prevail).

And it was as simple as that.  Tracking and keeping on top of candidate source was easy. Either on our ATS or simply when saving the CV in a appropriately named Word folder a file name such as,  John Smith - Brand Manager - 28-34k [Sally Smith ext 123 referral] would be used. And that was it.  Pretty basic stuff right?  And I'm pleased to report it worked really well.

The response was fantastic.  In the first 6 weeks 4x more referrals than the company had experienced in the entire previous 2 years were received.  Within 12 weeks 4 new hires were made (2x IT, 1x Marketing 1x Finance) .

Looking at the cost savings when comparing the reward payouts made (to some extremely happy referrers) vs. what the hires would have cost through an agency I managed to save the company over £25k!

So there you have it.  An example of a very simple but effective referral programme implemented with no budget.  I hope there's something here you feel you can use.

Feel free to refer this to post to others who may be working on a scheme of their own (see what i did there?  Clever huh.)


Hungry for more?  Check me out at www.trecknowledgy.com - training and coaching through recruitment complexities.  Follow on Twitter @TRecKnowledgy


Thanks for your time.

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