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Enhancing Employee Referral Programs for Sustainable Results

3 min read.



Employer Branding

Throwing money at employee referral schemes by offering bigger rewards isn't a long term fix. There is another way to go and it will save you money, time and ultimately regrettable loss...

Employee referral programs can be a goldmine for finding great candidates who can dovetail nicely with an existing company culture.

But simply throwing more money at referrals through bigger and better incentives doesn't necessarily guarantee better results. And many companies do. More than 70% of organisations offer monetary incentives that range from $1,000-$5,000 for referrals, says

That’s because employees that come through a referral are more likely to stick around. Companies using employee referral systems have average retention rates of 46% compared to 33% in companies that only use career sites, according to

So, there’s proven value in investing in a referral programme. But there are more impactful ways to improve referral quality beyond just increasing the reward amount.

Bigger rewards will not necessarily increase the volume of employee referrals and they won’t increase the quality of candidate referral.

Outside of monetary rewards companies will also offer benefits such as extra holiday, or experience days and other gifts, charity donations, recognition amongst colleagues and so on.

But the three most effective strategies for generating better referrals are:

  • Improving overall candidate experience
  • Making the referral process easy
  • Providing ongoing referrer feedback

Enhancing Candidate Experience

Here’s the thing - employees don't make referrals purely for the rewards. They also care about sending candidates they personally vouch for into a positive experience.

No one wants to subject friends to a disjointed, frustrating applicant process will reflect poorly on them. Cumbersome applications, confusing communications, and lack of updates (or none at all) leave a bad taste that damages referral likelihood.

By improving and closely monitoring satisfaction across the candidate journey - through surveys, NPS (Net Promoter Score) or reviews - you create an experience worth endorsing.

Invest in candidate-centric process improvements like:

  • Mobile-friendly applications
  • Fast response times
  • Concise, personalised communications (don’t leave them hanging)
  • Interview convenience/flexibility

These build enthusiasm for referrals by protecting the referring employee's reputation and relationship with the candidate.

Simplifying the Referral Process

The easier you make participating in your referral program, the more (and better quality) referrals you will receive.

Many employees have good intentions to refer candidates they feel are a strong match. But as soon as cumbersome paperwork, complex submission forms or extensive requirements appear, momentum dies.

The harsh truth is most employees just aren't invested enough in the rewards to push past any friction. So, reducing hassle is crucial even if it means less "qualifying" data per referral.

Improver the UX (user experience) and optimise for ease through:

  • Eliminating lengthy profile submissions in favour of basic contact sharing
  • Enabling referrals directly from mobile devices
  • Streamlining referral steps into a frictionless, intuitive process

Providing Ongoing Feedback

Transparency and communication during the referral process keeps employees engaged and more likely to continue referring candidates. Without updates, they are left wondering what happened to their submission.

Lack of feedback breeds frustration and uncertainty that degrades the experience. Employees don't want to hound their friends for status updates.

Sending referrers notifications at each milestone retains them as brand ambassadors. The following are key to a positive experience:

  • Confirmation of profile receipt
  • Updates after any candidate interaction
  • Status after assessments or interviews
  • Hiring decision result
  • Data shows 80% of employees want the ability to track referrals online through a portal or dashboard.

The Bottom Line

While incentives shouldn't be overlooked, focusing only on raising referral reward amounts is short-sighted. It leads to random, low quality submissions.

Building an outstanding candidate experience, removing friction from the process, and over-communicating updates do more to drive quality referrals.

Savvy referral programs analyse end-to-end satisfaction, streamline submission, and provide real-time visibility, enabling employees to be confident advocates.

So, save money on increasing referral bonuses and instead, optimise these three pillars of programme experience. When the employee journey inspires advocacy and transparency, that drives ROI - regardless of incentive size.

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