Why Some Employee Referral Programs Succeed While Others Fail


Many companies launch employee referral programs in hopes of locating the top talent they need. Since those who work for the organization now often clearly understand what it takes to excel there and typically maintain their own professional networks, it seems like a simple solution to recruitment woes.

However, merely creating an employee referral program doesn’t guarantee recruiting success. Not all of the programs thrive. In fact, some have abysmal results. If you are wondering why some employee referral programs succeed while others fail, here’s what you need to know.

The Workplace Experience Factor

For an employee referral program to generate positive results, you need to look beyond the mechanics of the program itself. While ensuring the process is easy, and adding incentives like bonuses for successful referrals can make a difference, it won’t overcome one issue: a poor work experience.

Professionals aren’t going to refer members of their network if they are miserable. Whether it’s a negative culture, a lack of resources, subpar pay, or anything else dragging down morale, if those issues aren’t corrected, your employee referral program isn’t going to help.

In contrast, if your employees are happy, feel supported by management, are highly engaged, and are provided with fair compensation, they will be more than willing to submit referrals. They’ll want members of their network to enjoy what they’ve managed to find, so they’ll send in recommendations whenever the chance arises.

The Role of Communication

When an employee submits a referral, the following scenario might play out. First, they connect with a member of their network and get them excited about an opportunity. Next, they get a copy of the resume and send it in. Then, after a week or two passes, the person whose resume was submitted wants an update. And, if your employee can’t tell them what’s happening, tension rises.

The employee feels horrible that they had their friend go out on a limb, and they can’t let them know what’s happening. It weighs on them and strains their relationship with someone in their network. Finally, the worker decides to avoid the situation in the future, usually by not submitting more referrals.

However, that doesn’t have to be the ending to that story. Companies that communicate with the referred candidate quickly keep the employee from being put in an awkward position. Plus, it shows that you value the time of both the person who sent in the referral and the professional whose resume you now have in hand, boosting your reputation inside and outside of the company.

It only takes a few minutes to follow-up with referred candidates. Whether you choose to move forward with them or not, letting them know the status of their application is respectful, and they’ll remember being treated well.

Ultimately, what separates successful employee referral programs from those that struggle is often the company’s culture and the degree of communication. If both of those are bad, the referral program fails. But, if both of those are great, the program is likely to thrive. As a result, focusing on those areas can increase your odds of recruitment success, including when you use an employee referral program.

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