In 2015, LinkedIn completed one of the largest studies of recent job changers in the world. One of the statistics that the study revealed was the number one channel through which job changers heard about their new opportunity. Surprisingly, the top spot was not occupied by job boards or even recruiting agencies, but rather by employee referrals. This statistic underscores the importance of a resource which is all too often overlooked: employee referrals. When you find yourself with a talent need, your first step should be to take advantage of your employee network. After all, they make great ambassadors for the business and have unique insight into the needs of the organization. Making the most of employee referrals is easier said than done, however, and it takes dedicated effort to keep it up.

Just Ask!

It seems almost too easy, but there really is no big secret to asking for employee referrals. If you have a talent need, one of the first steps you take in your search should be asking your top-performing employees who they know that might be interested in the role. Your chances are good that the top talent in your organization runs in the same circles as other high-potential candidates and most great employees are all too happy to help network on behalf of their company and their friends. You may even choose to ask new hires for referrals as a part of their orientation – you never know who they will know!

Incentivizing Employees to Refer

If you want to take your employee referral game to the next level, you may also choose to provide incentives. Incentivizing your employees to send you qualified referrals is one of the easiest and most consistent ways to ensure that you are capturing all the talent of your network. Most often these rewards are monetary and only apply after a successful hire is made, but there are plenty of ways this arrangement can be structured to suit most needs and budgets. There are certain restrictions surrounding what and how much you can provide as compensation, so some legwork is necessary to ensure that you are fully compliant before you institute an employee referral program with incentives. Though these programs may require a bit of research and monetary investment, they can more than pay for themselves if even a single fantastic hire is made.

It’s a Two-Way Street

Whether you choose to explore a formal employee referral program, or simply dedicate yourself to being more proactive about networking in-house, it is important to remember that this relationship is a two-way street. Your employees are trusting that you will provide their referrals with a satisfactory candidate experience; if you don’t deliver, they won’t continue to help. It’s in your best interests to explore every referral that you receive. If an employee feels strongly enough to vouch for a friend or colleague, you should at least reach out to make the connection. Even if they aren’t the right fit for your needs today, you never know what the future will bring and it pays to know good talent. Take the time to follow up and put as much work into the candidate experience as you would for any other potential hire.

The statistics are clear; optimizing your employee referral process will pay off in the long-run. By asking your employees to network on your organization’s behalf, you multiply your hiring power exponentially. If you play your cards right and take advantage of these referrals, you will quickly see why it’s the leading channel for job changers to land new roles.

Written: February 2017