Not Getting Enough Employee Referrals? Time to Think Outside the Box

According to LinkedIn's 2016 Global Recruiting Trends report, employee referral programs are a top priority for many organizations. This is because employers realize that structured and well-executed referral programs attract more qualified candidates, reduce turnover rates, improve employee morale, and lower both cost-to-hire and time-to-hire rates. These benefits ultimately impact the company's bottom line through increased productivity and improved customer service.

Experts suggest that if you are not making at least 50 percent of your hires through referrals, it is time to step up your game. The problem is that many companies still rely on decade-old practices to promote their referral programs. Because of these outdated, ineffective tactics, employee referrals account for less than 25 percent of total hires in most organizations. However, companies with successful referral programs make up to 60 percent of their hires through referrals.

If your company is having trouble generating the level of employee referrals it need, it is time to put the old recruiting strategies aside and think outside the box.

Three Reasons Why Employee Referral Programs Don't Scale

1. Employees Are Not Aware of Job Openings

Many employees are not even aware of all the current job opportunities available at their organization. At best, a typical employee only knows about openings in their own department. If employees don't know about jobs available across the organization, it is impossible for a referral program to work on a large scale.

2. The Referral Process Is Tedious

Another obstacle that prevents employees from referring quality candidates is that many companies create long and tedious referral process es. In order to make a referral, do your employees need to log into an employee portal, search for the job, find the job ID number, contact the friend they wish to refer, get their friend's resume, and then upload that resume?

Employees may be willing to do this for a family member or close friend, but they probably aren't going to go through all this trouble for every qualified candidate they know.

3. Large Social Networks

Can you name every one of your Facebook friends off the top of your head? How about all your LinkedIn connections? Email contacts?

The truth is that most people can't even recall all their smartphone contacts without scrolling through them -- and neither can your employees.

The average person may have hundreds of contacts in their personal and professional networks, but they can only recall a small fraction when asked. This doesn't mean they couldn't determine whether the members of their networks would be good job candidates -- just that the majority of their connections are not in their inner circles and, therefore, not top of mind at all times.

About 60 percent of employees have referred a friend, colleague, or family member for a job before. This suggests that your employees want to make referrals. The real question is, "Will your employees search through their connections on multiple networks just to make a referral?" Probably not. As a result, your employee referral program is limited to just your employees' inner circles. Your company is losing out on hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of prospective referrals because your employees can't connect their wider networks to your jobs.

The Google Experiment

Google tried many techniques to boost its referral program. The company tried to incentivize referrals by doubling the bonus employees received, but it wasn't enough. So Google tried something different: aided recall.

In his book, Google's former head of hiring Laszlo Bock writes that employees responded better and made more referrals when Google broke big questions down into smaller, more manageable ones. Instead of asking employees to provide general referrals ("Do you know anyone we should hire?"), Google made more specific requests -- e.g., "Who is the best finance person you ever worked with?" This use of aided recall helped to increase employee referrals at Google by 30 percent.

Help Your Employees Refer

If you want to increase the number of referrals your employees make, you need to think outside the box like Google did. Since your employees are unlikely to recall every one of their social and professional network connections when new jobs open, you need to jog their memories.

The good news is that making this connection for your employees is now easier than ever. Today's best employee referral technologies can instantly scan your employees' networks and look for certain skills, education, and experience that your company requires for a specific position. Once a match is found, your employees are notified of the connection and given the opportunity to make a referral if they'd like to.

Make the Process Super Easy

Your employees want to help you make better hires, but they are busy. They don't have time to go through a complicated referral process. It is crucial that you make it as easy as possible for all employees, at all levels, to refer qualified candidates. In addition, you need to maintain transparency throughout the process.

If you aren't getting enough employee referrals , stop using standard recruiting tactics. Change the way the process works by investing in top-tier employee referral software. An effective and efficient employee referral technology should help your employees identify top talent within their own personal and professional networks. It should also streamline the entire referral process.

Armed with the right tech, your company should see a significant increase in the number of qualified referrals it receives.

A version of this article originally appeared on Medium.

Rachna Singh, is the founder of Hachi, a data-driven, one-click referral hiring solution.