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15 forward-thinking employee referral programs

When new employees get hired through an employee referral, it is often considered likely that the new hires are likely to be a better fit, stick around for longer, and are more productive. 

There are reasons why different employee referral incentives and bonuses work for different types of employees. Tapping into these reasons could be the key to creating the premium employee referral program for your business.

  1. A financial bonus will always be a great incentive for staff motivated by money
  2. Social recognition and praise is a perfect payday for those who prefer personal validation
  3. Altruistic bonuses are strong rewards for those who are born to help others

We looked at 15 forward-thinking employee referral program ideas, and who they were designed to work for.

1. Salesforce – money, mindfulness and more

This US cloud computing giant has paid its employees over $5.5million in referral bonuses. 

They have a positive way of looking after their team day-to-day, with mindfulness rooms, paid for volunteering projects, and finding challenges for staff who haven’t had a promotion in a while.

They also hold Happy Hours, where their employees can introduce their referrals with the recruiters over a few drinks. What a nice change from a boardroom. How much fun is that?

Why does it work? Financial and social recognition rewards

2. Accenture – altruism—or al-three-ism

IT consultants Accenture wanted their staff to feel good about doing the right thing. And what is it they say? Good things come in threes?

  1. They encouraged employees to help the business
  2. Also, to help a friend
  3. The final altruistic aid was allowing the employee to donate part of their referral bonus to the charity of their choice—with the amount matched by the company

Why does it work? Financial, social and altruistic rewards

3. Intel – maximum reward for minority candidates

Intel offered to double its bonuses for employees referring women and anyone from a minority group as part of their diversity hiring. Simple but effective.

Why does it work? Financial and altruistic rewards

4. Pure – strike while the iron’s hot!

This American property insurance brand captures between 40% and 60% of its employees through referrals. And its secret? Don’t waste any time. As soon as new hires join, they’re probed for who they think will make a further good acquisition.

Why does it work? Social recognition and praise rewards

5. Google – trips trump cash

Sell the sizzle, not the sausage. It’s an old marketing standard, but Google found that their cold hard cash referral bonus of $1million wasn’t as attractive to employees as an all-in trip to Hawaii. Who knew?

Why does it work? Financial (but not necessarily purely financial) rewards

6. DigitalOcean – charity begins at… well, everywhere

For every new hire, the employee who referred them received a $3,500 bonus plus a $1,500 donation to charity on the employee’s behalf. In less than a year, DigitalOcean was acquiring 40% of new hires from employee referrals, plus making substantial payouts to many different charities.

Why does it work? Financial and altruistic rewards

7. Hewlett Packard Enterprise – pride is a prize

Hewlett Packard built a culture around their employee referral program. Employees became ‘Champions,’ publicly recognized for their referral achievements.

Why does it work? Social recognition rewards

8. InMobi – revved up for rewards

This global mobile advertising and discovery platform decided to give away rewards specific to their employees’ cultures. With teams in India and the US, that wasn’t an easy decision. So they split it. They decided a bike would be a great reward for both offices, and parked one in the entrance of each: a Royal Enfield in India, and a Vespa in the USA. Both culturally specific.

Why does it work? Financial reward

9. Distillery – gadgets for the geeks

Distillery was looking for new developers, so they asked their existing developers who they knew. With a little research, they found that their tech staff was the most motivated by new tech toys. So, they added iPhones, and Apple watches to their reward scheme.

Why does it work? Financial rewards

10. TTEC – streamlining the process with text tech

TTEC wanted to make the process of employee referrals as simple as possible. They handed out specially printed referral cards to their employees. Each set of cards had a pre-arranged text number so they could track which referral came from which employee, but with the candidate directed straight into their automated recruitment system.

Up to 60% of TTEC candidates were interviewed without any recruiter intervention. What a great use of technical resources.

Why does it work? Simplicity and novelty.

11. Segment – favored favorites

The recruitment team at Segment links specific roles to particular departments and employees. It also introduced a referral leader board to track the referrals process. They now acquire 40% of new hires from referrals—and that’s before they added any financial incentives to this already successful program.

Why does it work? Social recognition rewards

12. Accenture – refer yourself!

Accenture decided to use social media platforms to allow candidates to refer themselves via an existing employee. Connecting via Facebook or LinkedIn, the site scanned who the candidate knew within the company so they could send them a referral request with their application.

The company’s hires by referral grew by 20%.

Why does it work? Simplicity and novelty

13. GoDaddy – code puzzles for coders

Reaching out to the nature of specific employees, GoDaddy hid a secret message in a poster written in code. The message, once decoded, read, “If you know a coder in your network who kicks ass, refer them to GoDaddy recruiting.”

It reached out to the nature of a specific employee type and made an everyday task feel fun.

Why does it work? Social recognition and novelty

14. Fiverr – gamification for gifts

Fiverr gamified employee referrals as part of a points scheme. With a leader board to promote those scoring highest, and gift rewards handed out each quarter and at the end of the year, their program hit two birds with one stone.

Why does it work? Financial and social recognition rewards

15. Booking.com – no such thing as a free lunch

When a Portuguese and English speaking operative was needed for a customer support role in Brazil, Booking.com bought the entire team Portuguese food for lunch. Each meal came with a note asking staff to refer someone suitable for the position. The referrals came thick and fast, and the role was closed in no time.

Why does it work? Social recognition

Think big for bigger successes

Coming up with new and interesting ways to engage your employees with your employee referrals program can be a challenge. But, given the examples shown here, if you know how best to appeal to your staff, you can increase your successes ten-fold. You just need to figure out which of their rewards buttons to press. 

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