By Ben Russell
Companies are only as good as the talent that walks the halls. “A” players are a must to run a successful, growing company. “A” players typically refer other “A” players for open positions. “B” players typically refer “B” and “C” players. When I began my career at Bullhorn six years ago, while we were a small company of fifteen people, we were predominantly made of “A” players who would drive the business to accomplish amazing things.
In the past six years, we’ve grown from 15 to 180 Bullhorn-ites via a consistent pipeline of “A” referrals from “A” employees. It’s an employee referral engine that has netted over 40% of our hires since 2005. While we pay a $3,000 employee referral bonus for all hires, the money has never been the driving factor. 3k, while a nice chunk of change, runs out quickly, especially in Boston!
A clever employee referral program is the most efficient, cost-effective way to drive “A” talent acquisition and realize your vision. And there are three keys to a successful one:
- Have a solid employee referral bonus. I recommend at least $1,000. You can tier it to pay more for difficult-to-fill positions. I like keeping the bonus the same for all positions. All of our employees are key to the growth of the business even though some might be harder to find than others.
- Tie your referral strategy to your company’s vision with a call to arms. With your employees’ sights set on the year to come, what is your company’s vision to win? What new talent will you need to fuel your strategic investments, seamlessly assimilate into your culture and realize your company’s vision?
- Make it fun.
In 2012, we are preparing to grow our employee base from 180 to 240. 33% growth in twelve months is not going to happen by cruising the job boards for what I think is typically “B” and “C” talent. You might find an “A” nugget on occasion, but it’s not worth the time. In 2012, success will be defined by 60% of our hires coming from employee referrals. To get there (in addition to a strong referral bonus and consistent communication about our corporate goals and the talent needed to achieve them) we’ll tie our program to a mirage in the desert: Catch the Beetle. Any employee who refers an eventual hire earns a raffle ticket. At Bullhorn’s annual summer outing in August, our CEO will drive up in a brand new 2012 VW Beetle to be raffled off. One ticket for every hire. More hires, more chances to win. Yeah, eight months is way off in the distance, hence my comment about the mirage in the desert.
In the meantime, we’ll surprise our employees with spot contests. Perhaps, for the month of March we’ll put out a fun bounty: any hire earns the referring employee a flat screen TV! Eight hires might cost you eight grand in TVs, but that’s most likely a whole lot less than the cost of one agency fee. I’d rather feed those recruiting dollars back to our “A” players than pay an agency recruiter who doesn’t know what truly makes our culture tick.
In summation, make your employee referral program truly personal. I don’t care what anyone says ― business is personal. If you have passionate people, you should know that they take their business very personally. Employee referral bonuses are, in my opinion, necessary, but cash is cold. Warm it up by having some fun, and appeal to your employees that this is their referral program, their company to build.