Building brand love through your people
It’s official: dating apps are the most common way to meet a new romantic partner in the U.S.
According to a recent paper by Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld, most singletons now turn to algorithms when looking for love. But despite their popularity, the apps are still known more for first dates than for building long-term relationships. They’re great for getting your face out there, but friends and family remain the most trusted source of recommendation for a true love match.
The same sentiment holds true when building a talent pool of candidates. It’s important to raise brand awareness and advertise your open roles, but best-in-class business cultures are built on a foundation of proud employee advocacy. An effective Employee Referral Program (ERP) is one of the strongest ways to source high quality, culturally aligned candidates. In fact, the 2018 “Recruiting Trends” report produced by Entelo found that 78% of HR respondents named employee referrals as their most successful source of hire. Retention rates are generally higher for referrals too, with two thirds of referred employees even going on to make a referral themselves according to Jeff Hyman of Strong Suite Executive Search.
So, this Valentine’s Day, how can progressive employers harness the passion of employee advocacy to meet that special someone? Here are my top 3 tips:
1. Speak the language of love
Employee advocacy can’t be forced, but it can be carefully cultivated. And it all starts with developing a powerful Employer Value Proposition (EVP). This communication framework unites the values and mission of your organization with the motivations and ambitions of your ideal workforce. It provides a foundation that should underpin every aspect of the employee experience, allowing you to metaphorically rehire your people every day. Both authentic and aspirational, your EVP will let you be clear about what you value most in your employees and show that you are attuned to their needs and desires. It will also bring context and resonance to the specific messaging you develop around your referral program.
It’s important that existing employees understand the benefits of bringing in more great talent – both to the business and to themselves. The trick here is to craft the right combination of communication channels, messaging, and cadence. It’s critical to catch people’s attention in unexpected ways and to create an emotional connection that resonates with their own experiences. Think about how storytelling can be used to share examples of success or to bring to life the attributes you’re looking for. This is a great way to sidestep the dangers of unconscious bias and good cultural fit being misinterpreted as meaning “just like me.”
2. Make it fun, make it easy
The aim of any successful referral program should be to create a culture of consistent referrals. Spreading the word about why you’re such a great employer should be something that people find instinctive and are willing to do proactively.
So, don’t overcomplicate the process. Think about providing ready-made content, templates, and tools that your employees can use to reach their own networks. There are all sorts of digital platforms and social apps out there to make referral communications easier. Not only do they enable greater process automation, they also come with built-in data tracking and analytics features that are fantastic for measuring ROI.
More and more companies are incentivizing “top of the funnel” activities to encourage participation. Gamifying referrals allows employees to gain points or unlock different levels of reward when their contacts reach different levels of engagement. For instance, an employee could be rewarded for making a new introduction or when their referral is invited to an interview. This brings faster recognition and gratification than having to wait for your connection to complete their first 90 days.
There’s also a trend away from short-term incentives (i.e. cash) toward more experiential rewards. Winning a weekend away or a ride in a hot air balloon is much more exciting than a bit of extra money in your next paycheck. Not only does this sort of experience create fond memories and an emotional connection between the individual employee and the business, but it also creates positive noise around the business and encourages others to get involved. As an added bonus, these sorts of rewards can be the source of great content that you can use to showcase your awesome culture to candidates.
3. Mutual trust is a must
Building a consistent pipeline of quality candidates requires you to empower your employees to talk confidently and accurately about your employment offering. It also requires you to trust them to use their own judgement when thinking about who best to refer.
But trust is a two-way street. You’re asking your employees to put their reputation and their personal relationships on the line by making a referral. They need to trust that their employer is going to provide a great experience, even if it doesn’t lead to an offer of employment. The way you manage communications, especially around providing feedback or conveying a rejection, is vital.
A timely, pleasant, and informative experience can create employer brand advocates, even from unsuccessful candidates. While they might not have got the job, they might still recommend their friend for a future vacancy. Equally, if candidates have a poor experience, it will rebound on the existing employee that referred them. They may feel embarrassed, demotivated, or even disillusioned with their own career choices. So, make sure your process is as tight as can be and that you follow up at every step of the way – with both the candidate and the referee.
Remember, not all referrals lead to offers. That’s alright. Cupid’s arrow doesn’t always fly straight. But if you’re looking for a long-term professional relationship (more Hinge, less Tinder), building employee advocacy is the perfect way to meet your soulmates.