THE BLOG
08/20/2013 08:32 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2013

4 Do's and Don'ts for Launching Employee Referral Programs

Your employee referral program isn't as great as you think it is -- and everyone may know it but you.

I know you may mean well. After all, referrals are commonly cited as the No. 1 source of hire. So, naturally, an employee referral program is the next logical step. But, after the initial launch, you notice a dip in engagement. Your employees aren't participating as much as they could, and you begin to believe the referral program is the problem.

You're wrong. The referral program isn't the problem. The problem may lie in how you're positioning it to your employees. If you're not doing all you can to get it off the ground, it won't stick. Let's look at some reasons why:

You don't teach your employees how to use it

First things first: You have to make sure your employees understand how to use the referral program. This goes beyond technical knowledge. They must be able to grasp the benefits of the referral program, why they're involved in the process, and what their participation means for the organization. If you don't do this, consider your referral program null from the get-go.

Kick things up a notch: Take the time to train your employees, from how to actually use the program to some best practices. For example, you can have meetings which walk them through some best-case scenarios. In addition, be sure to check-in regularly to see what's working and what needs to be improved.

You don't reward them

Your employees may already have enough on their plates. If there's no reason to contribute, they may not see the value in staying active. So, incentives like referral rewards are a great way to motivate them because your employees have a tangible purpose for participation.

Kick things up a notch: Vary your rewards to reflect each step of the hiring process. For example, an employee may receive a gift card for a hot lead, a day off for a great interview, and a cash reward for a successful hire.

You don't implement social networking integration

These days, a lot of your conversations happen through your social networks. If you don't implement social networking integration in your referral programs, you're eliminating a huge market of candidates who may only be accessed through your workers. Plus, it's no secret that employees may be more naturally engaged when working with social networking platforms -- sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn spark conversations and collaborations. Failing to implement such a crucial element of a modern-day referral program can work against you.

Kick things up a notch: Utilize the social networks of your employees. Make it simple for them to message their network, post jobs, and track the people they refer. In addition, be sure to maintain employee privacy when it comes to accessing their data. Your employees are doing you a favor by allowing you to access their network. Be sure to return the favor and respect their privacy.

You don't streamline the process for mobile workers

Thirty million Americans are now working remotely at least one day a week. So, chances are, you have a few employees who work outside the office. Do you streamline the referral process for them? Since working on-the-go is already hard enough, it may be difficult for them to use their mobile devices when they want to send you quality referrals -- 81 percent already use these devices for work. Failing to enable the right functionalities that allow them to refer candidates efficiently can narrow your applicant pool.

Kick things up a notch: Enable referrals through mobile devices, like smartphones or tablets. You can even set up a special referral portal which has mobile capabilities. This will help remote employees participate in a referral program, even if you don't see them everyday.

If your employees aren't taking part in your referral program as much as you'd like, take the time to evaluate what you can change. A little tweaking on your end will improve the employee referral program experience and give you better results in the long-run.

What do you think? What are some other reasons why your workers may not like your employee referral program?

Ziv Eliraz is the Founder and CEO of Zao, social employee referral management platform. Connect with Ziv and Zao on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.