Friends want friends to prosper. It’s the foundation stone upon which the greatest of relationships are built.

Having an employee referral program in place reinforces the bond that exists between two friends.

It tends to do away with the chasm that typically exists between work and play. While this can at times be detrimental to work input, when an employee referral program is properly executed, it can translate to wondrous results.

Getting employees who have already bought into your brand of jazz is no mean feat. But, it becomes much easier when you have someone working in-house who understands the culture of the workplace.

In today’s review, we’ll be looking to define, expound on and share examples of what makes a great employee referral program. Here’s to hoping you come out a believer that employee referral programs are the holy grail of the entire hiring process!

What is an employee referral program?

This refers to an organized program that is crafted by employers to request existing employees to recommend suitable candidates for vacant positions.

In contrast to sourcing, employee referral initiatives are based internally.

This means that you use employees’ networks to find the right people for your organization.

employee referral program

Why you need to have an employee referral program in place

According to a recent survey, talent shortage is one of the biggest impediments in the current recruiting market.

This situation has forced a good number of employers to turn to employee referrals when looking for ideal candidates.

With a solid structure in place, it’s easier to find shoo-in candidates.

Another study also ascertained that the trust element plays an integral role in the hiring process. Employees are actually three times as likely to be trusted compared to employers. In light of this, it’s necessary to invest your resources in the development of a great program.

To ensure that your program is smooth sailing, you need to ensure that it incorporates these elements:

  • Incentives – can be monetary or non-monetary. Things like extra holidays or even a simple thanks you can go a long way in motivating employees
  • Feedback – communication is very important in the referral process. Keeping your employees posted on the status of the referrals they shared gives them the necessary impetus to pursue others. A quick email can be an effective way to reach out.
  • Ease of use – the more intuitive your referral program is, the easier it will be to onboard new hires
  • Recognition – praise is a great morale booster. The onus is upon you to find creative ways to honor your employees whenever they successfully refer someone new to the organization

Examples of remarkable employee referral programs

1. Google’s insights

Google is well renowned for keeping things simple.

This approach has seen them win multiple accolades over the years.

It’s little surprise that they’ve embraced the same tact in the hiring process. The recruiters at Google like to pose pointed questions like “Who’s the best software developer you know in Atlanta?”

By structuring their questions in this fashion, the recruiters are able to make their employees think outside the box and come up with noteworthy suggestions.

This aided recall technique was effective since it made use of their social media contacts. It was a smart approach to the whole hiring paradigm.

2. Salesforce’s happy hours

This CRM software solutions and enterprise cloud computing company is quite popular because of its bountiful rewards. The fact that not all their incentives revolve around money is quite something.

Salesforce has been able to come up with a great referral campaign that doesn’t focus on just the successful referrals. By rewarding volunteers of their initiative and offering mindfulness rooms at the place of work, they’ve been able to identify new challenges.

Their Recruitment Happy Hours is one of their stand out campaigns. During such meetups, employees are encouraged to invite people they believe are a good fit for the company. It’s a fantastic, informal way for recruiters to get to meet potential candidates in such a setting.

It also brings closer together employees and their referrals as they can toast to a couple of drinks during the entire process.

3. Fiverr’s gamification approach

As a freelancing marketplace, Fiverr was on the lookout for more employee referrals.

They devised a smart way of going about this by monitoring the number of social job shares. As an incentive, they decided to offer extra points for the number of times employees were able to share jobs and refer friends.

By partnering up with Zao, a company that is well adept at referral initiatives, they were able to inject an element of competition. They were also able to track the real-time performance of all the employees and notify them about progress made.

The reward setup was also elaborate.

Based on performance, the top Fiverr employees stood a chance of walking away with a bountiful number of gifts. Rewards were typically handed out on a quarterly and yearly basis.

4. Accenture connects emotionally

The Dutch consulting and IT firm decided to have a unique go at offering incentives.

They tailored their program to meet the innate human need to feel good. Since most people naturally feel good after sharing a referral, it was a brilliant tactic.

Both the company and the employees were able to benefit from the structure.

They proceeded to take things a notch higher by allowing employees to donate their winnings to a charity of choice. Irrespective of the amounts that employees pledged, the company made a point of matching the figures.

5. Intel’s double bonanza

With diversity being an important aspect of the hiring process, Intel decided to step up to the plate. Big time.

The American tech giant decided to make good use of their employees to advocate for diversity. By offering more rewards to successful referrals of women and minorities, they played smartly.

Not only were they able to get quality hires, but they also promoted diversity at the workplace.


That wraps up our take on why you need to have an employee referral program.

We’re confident the examples shared will go a long way in assisting you to come up with your own initiative.

Which company do you think had the best referral program? Which strategy do you think you’re ready to implement?


Having spent 18 years either running his own agency or an agency for others, Jason has strong expertise in both B2B and retail marketing, and has been working with large clients on how to bring campaigns to market.

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