Forget the Daughter?Bring a “Friend” To Work!

Developing a “Bring a Friend To Work Program: Many companies have adopted programs like bring your daughter/son to work. These are fine programs, but they “miss the boat” as recruiting efforts because unfortunately most “daughters” are too young to be viable candidates! A more strategic approach, which can have an immediate impact on recruiting, is a “bring a friend to work” program. The premise is simple?a firm needs to get candidates “in the door” if they are going to have a real chance of “closing the sale.” Car dealers and realtors have used this strategy for decades. A “bring a colleague or friend to work program” gets potential candidates to come to your facility (to “test drive the car” or to “see the house”) and talk to your team. It targets employed, “passive” job seekers that wouldn’t actively apply for the job, but might come to an event to see what it’s like where “my friend” works. Bring a friend to work is a “high-touch” variation of the traditional employee referral program. It is less impersonal because instead of giving a “name” to HR, you get to bring a “friend” to your work site, so that they can “look us over” first hand. It differs from “open house” programs (that are open to the public) in that individual employees invite people they know on a professional basis and who have the competencies we need. If the “friend” is hired, the employee gets the standard referral bonus. The primary reasons for getting “friends” to come “on-site” include:

  • Meeting your team is a great selling tool and it helps convince candidates that “these are the kind of people (friends) that I would like to work with”
  • Letting candidates see the equipment, the technology, tools, and facilities they would work with excites them and tells them (better than any words can) what kind of place this is
  • Recruiters, no matter how hard they try, can’t be as believable as other professionals from the “friends” functional area
  • Having “outsiders” interact with our employees forces our own employees to be in touch with other points of view and to be reminded of our best “selling points”
  • It uses candidates’ natural “curiosity” (I wonder if they are as good as people say?) to encourage them to come to the event
  • It can help improve your image and make you a firm that professionals “talk about”
  • It helps get employees and managers more involved in recruiting and relationship-building, by making it easy and fun to meet candidates (because it is on-site and there are refreshments)
  • Interacting with and learning from others can energize your own employees either to get better and/or to show them how “good” they have it (for retention purposes)
  • It is a tool for gathering competitive intelligence, benchmarking, and learning best practices
  • The social aspects of the event and “bragging to others” may improve your own team cohesion
  • It might stimulate new ideas as a result of listening to “outside opinions”

Steps In Developing A Bring A Friend To Work Program: Firms like Cisco and US West have their own version of “friends” programs. Cisco has “a friend will call you back and talk” program because they have found that many candidates will not accept a job unless a “friend tells them that it is a good place to work.” US West has a “tele-friend” program which builds a relationship with potential candidates through e-mail correspondence. This variation, a “bring a friend to work” program draws them to your site in order to begin building a relationship that may result in a future hire. The steps in starting a “bring a friend to work program” include:

  1. Get management buy in
  2. Determine which types of professionals are most likely to be influenced by an on-site visit. Set the criteria for being a “friend”
  3. Determine what type of event to hold for the “bring a friend” program (i.e., Friday afternoon beer bust, morning coffee talk, free lunch, or a professional seminar)
  4. Appoint a program leader (generally a line manager) and a team to coordinate the event
  5. Decide if it is to be a “during, before, or after work (or weekend) event” based on past experiences with open house events
  6. Develop an agenda for the event 7) Determine if a small reward should be offered to employees bringing in a friend (also give a gift/reward to the friend for their attendance)
  7. Inform the employees about the program and educate them on the type of candidates we would like them to invite (top performers) and not invite (i.e., direct competitors)
  8. Develop a brochure to explain the event to invitees
  9. Prepare “show and tell” exhibits, talks by “star” employee or executives, product demo’s and “walk arounds.” Other variations include have lunch with me, workout at our gym, play on our new computer system, etc.)
  10. Develop “effectiveness metrics” to monitor and improve program performance

Other Possible Variations:

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  • Bring a current employee to another department to build cross-functional cooperation as well as for internal placement considerations
  • Hire top prospects (from non-competing firms) for temporary evening/night/weekend work on site
  • Pay candidates (or give them a gift) for showing up for the event (and an interview?)

Possible Problems:

  1. They will identify our top employees and recruit our people away
  2. They will steal our company secrets
  3. We may lose candidates if our team, jobs, and site are less than impressive
  4. Managers are often conservative and are reluctant to try things that involve risks
  5. The costs, although minimal, (food and gifts) may be prohibitive to firms with tight budgets

Summary: Employment professionals and managers often complain that there is a shortage of great candidates but often there is just a shortage of new ideas and an abundance of companies being afraid to try something new. Employee referrals are the most cost-effective recruiting tool for attracting top performers but they have an inherent weakness in that the referrals still end up in the cold, low touch employment process of “resumes in an in-box.” However if you have a great story to tell, getting the top referrals inside your door in an informal setting can excite them like no ad, job description, or interview can. Recruiters need to learn to think like marketing professionals. “Get the right customer in the door?and then the sale is easy!”

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

 

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