At VistaPrint they don’t know the meaning of the term technology bust. VistaPrint reinvented the printing industry in 1995, by bringing printing and marketing services online for small businesses and the result was billion dollar growth. Austin Cooke, vice president for global recruiting, was charged with supporting the company’s rapid growth when he accepted the position two years ago. He spoke about his experiences to a break-out session audience at the ERE Expo.
There were just a couple of challenges standing in his way: only 19% of the company’s hires were coming from employee referrals, and Cooke’s entire talent acquisition staff consisted of four contract recruiters.
Cooke’s solution: Increase the company’s recruiting staff by 700 people overnight, by engaging the company’s full-time workers as recruiters. Some of the key steps to his implementation plan included:
• Gain the support of senior company leadership for the concept.
• Engage the company’s employees as recruiters by educating them about the program, gaining their trust, and providing easy-to-understand incentives.
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• Extend the company’s reach by soliciting the recruiting efforts of family members and friends of employees.
Cooke developed an internal marketing campaign to educate employees about the program and company executives sent letters to employees’ homes endorsing the program, but he worked hardest at the most critical element — building employee trust.
The talent acquisition team followed up on every referral within three days of submittal and provided open feedback to employees on the status of referred candidates. The idea: Transparent communication and timely follow-up creates trust and encourages employees to make more referrals. Cooke says that many referral programs start out with a big bang and then fizzle, so Cooke hired a marketer, not an additional recruiter, to create continuous marketing buzz around the program, and the company offered a referral contest award trip to Hawaii and informed the spouses of employees about the opportunity. Besides follow-up and consistency, Cooke attributes the success of his program to its simplicity. There were clear and easy directions for submitting candidates, easy-to-understand rewards and lots of recognition for the referral leaders.
Two years later, VistaPrint has hired close to 1,800 employees and Cooke has increased the company’s recruitment staff to 24. But it’s the increased hires from employee referrals that he cites as the greatest reason for the company’s growth, because the internal referral rate has increased from 19% to 46%.