Updating Your Employee Referral Program – ERE Community Q&A, Part 4 of 5

By Dr. John Sullivan and Master Burnett

This article is the fourth in a five-part series on updating your employee referral program. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 are online, and the last installment will run Friday.

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Questions Related to ERP Impact on Organizational Diversity

  1. Some employers are paying an extra bonus for a diverse referral, but only on executive or exempt positions. How do employees perceive this? Does that make diverse non-exempt referrals seem less important? Tying ERP bonuses to the diversity of the referral is a rather rare practice, but one a growing number of organizations are considering. While we do not have data from within those organizations that are already doing it, we do have data that indicates a surprising percentage of American workers are OK with the concept. Among the 7,400 employees that took part in our user experience study, 63% were comfortable with the idea of their organization incenting diverse referrals with a diversity tied bonus. In fact, employees are overwhelming comfortable with tying ERP bonuses to a number of factors including the level of the position being referred for (79%), difficulty of position to fill (75%), and post-hire performance of the referral (58%). Based on our research showing employee comfort with the concept and the business value of a diverse workforce, diversity bonuses are a concept we support.

    Unfortunately, legal counsel frequently objects to the idea, and implementing it can require that you tackle lots of internal political issues. Fortunately, we have found that merely educating employees that you’re particularly interested in diversity candidates can have an almost as powerful as a result, without the associated issues. While the EEOC has not issued any guidance on the issue, they are aware of several major corporations that have implemented the concept and have yet to take action against them, which may or may not indicate their position on the issue!

  2. How do you communicate/promote “higher rewards” for diverse referrals? How do you avoid risk with discrimination?
    Assuming that the company’s commitment to diversity is already established and communicated, most of the work is already done. Your company already spends dollars targeted on diversity events and advertising to diverse populations, so spending money on diversity referrals isn’t such a big stretch or something that could be considered illegal. You start by educating your employees how regardless of their diversity status, they frequently come across diverse professionals who have the skills and experience that your firm needs. You then explain how your current approaches aren’t always producing the best results so you are trying this new approach.

    A few firms receive arguments relating to “reverse discrimination” but as in any case, you have to weigh the risks compared to the many benefits that accrue from referral programs that focus on diversity.

Question Related to Technology to Support ERPs

  1. What are the best tools for tracking or administering ERPs? When it comes to leveraging technology to support any program, the key is to find technologies that enable or automate your process or a very close approximation of it as opposed to forcing adoption of the process technology developers had in mind. Small organizations with a relatively easy process could probably get by with spreadsheets, but as program complexity and organizational size increase, so too do the needs for technical support. Most ATS systems now provide some degree of tracking and workflow to support ERPs, but their method for dealing with referral submission is not one we advise. (The majority of ATS systems publish internal job boards that employees can browse and select jobs to refer others for. When a job is selected the employee enters the person’s name, a brief message and their email address, and the system sends the referral an invitation to apply for the job. Our primary objection to this process is that it converts the referral to applicant to early in the process and fails to provide a differentiated experience to referrals compared to say a stranger applying online.)

    A growing number of companies are using contact management or CRM technologies to support their referral program. Products like PeopleClick Contact Management and Intelestream’s Perpetual Sourcing have adapted the opensource CRM solution, Sugar CRM, for use in managing pre-applicant persons of interest. One benefit of such systems in that organizations can build custom front ends to the ERP quickly and affordably, then tie specific workflows and messaging campaigns to referrals on a hyper segmented basis. Additional technology solutions that employers might consider include “trouble ticketing” solutions. Such solutions would allow employees to submit referrals using a web-based form of the employers design and attach workflow to the referrals based on criteria. Referrals for positions in specific job families could be routed to a specific recruiter, priority could be assigned to referrals for hot jobs, etc.

  2. Do you recommend managing the ERP through an ATS or through a standalone program? The applicant tracking system exists to manage the workflow of applicants, so it makes sense that at some point the referral should find their way into the ATS. We just prefer that it happen later rather than sooner!
  3. Do you have experience or know a client using Kenexa as a tool combined with Employee Referrals? Organizations with highly engaged workforces tend to see significantly higher ERP participation rates, so using any workplace assessment instrument or vendor to better understand employee perceptions about you as an employer is a valuable activity. Tools such as those provided by Kenexa could be used periodically to assess overall employee perceptions or on a transactional basis to assess the employee/referrals experience with the program. We have found that addressing issues that employees perceive negatively will positively impact ERP performance.

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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