How to make a social referral program work #trulondon

One of my top 3 conversations I had last year, was with Brave New Talents newly appointed Director of Strategy, Master Burnett. Master is one of the smartest people I know, and I’m confident that with Master behind the plan, Brave New talent will achieve the lofty ambitions of founder Lucian Tarnowski, to become THE talented network. It was one of those conversations that almost makes your head hurt because you have to go away and really think about it, write-up your thoughts and keep going back to the conversation in your head, figuring out the right position to take.

We were at #truSanfran, and it was an unusual one for me because I found myself disagreeing with Master. He is a smart guy, and that doesn’t happen often. We were discussing referrals, and how to make programs work. Master is a bit of an expert in this, having spent the last 7 years or so researching referral programs, good and bad. He knows his stuff, so why did we disagree?

Master Burnett

I don’t differ from Master in this point, recommendations where there is a past relationship, knowledge of work and trust should always take priority, but I think we should take things further. I’m interested in the quantity as well as the quality. I want the employees of the company to be the introducers and not the recruiters. The recruiters should be the recruiters. I want them deciding who to see and who fits,.I want the employees to give the recruiters access by introduction, and I want the quantity, as well as the quality.

This is what I see as the difference between social referrals and recommendations. I understand the ratios are going to be vastly different, but if I can get the reach and the introductions, based on scale, I can get to the point where social referrals are the main source of hire, where there is high volume requirements. So whats the difference?

Each employee has an average of 125 friends on Facebook, and 220 LinkedIn connections. My research shows a 20% crossover, and about 70% relevance. Do the math for the possible reach if you got even half your employees involved in the referral program.

The social referral tech (you can read my review of the products HERE), matches profiles to jobs to come up with possible introductions. It’s quick, and the more intelligent software learns to get more and more accurate. I understand that only a %, probably no more than 10% of your connections are going to be known to you. I’m not looking for you to recommend who is a good fit, but to introduce me in the channel where you are connected, so that I can make a choice. This type of referral will only work when you’ve removed any type of accountability, and you’ve made it clear that you are not looking for recommendations.

It does help however, if employees can indicate those they recommend, as well as those they socially refer. I agree 100% with Master that the recommendations will be the most effective, and best source of hire. Priority must be given to these candidates, but I want both, to achieve higher volume hiring requirements. To get access to an employees social networks, I need to work on certain conditions of trust. This is a big communication exercise at launch to get accepted. We establish a trust contract with the employees.

The referral program contract:

> The software accesses your connections and matches with your permission.  The recruiters have no access until they are contacted by the refered person. You can remove access at any time.

> We acknowledge these are your connections and your network that you have worked hard to establish.

>We won’t scrape or export your contacts in to a database. Your network is your network.

>We won’t message or spam anyone. You decide who to message, when, what to say and how often.

>We won’t hold you accountable or responsible for introductions.

>We don’t expect you to know the people you introduce unless you say otherwise.

>Your referrals will be given priority.

>We will review your referrals within 48 hours and give you feedback.

>We will give you feedback on progress.

>We will provide you with anything you need to refer jobs.

>We need your help to hire the best people, and will track and recognise your contribution.

>We will strive to provide the best candidate experience possible. We understand that these are your introductions.

Social referrals form a big part of the consultancy work I do. From talking to teams and looking at schemes, I’ve drawn the following conclusions:

> Cash rewards don’t work.

> Referring needs to be technology enabled, quick and simple.

> The recruiters need to do the work, not the referer.

> Reward referrals not hires.

> Competitions work especially i-pads. A scheme that worked really well for me was a raffle ticket for each referral, with an i-pad as the prize.

> Public recognition, T-Shirts etc work wonders.

> Referral programs need high visibility on an ongoing basis. Posters, mailers and requests work wonders.

>Make sharing easy.

>Don’t ask staff to get or upload resumes.

>Leader boards and inclusion in reviews and meetings go far.

>Make sharing simple.Provide shortened links and plenty of supporting content.

>Work on relationships rather than expect referrals. (If you have people not referring, spend time with them to find out why.)

I agree with Master 100% that the preference is for recommendations. They will get you the best hires, but using social reach and referral has the potential to get you all your hires. Michelle Rea of Social Honesty and SocialCruiter, a recommendation product, and Pete Linas of Bullhorn Reach, a referral product will be leading the referral track at #trulondon, and I will be joining the conversation. With direct recruiters coming from the BBC, Oracle, Accenture, SalesForce and plenty of others, as well as agency recruiters, it’s not one you’d want to miss!


9 comments on “How to make a social referral program work #trulondon

  1. I love the referral contract. Can we use it 🙂 Should be an industry standard.

  2. I wish I could be in that track in London in February, but I’ll be in San Diego seeing what the sun looks like again. Maybe we can revisit it in Stockholm?

    “If there were any logic to the English language then TRUST would be a four letter word.”

    I do not believe that you will get the quantity you seek because I do not believe that employees will trust recruiters to this degree. My network is MY network (as you acknowledge). I do not trust that recruiters will treat this network with the the same TLC that I would. Maybe this would work in a 100 person company where I personally know the recruiter, but in a large company people will not likely have a personal relationship with the recruiter and thus not the requisite trust.

    It is my network and I want unconditional control over it. I am interested in helping my company acquire a large quantity of quality talent, but I am not about to put the keys to my house in their hands, no matter how thoughtful and extensive the contract might be. I will broker all relationships with my network to ensure the integrity and trust in my network.

    I understand the quest for reach, but I think it is impractical.

    Now I am ready to be on the receiving end… 😉

    Long live the San Francisco State Gators!

    • Jeff,
      Thanks for commenting. I’m afraid you are calling this one wrong in that. When referral programs are high profile, and the control of the network stays with the account owners, and this is made clear, then you get the sign ups. The rewards and recognition need to be clear and easy. I’ve seen it working in large and small companies.

      • Hi Bill!

        Excellent if your data shows that it works. I can’t really argue against proven success. I was just intuitively skeptical on my own account. I also imagine that the data shows cultural differences. I’d be surprised if this works in Scandinavia, for example. People here are pretty cautious in this area.

        And, will it work in the future as more and more people get violated in social networks? Or will we as a culture come to accept having our data violated (As one colleague said today: “We just expect to get data raped if we agree to use FB. We’d be surprised if we didn’t!”)? Or will there be a backlash that will disrupt programs like this?

        Happy Weekend!


  3. Bill,

    I don’t think we ever disagreed, as there is a time and place for both approaches. Some organizations are in business situations where quantity is not a problem of too little, but rather too much and vice versa.
    Organizations should always leverage employee referral not to check the box and say they have one, but rather as part of a strategy to solve BUSINESS problems.
    Regardless, many of the principles that drive desired recommended referrals also drive unvetted social referrals!

  4. […] Do candidates really want to apply for jobs through their mobile, asks Peter Gold. Peter will be running a track looking for answers, sharing findings from his Linkedin poll and looking at the implications of mobile for the entire hiring process. TRU London 2012: Should the online job application be mobile? Preview piece from event disorganiser Bill Boorman. #TruLondon 5: You wouldn’t want to miss it! What’s the difference between referral and recommendation? Bill Boorman looks at the issues, which will be discussed at Tru London. How to make a social referral program work #trulondon […]

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