“The way of the world is meeting people through other people.” – Robert Kerrigan
Just imagine you employed a large network of recruiters, all with industry knowledge and phonebooks crammed full of experienced and dynamic performers from across the sector. Wouldn’t that make finding the very best talent easier?
Well the good news is that you do – you just need to make better use of it.
The transport and infrastructure sector can be relatively close-knit and the organisations within it regularly hire from each other. Your staff will know people from other companies either through working with them directly, in collaboration, from industry events or even from university.
So a great way of bringing in good candidates for your role is through a well-thought out internal referral scheme, where existing staff are rewarded for putting forward someone outside the firm who might be right for a role.
The benefits of this approach are threefold:
- The costs are minimal compared with recruiting the job externally via headhunting firms or advertising and conducting a lengthy search process.
- There is a better chance of getting a good candidate who fits your company if they have been referred by an existing employee who has worked with them and knows how they behave in a real working environment.
- The target candidate may well be easier to persuade to join your organisation if their friend or former colleague is already with you and saying positive things.
However, you can’t just set up an internal referral scheme and think the strong, enthusiastic candidates will turn up at your door. There are a few rules to making the system a success:
1. Develop a positive working environment and culture.
To stand a chance of employees recommending your role to their friends, family and former colleagues, you have to make sure the staff themselves have a positive view of working for you.
As discussed in the previous blog post on employer branding, this boils down to treating staff fairly and giving them opportunities to develop.
2. Give staff an incentive to use the scheme.
People are busy with their day jobs and their outside lives and they won’t go to extra effort for nothing. Think about the benefits of getting the right person for the job and offer rewards accordingly.
3. Be proactive.
Tell people it exists, advertise it in the staff kitchen and put it in the newsletter. Get someone from your HR or recruitment team to go to team meetings and run through the latest vacancies. Remind people at every opportunity of the roles you are looking to fill and why they should help you out. Remember that as well as any direct rewards, the benefits include working with someone they already know and like.
4. Don’t just focus on current vacancies.
One of the best techniques I’ve seen, is from large companies with internal recruitment teams who actively visit new hires at their desks to check how they are settling in – and to ask who they rate from their old firm. This allows recruiters to build up databases of highly thought of staff at their competitors, preferably with contact numbers, for future use.
5. Treat referrals properly.
If someone is recommended to you by an existing employee and then feels messed about by the interview process or isn’t given constructive feedback about why they weren’t chosen, they will let the employee know and this could damage their own morale. Word could get around and it could put staff off using the referral scheme in the future.
However, research shows that if a referral is successful, the employee that put the candidate forward tends to feel engaged and will stay at the company longer.
The benefits of a successful referral scheme are so huge that you might be wondering why everyone doesn’t take advantage of the internal employee network at their disposal.
There are of course reasons why referral schemes might fail. Sometimes companies are not comfortable directly approaching their competitors’ staff, and often senior managers have clauses in their exit deals that prevent them from persuading colleagues to go with them. Recruiting managers can also become nervous that they are not seeing enough of the market if they only interview a direct referral.
One of the biggest concerns of a referral scheme is a lack of diversity as employees are more likely to recommend a person with similar characteristics to themselves, particularly in terms of background and age, which can lead to ‘cloning’.
One way of overcoming issues such as this is to use an independent executive search specialist such as ourselves. As an independent advisor, we are far enough removed from the situation to make those network approaches with competitors without the company’s reputation suffering, whilst still giving you a broad perspective on the market as a whole.
**This blog post is the fourth of seven based on Newsom Consulting’s eBook The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Senior Managers in Transport and Infrastructure***
To get your free copy of the e-book of “The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Senior Managers in Transport & Infrastructure” please click HERE