Madeline CecilWhen it comes to the 2022 hiring market, cutting through the noise of job boards and reaching qualified applicants directly is a momentous task. The simplest way to do this is to tap into your employees' already existing networks of former colleagues, neighbors, and friends in the form of an employee referral program.

There is a myriad of reasons why companies are leaning heavily on employee referrals to keep fully staffed, including that referred applicants are hired at four times the rate of non-referral candidates. In addition, these programs allow candidates to move forward with the hiring process quickly, with an average hire being made eight days after starting the hiring process compared to 11 days with a non-referral. Employee referral programs produce the types of hiring results that businesses are looking for; in fact, out of Hireology's customers alone, referral programs drive one in eight hires.

Not all employee referral programs are created equal, however. Even if your company already has one in place, there's always room for improvement. To keep your employee referral program from going stale, here is a list of five ways to get creative with your employee referral program.

1. Create multi-tiered ambassador programs.
Tap into your employees' competitive side with a tiered ambassador program. With this type of program, you design multiple tiers that offer higher rewards and more payout the more referrals someone submits. For example, someone who refers one candidate might be entered into tier one, which pays out $500 per hire. But someone who refers three candidates might be entered into tier two, earning them $750 per hire and additional company swag.

This encourages your employees to refer as many qualified applicant leads as possible. Multiple levels in this arrangement motivate employees to actively recruit from their networks in order to move up in the tiers and then receive higher rewards—all while you receive applications that are already vetted.

2. Utilize social media for referrals.
Your employees are already spending time on social media, and most of them are connected to hundreds of other individuals on these profiles. Take advantage of this network by encouraging your team to share open roles on their social media profiles.

You could offer to enter folks into a lottery to win gift cards, cash prizes, or additional paid time off for every role they share on social media. Or, with modern employee referral platforms, you can even provide employees with a personal link that allows you to track exactly which post referral candidates come from, making it even easier for you to reward your employees for sharing roles and driving applicants.
3. Focus on values in your recruitment programs.
Another way to get creative with your employee referral program is to build one designed to hire individuals who align with your company's values—widening your network of potential referral applicants.

With this type of program, you might broaden your employment parameters to candidates who meet certain values rather than your preferred list of skills and experiences. Many jobs can be learned, but values are hard to reshape; sometimes, encouraging your employees to refer folks who embody certain values over skills can help you find candidates who are a better fit in the long term. These types of programs can also be used to diversify your existing workforce.

4. Renew messaging with seasonal pushes.
With every season that passes, the world—and workforce—continues to change. Chances are your company is always in need of additions to your staff. People are always needed in some capacity. Some businesses experience temporary hires and labor shortages, but the perfect time to get ahead of being short staffed is before it affects your customers. That's why pushing an employee referral program seasonally with a simple rebranding can make all the difference in the hiring process and help keep your business running smoothly.

For example, during the holiday season, you could encourage employees to participate in this type of program by using messages like “Want to earn some extra cash for the holidays? Refer your friends to win $1,000," or “Use your vacation time to relax after earning $1,000 by referring a friend." With simple tweaks to the messaging, you use to incorporate the changing seasons, you can reuse the same reward program perpetually.

5. Target specific locations.
Say, for instance, that your branch in North Carolina is fully staffed, but the one in Kansas is in desperate need of employees. Instead of launching a company-wide referral campaign, you can tailor your employee referral messaging to receive only applicants from locations where you truly need them. By channeling your resources toward locations that need it most, you optimize your spending power and maximize ROI all in one go.

Employee referral programs work, so long as you put the effort into motivating your team to participate. Try one of the above strategies to breathe new life into your program today.

Madeline Cecil is a content writer for Hireology.