With a background in Talent Acquisition at recognizable companies like JC Penny, Red Bull, and Disney, Bryce Murray is also the Managing Director of the Los Angeles based Talent Acquisition Group that helps businesses acquire exceptional talent.
Prioritizing Talent in Practice
From working at highly selective and prestigious companies to running his own firm, Murray stands behind the belief that the quintessential asset to every business is talent. Having the best talent in place allows a company to access better opportunity, capital, product, experiences, and best of all, more top talent. Murray dedicates his time to better serve his clients by uncovering the best strategies in hiring. He believes a robust Employee Referral Program assists in the discovery of extraordinary talent.
1. What are the most important components of a good referral program?
First of all, the most important thing is that you have true engagement and buy-in from the business and business leaders that a referral program is valuable and effective. The second piece is that you have a talent acquisition or a talent function, that is committed to the follow-through. You need to make sure that you’ve got the business driving the referrals in the door and it’s the right kinds of referrals, almost an endorsement, not just a referral. An endorsement is someone who you’ve worked with in the past, and based on your experience and working with them previously, and your understanding of the organization you’re in today, you’re able to say I’m confident in their ability to not only perform their duties and the job, but also be a cultural contributor to our organization. Then on the talent acquisition side, you need to have that commitment and that follow-through to actually act upon on the referrals in a timely manner and handle them in the appropriate way so that there’s the right white-glove treatment for that talent, and it’s prioritized appropriately and followed through with whether or not they are the ones that end up being hired. There needs to be that promise that the business starts when they engage with someone they know and that follow through from talent acquisition.
2. What are the main challenges you’ve seen companies face when looking to increase their % of hires through referrals?
The first and the biggest one is getting people on board with the idea that referrals are critical. People will say yes I’ll think of referrals, but they don’t actually commit to it. Getting the buy-in from the business is typically the most difficult thing and it’s not always about using a monetary incentive. The next biggest hurdle is asking do you have the talent acquisition capability and bandwidth to follow up with those referrals and provide them with quality experience so that you can really reinforce that referral program.
3. How are referred candidates perceived by hiring managers at companies you’ve worked at?
Generally, candidates that come through as a referral do get some kind of positive bias from hiring managers because it came through a known quantity, whether that known quantity is directly known to them or not.
4. How have you marketed referral programs to create internal visibility?
I think there is all the standard stuff which is things like e-mail communications sent out to the organization from leaders. In the end, what’s most important, instead of it being an HR lead or Talent lead initiative, it needs to be Business lead. That’s a really important element of driving the awareness of the programs and the buy-in. The follow-through is to start celebrating the winners and having leaderboards. It’s finding a way to positively reinforce and cast a positive light on those who are engaged in the program and how it’s driving and making an impact so people can see that it matters, it’s not just about getting the referrals, but also highlight those successes. In some areas of the business where it was in hyper-growth like at Red Bull, there were some areas that were really critical, business leaders were starting to put individual KPIs in place for the team, even though their day job was not recruiting, they put KPIs in place needed to drive referral behavior. That’s when it’s under that business lead piece and that’s when you see these programs become the most successful when the business understands the value and when the leaders start to drive it.
5. What referral probation periods have you seen associated with cash rewards?
Generally, what I’ve seen is 90 days. It’s a safe window because at some point it now becomes a responsibility of the manager and the organization to cultivate an environment where someone wants to stay. I think you could reasonably attribute the first quarter or so to the individual, but again it also depends, if you’re not doing a cash-based incentive, all of a sudden the probation period doesn’t really matter.
6. Have you asked for referrals as part of the new onboarding process?
During the pre-boarding process, when somebody goes online to complete their new hire paperwork before their first day, they’re so excited about the company and they’re in this emotional high, the company can solicit who are the top 5 people they think really need to work there. Then, also 90 days later, an e-mail goes out that says now that they have a better taste for the company, did they have any other people to add? At that point, they have a better appreciation for the culture. One of the real values of a referral program is you’re not only referring people who are qualified but ideally you are referring people who are going to make a positive impact on the culture and team. They’re going to be additive to the culture and they’re going to make it better, and you can’t really make that kind of referral unless you’ve been with the organization for a little while.
7. What’s the #1 employee referral program tip you would like to pass on?
Make sure whatever precedent you set in the referral program as to the company’s EVP, is something you can actually live up to throughout the entire experience. Whether all somebody does is interview and then isn’t selected or if someone interviews and is hired. What’s really important is that you are able to stay true to and live up to the quality of the experience you are trying to offer in the referral program so that’s consistent with what the overall EVP is as an organization.
To prioritize talent and have a winning Employee Referrals program, here are my three takeaways from Murray:
Takeaway #1: Have buy-in from the business and the business leaders. It promotes better program awareness, understanding, and the importance of referrals.
Takeaway #2: Ask for referrals during the pre-boarding/on-boarding stage as well as a follow-up. Capitalize on the emotional excitement and willingness to assist as well as checking in after the employee develops an understanding of the business culture.
Takeaway #3: Ensure proper bandwidth and tools for referrals to be followed up. Referrals come with a positive bias and need to receive the quality experience of the white glove treatment on behalf of the employee who is providing the referral.
What similarities and differences do you notice with your referral program? What takeaways would you want to see implemented?
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