Bethany Parthun, the Corporate HR Manager of Talent at Evolution Hospitality, has spent nearly a decade as an advocate to champion her team to grow and fulfill their potential as their hotel group expands in development and recruits the top talent.
It’s All About the People
Knowing how to read people and anticipate their needs is the foundation of hospitality. Communication, diligence, and managing all the details are paramount. Parthun knows firsthand what that means as she builds her teams of hospitality professionals for all their hotels across the country. She invests into hiring the right people to support the company seeing the right results. She demonstrates the value of relying on a strong Employee Referral Program to help meet the needs of recruitment and retention.
1. What are the most important components of a good referral program?
First, all the leaders and senior people in the company have to be completely sold off and 100% committed. Beyond that, it’s just communication. We’re good at introducing the concept of referrals and how to generate referrals from our employees. It’s how do you keep that referral culture alive? Ongoing communication and engagement from the leaders that funnels and pushes that downwards is incredibly helpful.
2. What are the main challenges you’ve seen companies face when looking to increase their % of hires through referrals?
Some of the challenges are communicating to people what a referral is and how to keep a referral database quality. We’re not looking for 10-15 people that you know that you’ve worked with that you’re tossing names in a database, we want to know who you’ve worked with that you think would be a great fit in our culture, be results driven, and thrive in our organization. A key component is communicating what we’re looking for.
3. How are referred candidates perceived by hiring managers at companies you’ve worked at?
Referrals are those who already have their heads in the game. You can typically assume that they have a good sense of culture, and what it takes to thrive at the company.
4. How have you marketed referral programs to create internal visibility?
We’ve done informal campaigns offering employees $1,000 for someone that gets hired for some of the key, hard to fill positions. Part of the future plan is to implement campaigns on an on-going basis for hard-to-fill roles. Company is unique, we manage 50 different hotels by 20 different owners.
5. Have you ever incentivized with participation based rewards like gift cards, charity donations or raffle prizes?
Right now we have gift cards which seem to be the best option, and we’re brainstorming other ideas of partnering with vendors i.e. using Southwest to give points away. We’ve talked about sponsoring a charity that employee is passionate about, they can either take the $200 cash bonus, or we’ll double the amount and send it to a charity you care about.
6. Have you ever performed any offline referral advertising (e.g. posters, lunches, recruiter 1 on 1s with employees)?
Talent Link is the name of the referral program and we created posters about it which we sent to all the properties and had them put in the employee break rooms and by the time clock where employees clock in and out. Also, when we onboard new employees at the corporate office, we spend 30 minutes on the referral program. We give a small handout around the referral program. We send out emails around Talent Link as reminders you can use it on mobile, plane, train, car to keep it in front of people.
7. What’s the #1 employee referral program tip you would like to pass on?
Communication, communication, communication. There constantly needs to be communication on what the program is. Our company is growing so fast and experiencing new growth with hundreds of new employees added on in just a few weeks rapidly. Keeping the communication alive has been a challenge for us. It’s a combination of offering the right incentives but also keeping employees accountable to give the company referrals and how the company incentivizes for that. A lot of our employees are out there are networking, meeting new people in the industry on a daily basis, and how do we get them to think about this when they’re out there and get into the mindset of looking at everyone as to whether they would be a good fit for the organization.
Like Parthun, to master the art of recruitment, here are my three takeaways:
Takeaway #1: As the culture creators, the leadership and senior people need to be fully in support of the referral program. The rest of the employees will follow suit once and embrace the importance and commitment of referrals within the organization.
Takeaway #2: Communication builds engagement. Information around the concept of referrals, how they are generated, and what the company is looking for needs to be clear and straightforward so employees understand and can get on board with the program.
Takeaway #3: Develop brand and marketing around the program to build awareness and keep it top of mind. Naming the program, using posters, and sending out e-mail campaigns work to continue the program’s momentum and success.
What are your takeaways? Does your company have a strong program like Evolution Hospitality? Let us know your favorite answers and what you think can improve your company’s referral program.
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