Rod Blomquist on Building a Successful Team with Employee Referrals

December 28, 2018 Alessandra Williams

Rod is known for his dedication and drive to deliver results. He has structured out a process that provides powerful solutions for hiring.

Lessons from a Leader on Employee Referrals

Rod BlomquistAs a dedicated professional with over 20 years of experience in recruiting, staffing, management, and human resources, Rod has a proven track record of success and demonstrated a history of increased responsibilities in on-site implementation and management, full-cycle recruiting along with staff and employee supervision. Take a page out of his playbook on what he has learned from his experience on building a company using a strong employee referrals program.

1. What are the most important components of a good referral program?

Ease of use is one important component. And potentially, the reward component, it needs to be easy to understand. That’s one of the things that RolePoint did well was the ease of use. That’s just really important. Honestly, I think that’s the most important thing is the ease of use and what’s in it for the employee for referring.

2. What are the main challenges you’ve seen companies face when looking to increase their % of hires through referrals?

Educating the employees on the importance of referrals, and what I mean by that is not just educating them on the tool that they’re going to be using, it’s educating them on the needs of the position, or the positions, that the company is looking to hire. For example, one of the things that can be problematic is that if you’re simply just trying to have a referral program that’s all about volume and they’re just referring their friends and you hear “‘oh, I know this person who could probably spell mortgage, does that help?” or “my mom is really interested in this type of work, so I’m referring her,” those types of things are not helpful, they clog up a referral program. Trying to educate the masses on understanding that there are basic criteria that these people have to have. For me, that was the biggest challenge. Again, call center environments, are different. Your main criteria there is really good customer service skills, and maybe dependability. But, in a more specific environment like a mortgage company, that was a little bit more challenging, we just didn’t want anybody being referred. There had to be a quality of a referral.

3. How are referred candidates perceived by hiring managers at companies you’ve worked at?

Well, loaded question, right? Because, of course, it comes down to which employee referred them. But, let’s just say this was a quality employee that referred someone, that referral would move to the top. I will just say, in general, referred candidates are perceived to be of a better quality than non-referred candidates, mostly being from the old adage that, or belief I guess you should say, in that a person would not refer someone who would not represent them well. The idea is, hopefully, behind referrals is that you are referring someone that somebody you think not only is going to help the company but is also going to make you look good.

4. How have you marketed referral programs to create internal visibility?

We had RolePoint and LenderLive posters throughout the high traffic areas and then we had index cards that we could leave in the lunch room that had the website, where to go to, how to register, and the Talent Acquisition team information as far as who to reach out to if you had any questions. For the most part, it was those types of materials. But, you had to change it up, though. That was the key thing. I would want to tell companies. Posters are great, putting them in coffee areas, putting them on doors where people walk in, and restrooms, wherever it is. After two months, they become part of the fabric of the building. You have to move them around or come up with different ideas.

5. Have you seen a positive impact on retention from referred candidates and on the employees doing the referring?

Yes, absolutely. That was something that was tracked later in RolePoint as the upgrades continued to be made. I was with RolePoint at the very beginning and saw it go through quite a few changes. We were eventually able to kind of measure, I think decently, the retention of referred candidates. Of course, that took some effort on the recruiters’ to make sure that they are changing statuses properly, and things like that. But definitely, I would say that there was a much higher retention from referred candidates. I will tell you that I believe we had probably a retention in overall, again it’s mortgage industry so it has relatively high turnover, we were somewhere exactly at one year. Now, when it came to referred candidates, I want to say it went up to an average of 18-20 months. That was at least a 50% retention difference with referred candidates.

6. Outside of the direct value of filling requisitions, have you experienced any other benefits of a strong referrals program?

In the areas where RolePoint was widely used in certain departments, overall, you are helping build morale amongst the team because they are now seeing friends and relatives being hired by the company. Employees are happier to work with people who they like and know. Morale increases when you have a really good referral program. People are bringing in like-minded, or people that they like, so therefore hopefully that creates a better environment for employees.

7. Have you ever incentivized with participation based rewards like gift cards, charity donations or raffle prizes?

We definitely did gift cards and prizes. For us, you earned, in essence, a raffle ticket for each qualified referral. I would caution companies that want to have a referral program strictly based on volume. For us, it was, important to lay groundwork criteria in place. Basic knockout questions that we created. First, if it’s qualified, you get a raffle ticket for a referral and raffle tickets would increase based on how far the candidate makes it through the process. Good way for us to reward quality.

8. Were any of your referral programs gamified with leaderboards of top referrers or competitions?

Yes, that’s another thing that we were able to do. RolePoint had that built into the system. Employees would log in and they could see the top referrers. We definitely had leaderboards, you have to, to keep the momentum going and improve competition.

9. Have you asked for referrals as part of the new onboarding process?

Oh my goodness, yes. In fact, RolePoint helped us to create this. We had a group onboarding, twice a month. We had slides to go through the company and the policies. One of the slides included the RolePoint partnership that we have. It spoke directly to the referral program and we would have people in the group raise their hands and share who they were referred by. Referrals are such a huge thing, and at the moment when employees are coming into your company, it is a positive environment and catches them right then when it’s still fresh and you can create that as part of the culture.

10. How have referred candidates compared on a cost-per-hire basis to other candidate sources?

In order for me to continue to extend with RolePoint, I had to demonstrate why RolePoint was justified. Not that is was crazy expensive in the first place. To some other people, it was an easy thing to cut. We had to show that the referrals, not only that the retention rate, of course, was longer, but the process and overall cost and less time the recruiters have to spend. Referred candidates by far, substantially cheaper, on a cost-per-hire basis than any source.

11. What’s the #1 employee referral program tip you would like to pass on?

Quality over quantity. It depends on the environment. For the jobs I was managing, quality was such an important thing. Also, buy-in, not just from the employees, that happens naturally if you have buy-in from the leadership above. Our biggest challenge wasn’t getting Human Resources, Talent Aquisition, or Recruiting to get them to understand the importance of a referral program or invest in a tool like RolePoint, it was getting the leadership to understand. Work with RolePoint and have your ducks in a row as far as being prepared to educate the leadership team on what the importance is. Of course, what that comes down to is saving money and the high return on investment.

With 20 years of experience, Rod knows best and I found a lot of what he said to be valuable content. Here are my three takeaways.

Takeaway #1: Education on the quality and importance of making a referral. It’s key for employees understanding what the criteria are and how they know if a referral is a good fit to lead to the overall success of the program.

Takeaway #2: Morale increases when you have an easy to use referral program and with a reward component that is easy to understand. When employees can easily use the referrals platform and start seeing friends and relatives being hired by the company, it fosters a healthier and happier environment.

Takeaway #3: Referred candidates have a 50% increase in retention rate and have the overall lowest cost-per-hire with the least amount of time to onboard. Ultimately, referrals are the best combination for growing a team and filling open positions.

What would you use to describe your company’s referral program in one word? What did you like best that Rod shared?

Send us our thoughts and opinions. Please don’t hesitate to share the interview with those who can also benefit from a stronger employee referrals program!

About the Author

Alessandra Williams

Alessandra Williams, our Marketing Development Lead, spearheads the efforts of organizing company-sponsored events. She loves connecting with passionate and innovative recruitment leaders who believe the people at their companies are genuinely their best asset. For the past several years, she has traveled all over the country to interview prominent thought leaders and provide encouragement to those who want to learn about the best industry practices, such as the benefits of implementing a strong employee referrals and internal mobility program. When she's not working, she is back home in sunny Southern California and loves walking her dog, exploring historical sites and museums, going on hikes, practicing yoga, and eating to her heart's content at the best restaurants (yes, feel free to reach out to her for recommendations and help with SF & LA reservations).

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