One of my top 3 conversations I had last year, was with Brave New Talents newly appointed Director of Strategy, Master Burnett. Master is one of the smartest people I know, and I’m confident that with Master behind the plan, Brave New talent will achieve the lofty ambitions of founder Lucian Tarnowski, to become THE talented network. It was one of those conversations that almost makes your head hurt because you have to go away and really think about it, write-up your thoughts and keep going back to the conversation in your head, figuring out the right position to take.

We were at #truSanfran, and it was an unusual one for me because I found myself disagreeing with Master. He is a smart guy, and that doesn’t happen often. We were discussing referrals, and how to make programs work. Master is a bit of an expert in this, having spent the last 7 years or so researching referral programs, good and bad. He knows his stuff, so why did we disagree?

Master Burnett

I don’t differ from Master in this point, recommendations where there is a past relationship, knowledge of work and trust should always take priority, but I think we should take things further. I’m interested in the quantity as well as the quality. I want the employees of the company to be the introducers and not the recruiters. The recruiters should be the recruiters. I want them deciding who to see and who fits,.I want the employees to give the recruiters access by introduction, and I want the quantity, as well as the quality.

This is what I see as the difference between social referrals and recommendations. I understand the ratios are going to be vastly different, but if I can get the reach and the introductions, based on scale, I can get to the point where social referrals are the main source of hire, where there is high volume requirements. So whats the difference?

Each employee has an average of 125 friends on Facebook, and 220 LinkedIn connections. My research shows a 20% crossover, and about 70% relevance. Do the math for the possible reach if you got even half your employees involved in the referral program.

The social referral tech (you can read my review of the products HERE), matches profiles to jobs to come up with possible introductions. It’s quick, and the more intelligent software learns to get more and more accurate. I understand that only a %, probably no more than 10% of your connections are going to be known to you. I’m not looking for you to recommend who is a good fit, but to introduce me in the channel where you are connected, so that I can make a choice. This type of referral will only work when you’ve removed any type of accountability, and you’ve made it clear that you are not looking for recommendations.

It does help however, if employees can indicate those they recommend, as well as those they socially refer. I agree 100% with Master that the recommendations will be the most effective, and best source of hire. Priority must be given to these candidates, but I want both, to achieve higher volume hiring requirements. To get access to an employees social networks, I need to work on certain conditions of trust. This is a big communication exercise at launch to get accepted. We establish a trust contract with the employees.

The referral program contract:

> The software accesses your connections and matches with your permission.  The recruiters have no access until they are contacted by the refered person. You can remove access at any time.

> We acknowledge these are your connections and your network that you have worked hard to establish.

>We won’t scrape or export your contacts in to a database. Your network is your network.

>We won’t message or spam anyone. You decide who to message, when, what to say and how often.

>We won’t hold you accountable or responsible for introductions.

>We don’t expect you to know the people you introduce unless you say otherwise.

>Your referrals will be given priority.

>We will review your referrals within 48 hours and give you feedback.

>We will give you feedback on progress.

>We will provide you with anything you need to refer jobs.

>We need your help to hire the best people, and will track and recognise your contribution.

>We will strive to provide the best candidate experience possible. We understand that these are your introductions.

Social referrals form a big part of the consultancy work I do. From talking to teams and looking at schemes, I’ve drawn the following conclusions:

> Cash rewards don’t work.

> Referring needs to be technology enabled, quick and simple.

> The recruiters need to do the work, not the referer.

> Reward referrals not hires.

> Competitions work especially i-pads. A scheme that worked really well for me was a raffle ticket for each referral, with an i-pad as the prize.

> Public recognition, T-Shirts etc work wonders.

> Referral programs need high visibility on an ongoing basis. Posters, mailers and requests work wonders.

>Make sharing easy.

>Don’t ask staff to get or upload resumes.

>Leader boards and inclusion in reviews and meetings go far.

>Make sharing simple.Provide shortened links and plenty of supporting content.

>Work on relationships rather than expect referrals. (If you have people not referring, spend time with them to find out why.)

I agree with Master 100% that the preference is for recommendations. They will get you the best hires, but using social reach and referral has the potential to get you all your hires. Michelle Rea of Social Honesty and SocialCruiter, a recommendation product, and Pete Linas of Bullhorn Reach, a referral product will be leading the referral track at #trulondon, and I will be joining the conversation. With direct recruiters coming from the BBC, Oracle, Accenture, SalesForce and plenty of others, as well as agency recruiters, it’s not one you’d want to miss!

Bill