This is one of those posts that started as a comment and just grew from there.I had so much to say on the topic of referrals that this post is the result. The original post comes from Andy Headworth’s excellent blog Sirona Says. Andy’s post:

 “Will TalentBin be the new social recruiting referral product that hits the spot? “

Andy comments: “Yesterday I was made aware of another new one – but this time rather than be a Facebook App that relies on sharing and broadcasting job opportunities (like the majority of the ones above), this one called TalentBin only reaches into your employees networks and does not broadcast jobs. ” I thank Andy for bringing this product to my attention, though there is one feature that I think will restrict it’s use. This is not a technical aspect, it is related towards the psychology that sits behind implementing referral scheme. I’ve been involved in implementing social referral programs for the last 7 – 9 months, and they are proving very effective.

The principle is simple, each employee has an average of 125 Facebook friends and 220 LinkedIn connections, (less the 20% cross-over) theres significant reach across combined employee networks. The relevance of these networks also makes for a greater potential for success. Most people’s networks across these social channels consist of family (less likely to be relevant) then school/college alumni, many with similar academic backgrounds, former colleagues, similar business contacts, people located close to the employer/employee and other industry contacts. When you combine this reach and relevance  it’s a really attractive proposition for recruiting teams.

Where I see the limitations of TalentBin, and this is just my opinion, is that employees are asked to give over their networks to the recruiters and let them do as they wish with them where they find a match. My experience of this is that people just won’t do that. people are understandably protective over their networks particularly with regard recruiters, even in the same company. Would you hand over your connections by granting access to your recruiting team? Probably not! The other limitation of TalentBin as far as I can see, compared to the other referral products is that the possible matching is by job title only and this is often inaccurate or changes from organisation to organisation, where as other products enable geolocational, skill or free text matching. This works much better for me in the matching. One of the new features of the Work4Labs referral application that really works for me is that recruiters get notifications of those employees who have matches for jobs without giving the detail of the match, names etc. This enables the recruiter to see where they should be focussing internal relationships and referral partnerships. If you work in the sales team and have matches in your network, it’s a great time to have a coffee and a conversation about how we can work together to strengthen the team.the key here being that the recruiter can influence the referral program (and it’s outcomes), while leaving the network and the message firmly with the employee who has invested time building the connections.

The 3 referral products that I’m very familiar with are wok4labs, Bullhorn Reach and SocialCruiter.Whilst the first two allow Facebook sharing to all, both have the functionality for targeted shares via private messages in FB. One of the key benefits of these Work4Labs and bullhorn Reach are that they are opt in, and users signing up in to the referral program can choose the frequency and channel for messaging. If you are messaging all employees or contacts to ask if they know any referrals regardless of who is in their network, then this quickly becomes spam, by allowing the user to dictate how they want to receive messages you keep them happy, engaged and in control.

The confusion for people is over the term referral. I think most products have seen the need to move away from the broadcast approach to the targeted approach after negative user feedback. The new referral tools are clever in the way they work, the trick is in how you market this internally, the big step being getting trust to access their networks. I’ve just been involved in helping with this using Work4labs referral product with oracle. it has been very succesful at L’Oreal and also need to reassure staff that they control the message (not you), who they send it to and what it says, as well as that you wont retain any contact details in a database. The other challenge is getting recruiters to understand that a social referral is not a recommendation in the old way. It’s an introduction to a profile/job match. the referral data quoted by many refers to old school recommendations where one person knows another and feels there is a real fit. you need to overcome this perception to make referral programmes work. The exception to this is the soon to be launched SocialCruiter from Michelle rea’s company SocialHonesty, which combines the latest matching technology with old school recommendations driven through recruiter/employee partnerships. This emphasis on genuine recommendation over social referral, whilst lacking the reach of other products in terms of the numbers, concentrates on real life relationships.

Interestingly, offering cash rewards for referrals hired are proving to be a real negative. it seems people don’t like to feel they are selling their friends/contacts. What works best are initiatives like i-pad competitions. Art Papas, CEO of Bullhorn Reach commented that when they offered an i-pad for a week-long referral competition, he wondered if anyone had done any work such was the volume of referrals. I have heard similar storys from larger corporate companies who have been looking at why what looks like a tempting cash referral program just doesn’t return the numbers.

I was lucky enough to visit Rackspace at San Antonio for #TNL, and the work Michael Long is doing on global culture branding is really outstanding. 100′s of different Rackspace branded T-shirts with appropriate slogans adorn the walls and are proudly worn by the staff around the building.  It’s small things like this that make the difference between employer branding and what I call employer blanding. (Copying what everyone else is doing and turning out all the same.). One of these shirts that really stood out for me was one with the slogan on the frount: “It takes one to know one!” and on the back, “Certified Rackspace Referrer.”. Winning shirts that denoted Certified Racker Referrer were highly prized. I’ve used a similar tactic and those without shirts do all they can to make referrals and join the club! Long has gone much further in developing this concept. Theres a Racker referral charter that goes around through all internal comms and a most wanted list (along with posters), to remind the employees the talent they want to connect with through referrals.

One of the features that really work on the outstanding employee feedback/communication platform Rypple is the on-line badges. Whilst this might sound like a gamification gimmick, I know that they have a real value to the employees who receive them. One company I advise send out on-line referral badges to recognise those staff who are making referrals and operate a leader board. The recognition aspect  of the badges count for a lot, and the badges feature highly in performance reviews. Those who doubt the value of on-line badges only need to look at organisations like TGI Fridays who for many years have used real pin badges to recognise and reward performance. Using them to motivate employees in to making referrals in to the system really works.

What is important with any reward program linked to referals is that the rules are completely transparent and easy to follow. Even if the rewards are”token” with little value, if people feel cheated they will stop referring and start complaining.I’ve seen more people complaining over referral rewards than anything else. Make the way in which points are awarded very clear, communicate them early and make sure they are very visible in all communications. One big area you need to consider before launching a referral campaign is the rules of ownership of referrals. If the candidates are already in your ATS, what happens? If more than one employee sends a link to the same candidate, who owns that application? Consider all the variables that can cause conflict and they probably will. Success comes from transparency and clarity. One of the benefits you get from using the applications listed is that the original message to connect the contact with the job or intro can be tracked via a unique URL or reference. Applying these references to the stage of the introduction process makes automated tracking, scoring and reward via your ATS quite simple. What I have been finding is that by applying a rule of “ownership” to the

Another potential development to consider is internal mobility via referral. I know from the time I’ve spent with Arie Ball at Sodexo that internal mobility represent 10% of their current management hires. Sodexo have had to work hard on developing a culture where active internal sourcing was possible and accepted. If you consider the potential for an internal referral program where colleagues can refer colleagues for jobs, and priority is given to these referrals  as the relationship goes beyond the social connection with current working knowledge. Using the Sodexo recruiting model, the sameprinciple can be applied to the group Sodexo refer to as reconexions, former employees who have left the organisation. Former colleagues can use the referral messaging technology to identify jobs former colleagues may be suitable for, and sendpersonal messages. Reconnexions represent 15% of Sodexo hires currently, the introduction of a referal program in this area would only serve to increase this %, again based on pre-established relationships. When you know somone, yourmore likely to open their message, consider it and respond. Thisis a great model for other businesses to consider implementing.

Matthew Jefferey of Autodesk wrote recently in his excellent post, recruitment 4.0 that the future of recruiting, along with manyother points, lies in an organisations capability to crowd source and gain internal and external referrals. These referral applications take the hard work out of the matching, stretching reach beyond memory. The key factor here is that the technology makes referrals quick and simple to effect, critical when you consider the time pressures employees are under. While Matthew’s post might seem a pipe dream, with the technology, reach and creating a referral culture, it is not inconceivable that all sourcing and hiring can go this way.

I recently spoke with Quezia Soares, the Recruiting Marketing Manager at Accenture in the UK, about how they are implementing their referral program. Accenture are looking beyond their employees for social referrals, opening their referral program to external contacts who are connected with any of the Accenture talent communities.When you consider the volume of contacts who belong to these networks, then you’re talking significant reach. Incorporate the right recognition and reward program for external as well as internal contacts and you expand the potential to fill your requirements quickly.

In a recent post I wrote about predictive internet behaviours of people when they are preparing to move from passive to active job seeker, and how the radar application within Bullhorn Reach currently does this with great accuracy with LinkedIn, and will soon incorporate channels like Facebook, Twitter, possibly even Google. Bullhorn reach have recently launched a refferal application that works in much the same way to those described, scanning the same channels. If you can combine Radar across all employee’s networks, matching contacts at this critical stage as they are preparing to enter the job market with open requirements, and make it easy for employees to send relevent jobs with a personalised, private message, then you could be on to something really effective.

One of the interesting aspects of the referral application that is soon going to be piloted in Monsters BeKnown application is a public referral area. This enables recruiters to offer rewards for referrals and promote the opening associated with it. Once registered for the referral, 6th Sense, Monsters matching software scans the profiles of their network making suggestions on matches. What I really like about BeKnown is that the profiles are built on combined skills over job titles.This feature combined with geolocational matching of user profiles will, I’m sure, produce different results to the standard matching and opens another referral avenue for recruiters. The removal of the LinkedIn API from BeKnown will have some impact on reach, but the Monster network, as well as the users FaceBook connections makes for pretty big potential reach.

Another byproduct of increased referral recruiting is going to be the candidate experience. When your employees or contacts are making referrals to you, they expect you to treat them properly, in a timely way with accurate feedback. If any of these areas are poor, then the referral program will fall down. People will always go back to their original introducer if they are not hearing back or feel badly treated. Before going down the route of implementing a referral program, employers need to get the infastructure in place to manage this candidate flow and make sure they are being looked after, fail in this and the referrals dry up.This need for real candidate attention will have a big impact on moving the candidate experience in the right direction. The recruiters pledge to employees or contacts  needs to be that whoever they introduce to the process will be taken care of, and won’t be going back to them for anything other than thanks! To cope with the volume of referrals and the level of care needed for these candidates, it is realistic to look at redeploying resourcers from sourcing to candidate care, managing the process and acting as the filter to manage the transition from referral to candidate and beyond. Your employees will do the sourcing for you in an effective way!Due to time pressures, recruiters will always prioritise clear matches, with those who don’t fit current requirment falling between the gaps without feedback. Using resourcers in this way means that the referrrals can be prioritised, directed to the best recruiter for them, or given feedback to keep them happy. The only thing to consider here is that even the best automated matching technology is no more than 70% accurate, although the vendors would probably claim better. The “magic” hires tend to be in the grey rather than the black and white matching that comes with automation. You can never automate the sourcers ability to know what’snot included in a profile that you can make an informed assumption that it is probably there. You can also never automate recruiters gut feel, when you know personality or culture feel will more than make up for a lack of skill or experience. However successful the automated match and referral process may prove, always ensure you keep human elements in the process.

The other consideration is the potential impact of mobile on the process. I have been speaking with Chris Bradshaw at Allthetopbanas, the all round mobile guys around where mobile can fitin with refferal. Its well documented that 55% of socialmedia content is posted by mobile. we also know, as has been discussed in previous blog posts that visits to social places and career sites rise significantly at the down times in the day. This is usually between 7.45 and 9.00 a.m, 10.50 – 11.10 am, 11.40 – 2.10 p.m,  and 4.50 – 9.05 p.m. This is the times when people are commuting or on breaksand “browsing” the internet during their down time. This impacts on when we should be live in the social channels to respond to requests or conversation. From a referral point of view, adding mobile capability either through a dedicated referral app or incorporating  referral functions in to your internal communications app. By keeping the functions simple, enabling matches to be pushed out to employees who have opted in to your referral scheme,and for them to send messages and introductions simply from mobile devices, i’m confident that this could play a key part in driving social referrals.

At #TruBoston, Mike Vangel, the VP for Client Talent Acquisition Strategy at TMP, gave me access to the data from the succesful social recruiting campaign he put together for UPS. What was really interesting about this story was that by far the most succesful method of communication was via text. Text had by far the highest open rate and response. I accept that this was effected by the high volume of hourlypaid staff recruited on a seasonal basis, but theres no rule that referral can’t apply at every level. Because of the personal nature of text, it needs to be opt in. This leads me to think that when the first referral message is sent, the recipient should have the function to elect to receive further updates by text. By the same token, users of the referral scheme amongst employees should also have the option to receive notifications and communication by text. Put the power to the user to choose how they want to be communicated with, where and when!

We don’t have enough data yet to know the effectivness of social referral programs, the referral data often quoted really relates to traditional referrals: i:e: Recomendations basedon previous relationship and experience. We do however have the right conditions to confidently predict that social referrals will become the main source of hire by the early part of 2012. The technology makes it quick and simple. the employees have the networks which when combined, offer unprecedented targeted reach. We understand enough about the recruiting infastructure needed tomake a referral program work,and we are begining to learn what rewards and recognition employees want to make referrals work. While it can be argued that in many cases we don’t have Recruiter 1.0 yet, with these considerations Matthew Jefferey’s vision outlined in Recruitment 4.o with reguards referrals are a distinct possibility sooner rather than later!

I will be talking about the cool referral tools (and others) as part of my track in the unconference track at #ATCSource next week. If you are in the Melbourne area, come and join the conversation.

I will also be talking refferals at #truRomania and #truLondon. Would be great to hear your views. At #truLondon you will also get the opportunity to join Matthew Jefferey to talk Recruiting 4.0, Allthetopbanas to talk mobile, Work4Labs, SocialCruiter and Bullhorn Reach to talk referral schemes, Arie Ball to talk about what Sodexo do, as well as internal mobility and reconnecting with past employees. Theres a host of other great track leaders taking part from around the globe. There’s 11 tickets left, you should really grab one!








Bullhorn Reach

Andy Headworths post on TalentBin

Matthew Jefferey/ERE on Recruitment 4.o