On referrals and rewards

Almost any company I know runs a referral program to acquire the freshest and the best talent out there. The leadership (including the HR) always know referrals are so much better than hiring from outside in the long run. Yet, most referral policies suck. They aren’t simple and have way too many clauses any well-intentioned person would care to read.

Here’s the worst of all — you get a reward (which in most cases is a paltry sum of money or a gift certificate) after your referral has completed his/her probationary period (six months mostly). And if god forbid, they aren’t good enough to graduate through the probationary period or things just don’t work out, you, the referee, basically get a ‘thanks for nothing.’ Does that sound fair? Let me tell you, it’s not.

The number one reason why HR folks have a referral policy is to play it safe. Just like all the other 1,793 citations within the employee handbook. They can’t help it because it’s in the best interests of the organization. But is it? I believe when we make the referees wait for rewards or cut them out completely because things didn’t work out with the referral or something goes awry during the employee onboarding journey, we’re penalizing them.

What does making your referees wait for six months really mean? It smells, sounds and even feels like ‘lack of trust.’ And it literally sucks the joy of having a friend/acquaintance on board. I’ve personally even regretted the decision to refer them in the first place.

I think HR should give up the notion of making people wait for fantastic referrals. They should be rewarded the moment their referrals are hired! If the latter don’t make it through the probation or aren’t something goes wrong during the employee onboarding journey (which I believe should last an entire year!) it’s the HR’s fault. Why? Because we didn’t pay enough attention to read the signs that must’ve been clearly evident during the interview and/or assessments phase. Or worse, we didn’t live up to the candidate/referral’s expectations, which means there’s some work to do.

Holding off rewards is petty and should be revoked if you care deeply about employee engagement. Make your workplace worthy to be referred to and then make it easier for people to refer their friends.

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