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How to make engagement in employee referrals a habit

Understanding the psychology behind successful referral, is important to create an effective referral system. Time to learn how to make it a habit and build long-term engagement.

Vicky Vijg on November 24, 2020 Average reading time: 3 min
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How to make engagement in employee referrals a habit

Recruitment professionals all know why it is important to use referrals, but the challenge for businesses comes with the ‘how’. The foundation of a great referral system is understanding the principles around the psychology of employee behaviour. Two major obstacles to successful referrals are participation and longevity.

The foundation of a great referral system is understanding the principles around the psychology of employee behaviour.

According to technologyplatform Real Links, one of the biggest reasons why employees disengage from referrals is that it’s something outside of what they believe is expected of them. Without a reward, companies are essentially asking employees for a favor with little to no recognition. Even if your employees are willing to go above and beyond for your company, people today lead busy lives with heavy workloads. Asking them to go out of their way to make regular introductions to candidates in their personal networks is unrealistic. Therefore, creating a good rewarding strategy is necessary.

The Hook ModelHooked Nir Eyal

In their ‘guide to the psychology of successful referrals‘, Real Links uses the Hook Model. This model is created by entrepreneur, author, and behavioural economist Nir Eyal. It consists of a four-step process to help businesses connects their solution to the user’s problem and form a habit. Although the model is intended for influencing customer behaviour and product marketing, it can also be applied to influence the behaviour of your workforce.

The base of this model is about an experience that causes the action which results in the habit.

The base of this model is about an experience that causes the action which results in the habit. A habit is defined as ‘a automatic behaviour triggered by situational cues’. By using the Hook Model, businesses can change employee behaviour and build long term engagement with your referral system.

Building workforce habits

Trigger

A trigger is something people see, feel or think. Building a clear and simple trigger to encourage an employee to take action is a good first step. New open roles are often not communicated regularly or staff don’t know where to find them. Even if made aware, the employees often don’t associate new open roles as a trigger to refer.

Even if made aware, the employees often don’t associate new open roles as a trigger to refer.

To make them more aware, you can link the communication channels of employees with your platform. This way they can get reminders through their inbox or app for relevant open roles, and to introduce or refer.

Action

If users do not take action, the trigger is useless. It’s important to clearly explain the expected behaviour that will result in a reward. Make the process simple and clear. From the employee’s dedicated dashboard they can share roles, refer potential candidates and share company content. Providing clarity and ease of use, encouraging the employee to habitually engage with the referral process.

Building long-term engagement

Variable award

The majority of traditional referral systems use only monetary rewards at the end of the process. But what motivates staff, can vary per person. These varied rewards can be split into smaller incremental rewards for each stage of the referral process for more engagement. Real Links discovered three types of rewards: 

  • Tribe rewards: social rewards based on connection and acceptance like gamification and leader boards or group rewards such as a team night out for the most engagaged in the business. 
  • Hunt rewards: material resource like money, gym membership, vouchers, extra holiday 
  • Self rewards: personal gratification in the form of learning. For example free training or days off for personal study. 

Investment

The investment stage is the fourth step in the Hook model. This step is all about creating actions to improve future engagement. Although an employee might engage once, that doesn’t mean they will participate on the long term. Creating a leader board or game with a points system, can encourage employees to take action. The more actions taken, the higher up the leaderboard they move and rewards increase.

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Vicky Vijg

Vicky Vijg

Writer at ToTalent & Werf&

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