Diversity referral: Keep your referral program from creating workforce homogeneity

Employee referral programs have always been a great way to find candidates. These candidates are already informally vetted by your existing employees, and since employees are putting their own reputation on the line, they usually won't refer candidates that they don't believe in. Plus, referrals have been shown to improve time and cost to hire, as well as quality of hire.

The one downside of referral recruitment, however, is that candidates might fall into the same demographic as the referrer. This could negatively impact a company's diversity goals.

Diversity referral

A more proactive approach when designing your referral program can minimize this effect. Here are seven steps you can take to make your diversity referral program more effective.

1. Provide special bonuses

By offering a special bonus to employees who refer candidates from underrepresented groups, you can further motivate your workforce to think about the company's diversity goals and drive more referrals. A diversity bonus can also help your company further establish its commitment to creating a diverse workplace.

referral bonus

2. Be vocal about your goals

It is important for all employees to understand how inclusion and diversity will enrich the workplace and contribute to the company's larger goals. Discuss the key benefits of diverse teams, like exposure to varying perspectives and approaches. Announce your goal of increasing diversity and how referrals can help the company move closer toward that goal.

3. Think outside the box

Referrals don't just have to come from your employees. Start leveraging other networks, like your clients, customer base, and partners.

4. Go social

Your social network can be a great place to find a wide spectrum of candidates. Allow people to refer candidates through social media, and increase outreach by making it easy for your employees to share the job posting to their social media pages.social recruiting

5. Leverage your diverse workforce for more diverse referrals

If you already have people from underrepresented groups at your company, focus on encouraging them to participate in the company's referral program.

6. Have employees generate leads and HR ensure quality

Don't leave it to your employees to decide if someone will be the right fit for your organization. Ask for referrals from your employees without worrying about the fit, and let the HR team do the heavy lifting. You can also think about asking your employees.

open-ended questions like, "Who do you know who is a strong problem solver?" and delve deeper into the leads they provide.

asking for employee referrals

7. Set diversity benchmarks

Use data on your current workforce to identify the gaps in your company's DEI goals and strategize your referral program to bridge these gaps. Set diversity targets, identify processes that are lagging, and redesign them.

A better way forward 

Even though referrals can potentially create a homogeneous workplace, workforces today are much more open-minded and well-connected than they used to be. Using data to evaluate and progress toward your diversity goals can help you leverage employee networks to their fullest potential. To really reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, think of DE&I beyond just gender and race, and be open to recruiting people of various religions, ethnicities, ages, and educational backgrounds.

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