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How to Revive Your Employee Referral Program

The talent marketplace has changed significantly over the past year. Recruiting teams are seeing fewer candidates referred by current employees. While this could point to poor morale, it could also indicate that filling open positions isn’t at the top of your employees’ lists. 

If you are only asking current employees for recommendations, then you are leaving a massive resource untapped. Employees who left your company on good terms can be a perfect source for referrals. Expanding your employee referral program (ERP) to former employees widens your search network by reopening lines of communication with those that have experienced your company first hand. I’m talking about employee alumni networks, which are not as complicated as they sound. 

Setting up an alumni network can be as simple as adding past employees (who left the company in good standing) to an email list and segmenting them. You can also create a LinkedIn or Facebook group to join as a step in the exit interview process. This creates two opportunities for your company: 

  • Contact with former talent that you’d love to have boomerang later on 
  • A source for referrals that is nearly as good as your existing employee base 

They already know your company culture, and you know them. 

Six Keys to Maintaining a Robust Alumni Network

Your alumni employees have insights into your organization that other candidates and contacts don’t. They know the culture, work environment and are some of the most trusted, reputable sources for qualified employees. However, not losing touch is imperative to creating and maintaining an exceptional alumni network. 

Go where your alumni are.

Online alumni associations can be established and maintained through Google, LinkedIn and Facebook. If a comprehensive effort to maintain an alumni association is not an option, consider providing your alumni with an email newsletter. This could be either the standard company/employee newsletter or one geared specifically to former employees. Either way, the benefits of online messaging include instant feedback from readers, interactivity, customization, flexibility and savings on distribution costs. 

Provide value in non-traditional ways.  

This could be virtual happy hours or in-person alumni events/mixers, as well as career workshops among other learning opportunities. It’s a small investment to make in former employees who want to improve their skills, because when they boomerang, it could lead to a higher position than the one they left. So, be willing to show up to alumni events. In fact, you might even consider hosting them. 

Consistent communication.

Send every team member off well. Thank them for their service and willingness to stay in touch. A successful boomerang process begins right before an employee leaves. Create an offboarding process that determines which employees are “regrettable turnover” — the ones that would be welcomed with open arms should they choose to return. The next step is making the departing employee aware that their return would, indeed, be welcomed. Finally, get their explicit permission to keep in touch after they leave. 

Spotlight your jobs. 

Periodically create content to update alumni on the latest news at your company. Include information that may help you, such as suggesting candidates for a job opening. Rather than directly asking a former employee to return, make sure they have up-to-date information on job postings, including their former position. Then, allow them to decide if they would rather refer someone or apply themselves. 

Offer incentives exclusively for your alumni network.  

Consider expanding your employee referral bonus policy to your approved alumni. Financial incentives show that you still consider them “part of the family” and trust their referrals the way you did when they were employed. You might also consider inviting preferred alumni to company events. Engaging with former coworkers could be key in persuading them to return. 

Create value in ways that keep them coming back. 

As today’s employee turnover rates continue to increase, the number of corporate alumni who are available for rehiring also increases. If you get an inquiry from a potential boomerang employee, act quickly! It’s important to let them know that they’re valued by you and your company, even if they haven’t actively engaged with your network. Should they choose not to pursue a second opportunity, this is still an excellent path towards re-engaging them. 

Tapping into your organization’s alumni network can also open doors to new business opportunities. Former employees find new jobs or form their own enterprises, and when they do, they often turn to previous employers for partnerships. An organization’s alumni serve as a resource for industry trends and staying up-to-date with competitors. In addition, well-informed alumni can be powerful ambassadors for your company in the business community.