Relationship Recruiting: More than an Employee Referral Program, It’s the Future

careerxroads relationship mapping

This excellent Huffington Post article by Nicole Dessain, Why Sodexo Doesn’t Say Goodbye to Exiting Employees, that Chloe Rada at Sodexo alerted me to made me realize how the debate over ‘Sources’ or ‘Influences’ may simply be clouding the very real and growing value of a deeper understanding ‘Relationships’ in recruiting- something very few firms are assessing in a world increasingly driven by 'networks of networks' and sometimes focused on interesting aspects of their employee referral program.

Think about it, ~90% of US firms (my ‘average’ count from googling surveys) have some form of formal Employee Referral Program that typically results in filling anywhere from 15-40% of an employer's external openings.

Most employers stop right there- annually tweaking and updating a hundred-year-old program and forgetting just how connected we all are (and how accessible the data to organize them has become)

We fill nearly 40% of our open positions through internal movement and promotion…relationships proven through performance and retention. Have we systematically identified the Hiring managers most able to develop those long term relationships versus those that… don't? What is our program to fix that? How’s it working?

careerxroads relationship map

We train Sourcers/Recruiters during intake to query hiring managers and their teams about who they know. We filter those same hiring managers and team mates’ Linked In connections to uncover even more leads to convert. And yes, there are cold calls but, don’t we train to ask them 'who they know'? How many Direct sourcing hires have a relationship component? Anyone formally noticing it, putting relationship driven candidates on a fast track?

Prospects and candidates driven to check out a new job are often encouraged to send a link to a friend or colleague who in turn might be a good fit, apply and be hired. Anyone analyzing, tagging and leveraging this low hanging [relationship] fruit?

Our customers know people they trust to serve them. Our marketing colleagues seldom allow you to ask. Change management, anyone?

careerxroads employee referral program survey results
[click to enlarge]

At CareerXroads, we asked 100 large firms to guess the degree referrals were a component of the hire for various sources (This is the slide referenced by Nicole's article). When all is said and done we believe a significant number of ‘sources’ have, at their core, relationships- a word we could define more clearly to understand it's depth, relevance, and influence if it were top of mind. Shouldn't we be geared to analyze, map and gain insights on how best leverage our different 'relationships' to reduce cost, time and enhance quality?

What makes the Sodexo case study on Alumni hiring so compelling is, first and foremost, they aren’t, obviously a Financial Services firm. PWC, EY, Deloitte, KPMG, Bain, Accenture etc. etc. all have extraordinary Alumni programs quietly filling many openings as boomerangs and via referrals. They expect employees to become Alumni. Besides Sodexo and Disney, we would be hard pressed to name many firms with formal Alumni programs. Many don’t even track Boomerangs as a source.

Secondly, Sodexo made their program as visible as any ERP simply be calling it Reconnexions and leveraging that visibility to bust the 19th-century myth that employees who leave are disloyal. Rules defined the program. Social media stories shared internally about what returning employees learned helped elevate the value. And finally, evidence that 20% of openings could be filled this way and the returnees were more likely to be retained for similar positions than hires from other sources seals the deal.

Social media and content applications now offer a powerful means to uncover and communicate differently to prospects where we can establish connections. Today we do it in silos and seldom systematically. We need to better describe and track ‘relationships’ within our hiring practices- especially the hidden gems if we are to leverage this side of recruiting. It’s not the tools we use or what we call 'sources' that is important but the understanding of why we use them that counts.

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Gerry Crispin
Gerry co-authored eight books on the evolution of staffing and has written 100s of articles and whitepapers on similar topics during a career in Human Resources that spans more than 40 years from HR leadership positions at Johnson and Johnson; to boutique Executive Search firms; a Career Services Director at the University where he received his Engineering and 2 advanced degrees in Organizational/Industrial Behavior; and, GM of a major recruitment advertising firm even as he launched CareerXroads 20 years ago.

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