Are You Sure Your Referral Program Is Strengthening Your Diversity Goals?

Are You Sure Your Referral Program Is Strengthening Your Diversity Goals?

Do you have a referral program at your company? That’s a good thing – referral programs are a great way to source qualified talent using the employees you already have, saving your organization time and money. However, it’s important to note that if you’re not careful, a referral program can hurt, rather than help, your organization’s diversity and inclusion goals.

 

What is a referral program and how can you make sure it strengthens your diversity goals? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a referral program?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines a referral program as “a recruiting strategy in which employers encourage current employees, through rewards, to refer qualified candidates for jobs in their organizations.” To put it simply, you reward your existing employees when they recommend someone who would be a good fit within your organization. And that someone could be the employee’s friend, family member, former colleague, or acquaintance.

 

The reward that the current employee gets can take many forms. It could, for example, be a small bonus, additional time off, or a gift.

How can your referral program hurt your diversity goals?

You may be surprised to learn that your company’s referral program could harm your diversity goals if you’re not paying attention. Why is that?

 

Think about this: most of the time, people are connected with others who are very much like them. Their friends and acquaintances likely fall into the same demographic categories as they do. The result? If your company is not already diverse, the candidates you’re sourcing through your referral program may not wind up being very diverse either.

 

Referral programs are still a great way for your business to find and hire quality talent. But it’s important to examine your data closely to ensure that you’re getting the most out of the program.

How can you recruit diverse talent?

Is your referral program producing results that aren’t as diverse as you would like? Are you finding most hires with similar demographic and skillset makeups? Then it’s time to overhaul your referral program.

 

Here are some tried-and-true ways to make sure you are recruiting diverse talent:

  • Leverage different networks. Don’t use the same candidate sources repeatedly because you’re likely to get the same type of people again and again. Find and hire candidates through a diverse array of sources, and you’ll get a diverse array of results.

  • Rely on your diverse staff. When you have a diverse staff, to begin with, the results from your referral program will follow suit. Encourage your current diverse employees to refer friends and acquaintances from their communities.

  • Make your job postings more inviting. Make sure you’re using inclusive and inviting language in your job postings to attract candidates from every walk of life.

  • Be upfront about your diversity and inclusion goals. Be open, honest, and transparent about your company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and goals. This will attract diverse talent.


Referral programs are one of the best ways to attract and hire new talent. But they can have downsides. Since people tend to refer people in their personal circles, hires from referral programs can end up being less than diverse. Be proactive about preventing this by leveraging different networks, relying on the existing diversity within your staff, using inclusive and inviting language in job postings, and being transparent and upfront about your company’s diversity goals. It will be a win for everyone!

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