Unlocking the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Benefits Starts With Your Referral Program

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have long played an important role in creating strong workforces that drive added value for businesses and employees themselves. The social unrest caused by the events of 2020 have further underscored the need for companies to address DEI at their organizations.

Group of hands on table
BY SUDHAKAR MARUVADA

Successful DEI initiatives start at the hiring process and carry through the entire talent lifecycle, from candidate to employee to alumni. The way you approach hiring, and engage your workforce and extended network in the process, can have a huge impact on your DEI results by helping you to create diversified talent pools.

Giving employees an equal voice through referrals

Your own employees are a powerful recruiting channel. A referral program allows you to leverage your company’s existing network to access vetted talent who already feel a connection to your brand (via their peer). The recruiting benefits of a referral program are clear, but it can also be a pillar of your DEI strategy. 

The most obvious way a referral program helps achieve the goals of your DEI strategy is by simply tapping into the diversity of your existing employees (and their networks) as a recruiting channel. It helps you create far more diversified talent pools than your typical recruiting efforts allow for. 

Internally, a referral program eliminates influence bias by giving your entire team equal opportunity to contribute to your talent pipeline, regardless of their position, seniority or place in the organization. Every single employee, from your newest intern to your top senior executive, has a voice.

Avoid the common pitfalls of referral programs

Now, referral programs aren’t new. But they’re also not widely successful. Here are some of the most common challenges associated with today’s referrals programs. 

It’s difficult to submit candidates. Manual processes take too long, and clunky technology is hard to use. In both of these cases, the barriers to user adoption are too great for the program to make a real impact on the organization.

It’s an overwhelming ask. Another common mistake companies make is asking for too much information. If there are too many steps or if they can’t provide all the details, employees won’t complete the process.

Employees are kept in the dark. Many programs lack a standard, consistent process for communicating with employees who refer talent to their organizations. They want to receive confirmation that their referral is being considered and know where they are in the process. 

Referrals are treated like second-rate candidates. Even though 88% of managers say that the quality of referrals is higher than any other source, their importance often doesn’t match up with how they are prioritized as candidates. The right technology must be in place to tag these candidates appropriately and surface them up to internal recruiters. 

Without fixing these issues first, your referral program can’t deliver the DEI benefits that are possible. It’s a missed opportunity that many companies today can’t afford.

Making referrals count by enabling better experiences

To unlock the true DEI power of a referral program, it must be widely adopted and seen as a trusted source of diverse talent across the organization. Technology plays a massive role in enabling this. What do you need to get the most value from your program, both in terms of sourcing great talent and promoting DEI as a key corporate value? 

→ An easy, accessible tool. 

Referral programs must be designed with the user experience in mind. Accessibility is key, and talent should be able to easily engage via their mobile device. This is especially true considering that they likely won’t actually be in the office when meeting or connecting with someone who might be a fit for your organization.  

→ A strong human connection.

The referral process is personal. When employees refer a candidate to your company, they are invested in the process. Companies should honor that, as well as respect that employees care enough about their company to introduce them to talent who can ultimately help them succeed. The best way to build and reinforce this connection is through communication enabled by automation. Employees should be kept informed in real time of where candidates are in the hiring process. 

→ Brand ambassadors.

The most powerful aspect of a strong referral program is that it can accelerate the growth of your branded talent community, which is a place where you can build, nurture and grow your extended network of known talent resources. The technology can make it easy and the connection can make it personal, but tapping into the potential network of every single known talent resource can make it go viral. When done right, you can create brand ambassadors that can contribute to (and diversify) the talent pipeline and fuel your hiring and DEI efforts.

You can learn more about the power of employee referral programs, including their impact on driving diversity, in our Guide to Viral Recruiting eBook. By setting up the right program for your needs using technology that works within your existing processes, you can double down on both building a strong pipeline of talent and a more diverse, inclusive workplace. 

Ready to build your talent community, nurture in-demand candidates and power your business to grow? Request a demo today and see how the WorkLLama Talent Community Platform can help.