4 Really Clever Employee Referral Programs

4 Really Clever Employee Referral Programs

How have you found your top talent? Have you gone the traditional job board route, and sifted through countless resumes from a handful of job sites before finding that diamond in the rough? Were you introduced to a friend of a friend of a friend at a time when you weren’t looking to hire, only to realize that they would be a perfect fit for your team? Hiring the right individuals while in growth mode is always challenging, but as your team continues to scale you may want to look at a different approach.

Employee referral programs are not a new invention. Large organizations have for years offered their employees some sort of nominal employee bonus for helping to refer a friend who then lands the job. While the approach is a cost saving measure – LinkedIn for example found that each referral saved them roughly $7,500 per hire – the cash does not act as a significant incentive. Instead, several of our colleagues in the tech space have gotten creative with their employee referral programs, and the results have been as stellar as the new hires that they’ve found.

[Some] companies have found new methods of offering monetary rewards, such as a diversity bonus … or a tiered bonus for each successful stage of the hiring process.

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4 Really Clever Employee Referral Programs


The Indian multinational mobile advertising company sought to design a rewards system that worked for their employees no matter where they were in the world. They displayed a new bicycle, a universal method of transportation, at the entrance of each of their offices to keep employees incentivized. For successful referrals, employees were given a choice. They could have a new bicycle, or a trip to Bali, Indonesia. Bali may be more enticing for those of us in colder climates, but employees in warmer countries may have certainly appreciated the bike.

Fiverr Team


The Israel-based online marketplace for freelancers turned their employee referral program into a game. Employees were allowed to collect points for each referral, and cash in those points on a quarterly and yearly basis for rewards or prizes of their choosing. If an employee was seeking a specific reward, the company could then help them achieve it. It effectively turned the company’s employee referral program into a continuous indoor arcade. 

4 Really Clever Employee Referral Programs


San Francisco’s consumer data platform company is still growing, but they have done so partially by using their referral system as an internal competition system. They’ve created a leaderboard, and the person to successfully refer the most candidates winds up naturally on top of the leaderboard. The company states that they are planning on introducing other incentives soon, but even without any monetary rewards Segment has found 40% of their newest hires through this system.

Salesforce Team


The tech giant offers its employees a traditional monetary rewards system for successful referrals, but they have added an extra element. Instead of receiving cold applications where it can be difficult to get a feel for a candidate on paper, the company has introduced Recruitment Happy Hours. Employees can bring potential candidates into the office, where they can meet directly with hiring managers in a less formal setting. Not only does this put both parties more at ease, but it offers hiring managers an early opportunity to see how a potential employee engages with their company culture. 

As more and more companies in the digital space look for unique solutions to age-old problems, they continue to invent new hiring solutions as well. Other companies have found new methods of offering monetary rewards, such as an additional diversity bonus for candidates hired from diverse backgrounds, or a tiered bonus for each successful stage of the hiring process. This way employees do not need to feel like referring a candidate into a seemingly large talent pool is an ‘all or nothing’ approach.

Referral bonus programs can be a huge credit to your organization, and can make you a more attractive workplace for future candidates. A recent survey by Career Builder showed that these programs have the strongest return on investment for employers, which is no surprise. Yet no two programs are identical, and no single structure has a one-size-fits-all approach. When designing your referral program, here are a couple tips to keep in mind:

  • Ask questions. Consider surveying your employees to see what may be of value to them, and consider your corporate culture as well. If your team is generally incentivized by earnings, then a monetary reward may be fruitful. Otherwise, see where else their priorities lie.
  • Set your budget. The average successful employee referral bonus is about $2,500, but some companies can go even 10 times that amount for the right hire. Find an amount, whether cash or some other reward of equal value which will motivate your team to support growth while still making the system a cost-effective endeavour. 
  • Be clear about your expectations. Your team needs to clearly understand your expectations for an ideal candidate if they have any hope of successfully finding that person. You would not hire a recruiter and then give them a vague notion of who you were looking for – do not treat your employees that way either.
  • Make the program interactive. A rewards program needs to be user-friendly in order for it to remain successful. Make your employees aware of exactly how the program works, and what needs to happen for them to qualify for a reward. Designate a person to answer any questions that they may have about the position so that they can narrow down their search. Also, provide feedback throughout the referral process so that employees can have an even clearer idea of your expectations in a candidate.
  • Celebrate the wins! Remember InMobi keeping a bicycle at the front of the office as a visible reminder, or Segment creating a very public leaderboard? A successful candidate referred by an employee is a win all-around. The business benefits from a great hire, and the employee is engaged by their resulting reward. Celebrate these wins publicly – it shows your team just how much you appreciate their involvement in your overall growth. 

We work regularly with our clients to design employee referral systems that align with their corporate culture and motivate their existing employees to take part. Our fractional HR consultants learn your corporate culture, and work with you to design a program that will incentivize employees without breaking your budget. Contact us today to learn more about our services, and how we can find unique and innovative ways to help your team grow.

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Termination Planning: What You Need to Know

Termination Planning: What You Need to Know

Terminating an employee can be like playing with fire. Whether an employee’s role has become redundant, or whether the employee is no longer meeting expectations (or even committing serious policy violations), sometimes employment relationships need to end. Just as in the end of a romantic break-up, termination is not a fun or pleasant process, but can definitely be the healthier choice for both parties.

Yet terminating employees has something else in common with playing with fire – taking advanced care and precaution can skillfully avoid a tremendous amount of pain. Otherwise, much like fire, a poorly-planned, or poorly-conducted termination meeting can go horribly awry. Most large employers have an arsenal of horror stories of employees becoming overly emotional, disruptive, or in horrible cases even violent. Even if an employee appears to take the news relatively well, employers must always be cautious that they are not met with a legal claim for wrongful dismissal soon after. 

“[T]aking advanced care and precaution can skillfully avoid a tremendous amount of pain. Otherwise…a poorly-planned or poorly-conducted termination meeting can go horribly awry.”

There are, however, right ways to conduct an employee’s termination meeting, and as HR professionals we are experts in doing so. We have a longer termination checklist available for those interested, but we wanted to take this opportunity to share some of our wisdom that we have collected over the years. 

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Termination Planning: What You Need to Know

Do your homework before the termination meeting

The worst thing you can do prior to terminating an employee is fail to do your homework. Gather and review all of the relevant documents pertaining to that employee, including their performance reviews, attendance records, and any other key documents that you may have on file. Calculate what sort of payment they will be owed, both at law and under the terms of their employment agreement. If they have no written employment agreement, remember that they are owed at least their legal minimums including any termination, severance, and outstanding vacation pay.

If their contract entitles them to more, then ensure that those terms are met. These are tricky calculations to make, and there is no precise formula for amounts above the minimum legal entitlements. Remember, if you are only offering their minimum amounts, nothing is in place to prevent them from suing for more money. Similarly, if you are offering more money than the employee is entitled to under their contract, remember that that can come in exchange for a release preventing them from making a legal claim.

Termination Planning: What You Need to Know

Write a thorough termination letter

One benefit of having policies is that you do not have to do the heavy lifting at every turn. Policies can assign duties and responsibilities to other managers within your team, especially when it comes to reporting or enforcement. Vacation requests, for example, can become the responsibility of a direct manager. As the team grows, other managers can take on additional responsibilities under these policies, taking some of the weight off of the C-Suite’s shoulders.

Your termination letter does not have to list the cause for their dismissal, as most dismissals in Ontario are without cause, and cause only matters in the most serious of cases. It should, though, outline exactly what you expect from the employee, and exactly what they should expect from you.

This includes items such as what date the employee can expect to receive their final payments, how long their benefits will continue to run, how they can submit any final expenses, when their Record of Employment will be completed, and any other items that they should know in writing. The termination letter can also include the employee’s responsibilities in this process, such as informing you when they become re-employed (if they are being paid out on a salary continuance option), and their responsibility in returning any company property. Remember, this is the letter that sets out your official position, and once it is provided to the employee there is no turning back. 

wood typography business distance

Handle the meeting with care

Termination meetings should be handled with extreme caution to avoid that risk of proverbial broken glass. There are varying schools of thought for the best time of day/day of the week to conduct a meeting, but there is no perfect time. They should though be done discretely, in a private room away from the prying eyes of colleagues. Be sure to have a second person present whenever possible. Stick to your planned agenda for the meeting, and take the time to go through the termination letter with the employee even though you will send them a copy via email or post.

Do not let them sign anything during the meeting – they should be reminded both verbally and in writing that they have the opportunity to review the situation with a lawyer before agreeing to your terms. 

Most importantly though, even though this is a business meeting, remember it might also be the worst day of someone’s life. Do not hesitate to bring kleenex, give the employee a few minutes to collect themselves, and if meeting in person ensure that they have a safe ride home.  

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Follow through on next steps

The termination process does not end as soon as the employee leaves the meeting. The Record of Employment must be completed 5 days after the last day of work and sent to Service Canada for processing. If there is an imposed deadline for an employee to respond to a termination offer, make sure that a line of communication (not through the business’ internal network) remains open until the end of that deadline. Lastly, remain tactful and professional when informing colleagues of the departure. Hurt feelings are often the motivator for claims of wrongful dismissal, and may be easily avoidable by keeping the employee’s dignity intact wherever possible.

This is just some of the wisdom that we have amassed over the years. There are several more technical aspects of termination meetings in our work, such as determining how to best structure an appropriate exit package to avoid litigation, or how to carefully draft a release that protects your business in exchange for an enhanced exit package. These are often challenging questions, and require both knowledge and skill to resolve with minimal noise. 

Our team of fractional HR professionals is only a phone call away. We are well-equipped to provide outsourced HR services such as termination strategy and planning so that you do not have to stumble through this process alone. Mistakes in this process can be costly, such as overpaying for termination pay, or setting yourself up for unwanted legal exposure. We provide our clients materials to educate them on their requirements, their risks, and the best practices that will help ensure success moving forward. Contact us today for a copy of our termination checklist and to learn more about our services. 

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