5 Employee Referral Rewards That Don't Break The Bank

by Jeannie Walters

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As more companies realize that happy, fulfilled and engaged employees mean better customer satisfaction and retention rates, they’re also realizing the best employees know where to find the next best employees. It’s not unusual for businesses to offer financial referral rewards for employees who bring in candidates that become employees. Typically it’s anywhere between a restaurant gift card to a few hundred dollars.

And rightfully so, because employees who come from internal referrals are less expensive to hire, stay with the company longer and are seen as “higher quality” candidates.

Referral Rewards

With so much riding on these referrals, it can seem that the investment in some cash rewards are worth it for growing companies, and I agree. If it’s time to mix up the rewards or even just watch the budget on your employee referral reward bank, there are ways to reward employees that go beyond the usual.

Here are 5 Employee Referral Rewards That Don’t Break The Bank

1. Lunch with the Leaders

This is popular especially at big companies, but some startups should make a note of this, too. Your best employees are already invested in the success of the company, but may not get exposure to the leaders. Having lunch with the CEO could be just the unique reward those employees are seeking. Some startups have CEOs who are somewhat famous, so there is an opportunity here to reward your best employees with a very special brush with fame. (Bonus reward if the lunch takes place on the company jet!)

2. Time off or flex time

Over and over, workers say they are valuing flexibility more than many things now. Why not provide more for those who work hard and bring you other great employees? Earn a day for a candidate who gets through the first round of interviews and earn two for a hire. There are many ways to do this and it really is a valuable reward for many.

3. Fame

Some of your employees probably don’t get recognized by the masses very often. What about featuring them in a newsletter or on the home screen of the Intranet for a day or a week? Treat this as a chance to showcase them, not just with a photo and “#1 Employee Referrer!” label. Make them the star and highlight what unique qualities they bring to the organization.

4. Fun, Unique Momentos

How would you feel if your headshot was captured in one of those famous pencil drawings in The Wall Street Journal? Something like that can be incentive enough for action. Find an artist, photographer, or cartoonist to help recognize people in a special, unique and thoughtful way. Provide them with a framed original.

5. A Peek Into How The Other Half Lives

Engineers rarely go on product photo shoots. Marketers don’t often get a chance to play with the latest prototypes. Think of ways to provide a special experience to someone who otherwise might not have the chance to do it.

Too many rewards for employees are transactional, leading to less loyalty or engagement. If I can get $200 from my current or my next employer for having the same set of friends to refer, the reward becomes a commodity instead of a way to earn and recognize loyalty.

What are your favorite ways you’ve been recognized in employee referral programs?

 Image Credit: Will Merydith via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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