How to Build a Successful Employee Referral Program in Hospitality

The quickest way to obtain something is to simply ask. This holds especially true for staffing your hospitality business. Your best resource will always be your people, which is why a quality employee referral program should never be overlooked as an effective means of building your team. 

Convince your hospitality business employees to refer your business to others as a coveted employer and you’ll enjoy a steady stream of new hardworking employees who take pride in earning their keep. An employee referral program proves mutually beneficial to hospitality industry employers as well as employees. 

The best employee referral programs provide incentives to team members to recommend the business as an employer to those in their social circle. The challenge lies in building an employee referral program that balances employee financial incentives with the benefit of high-quality new hires. 

In this article, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about making employee referrals an integral part of your business’ talent acquisition strategy. 

Setting Up an Employee Referral Program

The first step to priming the pump of your employee referral program is establishing the foundation. In most cases, this foundation centers on financial incentives. Meet with your restaurant, hotel or other hospitality business manager/supervisor and other decision-makers including the individual responsible for hiring to determine a fair amount of compensation. 

In typical programs, existing employees are compensated for each person they refer, often with the requirement that the referred individual remains on the team for a set period of time. Referral bonus cash value can range from a couple of hundred dollars for cooks, hosts, front desk clerks and maids to upwards of a couple of thousand dollars for those in managerial positions. 

Clearly establish the terms of the referral program in writing and post those terms in an easily visible part of the business such as the employee break room corkboard or a dedicated virtual space. It’s important to closely track ensuing referrals in order to expedite payment after the referral is onboarded. 

Let’s shift our attention to some specifics of the process necessary to establish an employee referral program that successfully serves its intended purpose.

Defining Reward Criteria

Be highly specific when defining the criteria necessary to trigger the financial payment for a successful referral. When in doubt, lean on your business attorney for guidance in writing the terms of the employee referral program. Weave in the input of your hiring manager and present the resulting reward criteria in clear written form to all employees. 

It might also make sense to establish benchmarks for superstar referrers who guide the business toward 5-10+ new hires. If retention rate is a key concern, make it crystal clear that the financial reward for a successful referral will only be provided after the recommended new hire remains with the business for a specific period of time.

Considering Different Types of Monetary and Non-monetary Incentives

Some employees respond more to non-monetary incentives as opposed to financial incentives. In other instances, it might make more sense to stick with a small bonus. There is also the option of letting employees choose between financial and non-financial rewards. 

Examples of non-financial rewards include:

  • Gift cards
  • Vouchers
  • Additional PTO
  • Business-related merchandise

Promoting/Encouraging Employees to Participate

There is the potential for the employee referral program to be in vain if it is quickly forgotten. Be proactive, continue to encourage your team to reach out to friends, colleagues and others to coordinate interviews with the hiring manager and your hospitality industry business will enjoy a steady flow of candidates as positions open. 

It might even make sense to post referral bonus signs on-site to remind employees of the program. Recognize the fact that repetition is necessary for the message to sink in and lead to high-quality referrals, continue to reinforce the program with verbal/written reminders and it won’t take long for referrals to walk through the door.

Tracking Employee Referrals

Gathering accurate data and metrics will be key to understanding the relative success of your employee referral program. Quantify employee referrals through an accurate tracking system and you’ll motivate your team to earn the most referral bonuses.

As part of Harri’s Talent Acquisition Suite, our employee social referral feature helps hospitality businesses connect with hard workers and elite managers. We make it easy for managers to make their own application referral links for open positions for all employees. Promptly publishing the open position triggers a referral link through email and text messages, enabling your current employees to quickly reach out to potential candidates for mutually beneficial referrals. Referral links for open positions can also be shared with friends and others on social networks to encourage those candidates to throw their hats in the ring for open positions. 

Continue to monitor and track each referral in accordance with employees, location and other relevant details. Our employee social referral feature empowers you to overcome these hurdles with ease, liberating you to focus on what you do best while your referral program hums along in the background.

Plus, as part of our suite, key metrics are automatically pulled into a referral database, making it simple to automate the rewards payout process for current employees. Real-time data availability includes:

  • Employee start date (for referred employees)
  • Employee referral number per X time period (for employees making referrals)
  • Employee payout method (for employees making referrals)

As long as the referred employee remains in your system until the defined referral deadline, such as three months, your team members will receive their rewards automatically using their preferred payment method. This system eases the burden on your managers, who would otherwise need to track each new employee’s tenure, and guarantees accurate payouts, which strengthens trust and improves team retention.

Spreading the News: Successful Social Referral Campaigns

The success of your employee referral program is largely determined by the subtleties of its promotion. The Harri platform creates customized links for employees, so. team members simply need to share referral links through social media platforms, text message or email and their unique link will track the referrer throughout the whole process. Carri Chat and Apply can also be integrated into the program to turn applications into conversations. This tool facilitates the acquisition of more candidates through truly impartial interactions, empowering you to hire quickly and reward managers with more time. Carri serves as a conversational conduit connecting employers to candidates, enabling applicants to text or otherwise message several channels to kickstart the application. Communications proceed through text messages, an online Careers page chat, Facebook Messenger and more. 

Our technology even empowers you to customize questions in accordance with role, brand or location guaranteeing the screening process is perfect for all interactions. Carri also automates communication and reminders, freeing up the hiring manager to handle other tasks related to human resources prior to the point at which interviews begin. 

Take full advantage of Carri Chat and Apply and your hospitality business will attract new talent that is likely to remain with the organization and inspire others on the company roster to do the same. This is the unity every hospitality industry business needs to make the most of its human capital.

The Challenges of Employee Referral

Employee referrals might not come fast and furious right off the bat. Be patient, let the program build momentum and it will produce some high-quality leads in due time. You will inevitably encounter roadblocks when establishing your employee referral program. 

If the program is slow to build momentum, consider the following strategies:

  • Increase the frequency of reminders to encourage participation
  • Continue to refine the incentive program
  • Increase incentives

Analyze data as it is tracked, pivot accordingly and take full advantage of Harri’s features. As an example, automated payouts that promptly pay employees after a successful referral will motivate them to continue to steer other candidates through the pipeline for hire and even more referral bonuses.

Sourcing the Best Talent with Harri

Harri’s employee experience platform is expertly designed for the frontlines of hotels and restaurants. Our platform helps hospitality industry employers throughout the United States and UK overcome challenges caused by talent acquisition through referral, employee engagement, scheduling, onboarding and more.

Request a Demo today to find out how our technology will help your restaurant or hotel connect with the best talent.

Suggested Content

Recent Posts

Discover Harri

Fill out the form below and we'll be in touch soon.

Exclusive content delivered to your inbox!

Become an Insider in the Hospitality Industry and receive content that matters to you. Subscribe to Harri Insider and get access to the latest labor-related research, panels, trends, and more.

Discover Harri

Speak with a hospitality workforce expert to see what Harri can do for you!
Fill out your info, and we’ll be in touch soon to get it all set up!

Contact Sales

Speak with a hospitality workforce expert to see what Harri can do for you!
Fill out your info, and we’ll be in touch soon to get it all set up!