Case Study

Accenture's best practice referral recruitment.

This business case study of Accenture serves to illustrate the impact of referral recruitment can have in your organization. It highlights some of the best practices in referral recruitment that your organization should consider adopting. Accenture did win some prestigious awards like the ERE Media award for its most innovative employee referral program.
Referralrecruitment was not involved in this referral recruitment campaign for Accenture.

While employee referral programs have always been a top source for high-quality hires, they can be adapted to become the most effective low-cost/high-quality source. The deployment of existing staff to recruit new employees is, if properly implemented, a powerful recruitment tool. Especially in a tight labour market, where recruitment of new employees is difficult and costly.

Accenture rewarded its employees for providing candidates in the past. However, this was poorly communicated and inconsistently implemented. This left a large untapped potential.
With the enormous rise of social networking sites Accenture saw the opportunity to boost its employees as the single largest source of new talent. Accenture developed a complete referral recruitment concept for his purpose. Central to this is an online platform for all employees where they find tools to deploy its network. The individual and overall results are easy to follow here and with a single campaign and platform this network has been activated. The new program radically simplifies the program's terms and conditions and dedicates resources to marketing the program internally on a regular basis.
Accenture's latest employee referral program is unique because it began life as a pilot program in The Netherlands. Based on the program's results, it now serves as a model for future rollouts around the globe.
Referral is now one of Accenture's main recruitment sources.

A few facts and figures:

  • Number one source of candidates, both quantity and quality
    The employee referral program has grown the percentage of hires attributed to employee referral from 14% to 33%. The quality of referrals also improved significantly, reducing the number of referrals required to generate a hire from seven to five.
  • Cost saving
    Huge cost saving like EUR 600,000 in 3 months (instead of professional recruitment agencies).
  • Job satisfaction and commitment
    The employee referral program has positive effects on job satisfaction and commitment of old and new employees.
  • Responsiveness
    80% of employees open the e-mail from the ERP campaign. By comparison, 50% open the e-mail from the Managing Director.
  • Awareness
    Employee awareness of the referral program has jumped from 20% to 99%, an astounding feat (do a quick survey in your organization, you might be surprised how few people know the details of your program and how to make a referral).
  • Consider some of their program's key success factors:

  • Charity component
    The critical component in any referral program is getting your employees to make high-quality referrals, not for the direct monetary benefit, but for the opportunity to provide their teammates with the very best coworkers. By allowing the employee to allocate a portion of the referral bonus to charity (i.e., UNICEF, World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund, Amnesty International, Red Cross), you have added another altruistic reason for making successful referrals.
  • Focused referrals
    Its referral application form makes it difficult for employees to make referrals of people they don't really know. The process requires the individual to explain how they know the individual, that the individual's skills are exceptional, and that the individual will "fit" within the organization. These types of features can help to limit the number of "casual" referrals that can clog the system.
  • Smart reward scheme instead of higher rewards
    Employees receive a small reward for a successful referral and EUR 500 is donated to charity. They also offer an opportunity for employees who make successful referrals to participate in a drawing for exciting world trips. In addition, employees also receive EUR 100 whenever one of their referred candidates is invited in for an interview. Obviously, any candidate invited for an interview is of sufficient quality to merit at least some reward and recognition.
  • Employee scorecard
    Employees have their own individual online website that allows them to track the progress of their referred candidates throughout the hiring process (this increases employee involvement and transparency). It also covers the number of referrals and their accumulated bonuses both for themselves and for charity. The scorecard also lists the employee's personal referral success rate. By allowing the employee to see how well they're doing in their referrals, relative to others, you can motivate lower-performing employees to increase their referral effectiveness.
  • V.I.P. status referrals
    Employee referrals are marked as very important and urgent by the application process so that they can be prioritized and fast-tracked during the hiring process. Under their enhanced program, every referral is acted upon.
  • Anyone can submit referrals
    It's fairly common for referral programs to exclude hiring managers and HR professionals, but this can be a mistake because among all employees, these are some of the most well-connected. Accenture's program now covers all positions and its expanded eligibility now allows everyone, including (senior) managers, HR, and recruiters to participate. Other firms that have adopted this practice simply encourage individuals to donate 100% of their bonus to charity when they see a potential conflict of interest.
  • Referral cards
    Referral cards can have a major impact on referral program success. Most referral cards are "paper" and are handed out individually. Accenture has taken the practice one step further, allowing employees to send electronic referral cards to people in their network. The e-cards contain a code that allows them to get credit if the individual submits an application.
  • Good administration
    Good administration of referrals makes the difference to increase employee involvement and transparency.
  • Campaigns
    Coupled with an effective employee referral program, strong cross media branding campaigns with a dedicated Accenture referral website. A referral campaign that emphasizes the "viral" spreading of (open) jobs via social media.
  • Courage
    Even though it's an intangible factor, it's critical to referral program success. It's easy for executives to discourage talk about hiring and winning awards during tough economic times, but the managers at Accenture had the courage to continue the development of this important program and to also follow through on the awards process. We salute them for their courage.
  • Other outstanding referral features from other companies:

  • Acumen Solutions
    Rather than the traditional passive approach, targeted referral percentage goals are set for each department in order to increase healthy internal competition. They provide a toolkit to educate their employees how to more effectively network. They celebrate referral successes publicly at all major company events.
  • Microsoft
    Microsoft raises the bar on employee referral related branding with their "Spreadthelove" website. This site allows Microsoft employees to "write up" their own individual story about their career with Microsoft (their story might include pictures, testimonials and video). Employees can then share the web link and "spread the love" with targeted friends, family and potential referrals. Microsoft has increased its process effectiveness by ensuring that every referral is contacted first by an employment specialist, which then introduces them to a recruiter that will manage their experience moving forward.
  • Tata Consultancy
    Adapted a marketing/CRM model for its referral program (i.e., the company offers a 24x7 referral help desk with a toll-free number). Another component allows newly hired candidates who have not yet joined the firm to refer their former colleagues (in order to capitalize on their "top of mind" knowledge of their networks in their previous organization). They also instituted a "Rapid Hire" process where resumes were collected at referral desks that provide "on the spot" screening followed by preliminary evaluation and instant feedback. They also offer early bird & spot prizes as well as contests between business units to foster a competitive mindset around referrals. The metrics demonstrated (as many other firms have) that referral turnover rates during the first year are significantly lower than traditional experienced hires (2.9% for referral hires versus 8%).
  • CACI International
    It sends targeted messages to employees for open "hot jobs" and has scaled its incentives and process referrals on a daily basis.
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