In today’s challenging healthcare labor market, referral programs are still one the best uses of healthcare marketing dollars to get high quality employees with a positive ROI.

There’s no doubt that a successful employee referral program can make the difference between achieving organizational hiring objectives and having to pay thousands of dollars in agency fees to plug the talent gaps.

But unfortunately, many of these campaigns end up being ignored, forgotten or put off under the strain of healthcare recruiters more pressing day to day responsibilities.

According to, 88% of 73 major employers surveyed said that referrals are the #1 source for above-average applicants. So it’s no wonder that referred employees make a measurable difference in your organization—they have higher retention rates, engagement, and performance.

Here are some common reasons why hospital employee referral programs fail and what you can do instead to produce a successful campaign:

1). No leadership involvement

If the employees think that leadership aren’t behind and invested in the program, then it becomes an even tougher sell for HR to get people involved.

Unit-based hospital employees are bombarded with requests and tasks from the moment they get to work including patient care, paperwork, data entry, coverage of other areas and so on. Thinking about an employee referral program will be quite possibly the last thing on their minds.

Instead: Include C-suite level executives including your Hospital CEO and Chief HR Officer from the beginning of the program.

You can ask your leadership team to be involved in announcements that kick off the campaign and ask them to send an email or letter to employees, personally expressing their enthusiasm and support for the program. The chief can make an appearance and say a few words at the campaign kick off luncheon as well as announce and appear with the grand prize winner. Having your executives involved from the start gives your program credibility.

2). Not treating it like a marketing program

If the only ongoing mention of your ERP is buried in the back of your employee handbook along with PTO and benefits, then your employees will ignore the program as well and it is doomed to fail.

Instead: Try creating a theme for your ERP and a multi-channel marketing campaign to support it including a kick off party and grand prize winner. The employee referral program must be a constantly communicated, on-going marketing campaign – One that has a distinct beginning, middle and end. There needs to be periodic updates, spotlights on big referrers, and reminders to get involved.

3). Not giving feedback or responding to employees

When employees make a referral, its not just because of the money – it’s because they want to help their organization, their unit or department and/or their friend who they are referring.  So when the employee takes the time to make the referral, its critically important to thank them and provide timely feedback.

Instead: Thank them with a mention in the employee newsletter, on social media or via email update to the program.  Recognize them with a small reward for each referral, such as with a Starbucks gift card. You can also utilize ideas such as a highly visible referral tote board that shines a light on those employees who have gotten involved. The bottom line is that making your employees feel appreciated and rewarded is a key to the program’s success.

4). Not setting goals or benchmarks

Do not begin your employee referral program until you and your team have given some thought to what outcomes you’d like to achieve and what aspects of the campaign you are going to measure.  It’s important to have a clear understanding of which metrics are important to your healthcare organization and what the cost is compared to your other recruiting tactics so you can know the true value and ROI of your program.

Instead: HR professionals should include, at the design phase of an employee referral program, ways the program will be measured to see if it has met its intended strategic goals and outcomes.

According to Analytics in HR, a leading online community for HR analytics practitioners, Metrics HR professionals may wish to use to measure the program’s effectiveness may include the following:

  • Number of employees hired from the employee referral program versus other recruiting methods.
  • Number of qualified candidates referred versus other recruiting methods.
  • Workforce participation rate in the program.
  • Retention rate of referred new hires versus new hires sourced through other recruiting methods.
  • Employee satisfaction with the program through employee surveys.

Employee referral programs are still an effective tool for building talent pipelines. By utilizing proper planning and setting goals, healthcare organizations can continue to use them in an attempt to find qualified candidates efficiently.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.