Employee referral programs are the perfect way to grow your business by leveraging your greatest assets. But setting up your first employee referral program can be overwhelming if you don’t know how to start and what you should be including. Fortunately, using an employee referral program template can help! 

In this article, we’ll answer these questions:

  • What is an employee referral program?
  • What is an employee referral program template?
  • What does an employee referral program template help you accomplish?
  • Which employee referral program template is right for your needs?
  • What to include in an employee referral program template when employees refer employees?
  • What to include in an employee referral program template when employees refer customers?
  • How to choose the right software for your employee referral program template? 

We will also share downloadable employee referral program sample templates, which you can use as is or customize for your individual needs.

What is an employee referral program?

An employee referral program is a formal program where you incentivize employees to help you grow your business, either by bringing in new business or by sourcing high-quality talent. Employees will refer new customers or new employees. In exchange, they get rewarded with employee referral rewards for successful sales or hires.

There are two types of employee referral programs:

Employee-to-employee referral program: Your current employees are encouraged to refer potential candidates for open positions at your company.

Employee-to-customer referral program: Your employees are encouraged to refer potential customers to your business.

In both cases, the programs involve 3 critical aspects:

  • You motivate your employees to tap into their network, whether that’s for new customers or potential employees.
  • Employees receive incentives in exchange for successful referrals.
  • The value of the rewards depends on the value that’s brought in. So, employees know that they can expect bigger rewards for bringing in higher value to the business.

What is an employee referral program template?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the moving parts of creating an employee referral program. An employee referral program template simplifies and streamlines the process, and helps you stay on top of all the activities involved in creating a program.

  • An employee referral program template is a framework where you plan out all aspects of your employee referral program prior to your launch. 
  • You’ll use it to outline your goals, the rewards you want to give out, how you want the program to operate, and more.
  • A template provides the basis for your program and a place to define your goals, so you can better gauge success when the program is live and know if it’s working how you expected.

What does an employee referral program template help you accomplish?

An employee referral program template is a framework that you can use to:

Plan out all aspects of your employee referral program before you launch 

The template should cover aspects such as goals, systems, processes, people, and metrics. 

Goals help you decide the steps you need to take to achieve specific results. Before you go about building a program, you want to have clear goals on hand to focus on. 

Systems is about the software or programs you’ll need to create and run your program. If you’re a small business, you may be tempted to go down the manual route, but things can get complicated and complex in the absence of automation. 

Processes are the different tasks involved in creating an employee referral program. You can have one process for recruiting employee referrers, another process for training, one process for tracking commissions, and another for initiating payments. 

With the people component, you’re thinking about who needs to be in the loop and accountable for specific parts of the program. If you’re doing an employee-to-employee program, you’ll want to include your talent acquisition or HR teams. If you’re using a program to find new customers, you’ll likely need to talk to your sales and marketing teams. Either way, you may need to include your accounts team for the payments made to employees.

Last but not least, metrics is about how you will measure your goals and manage your performance. 

In a sense, the planning process is about creating a bird’s eye view of everything you need to launch a successful employee referral program. 

Create an action plan

Once you’ve established a baseline with your planning, you can go further with your framework by delving into the specific details of each aspect. At this stage, you’re developing the concrete steps to make your program a reality. Ask yourself these questions to help kickstart the process:

  • What specific goals do you want to achieve with the program? Do you want “x” number of new customers, or “x” value in new sales? Or, do you want to fill “y” number of positions by a fixed timeframe?
  • What types of employee referral bonuses or rewards do you want to give out, and how will these be paid to the referring employees? 
  • What parts of the program should run automatically in the background? 
  • Is there any process that needs to be routed to approvers before they can pass on to the next stages?
  • What engagement strategies can you use to ensure your program is consistently on peoples’ minds? 

When the program is live, check back on the template you’ve prepared so you know if it’s working the way you wanted. You can always go back to the drawing board and review your action steps to identify problems if you didn’t get the results you were expecting. 

Which employee referral program template is right for your needs?

Employee-to-employee or employee-to-customer: what type of employee referral program template will work best for your business? Or, are you ready to use both? Here’s how to figure out which template you’ll need. 

Although some aspects of employee referral programs are similar across both templates, employee-to-employee and employee-to-customer referral programs each require a distinct template for planning.

An employee-to-employee referral program template will work for you if:

You’re actively looking for employees to fill job openings. If you’re frequently sharing your job postings through online channels (the career pages of your website, social media like Facebook, professional networking sites like LinkedIn, etc.), and offline channels (job boards and posters), an employee-to-employee program is a great tool. 

Your company is fairly large. While a program like this can work just as well for a small-sized company, you may not need to have a program of this magnitude when you’re just starting out. It’s more ideal for the growth stage when you have the resources to handle the larger influx of responses and applicants you’ll be receiving. 

Your employees are engaged, satisfied, and familiar with your brand and company culture. Your employees will only encourage other potential candidates to sign up if they’re genuinely vested in your business. If you take the time to develop rapport with your employees and make sure they’re happy working for your brand, you’re more than likely to succeed with an employee-to-employee referral program.

Employees know what you’re looking for in an ideal employee. To some extent, your employees will have some familiarity with how your company works on the inside and what candidates can expect in terms of company culture. 

At the same time, you still need to spell out your expectations so your referring employees know what specific traits, experience, and capabilities they should be looking out for. 

An employee-to-customer referral program template will work for you if:

You want your employees to be brand advocates and share your products and services. Your employees know your brand like no one else. And potential customers are more likely to trust employee sentiments over any form of direct brand advertising. 

Your employees are engaged, satisfied, and familiar with your brand, products, and services. Similar to employee-to-employee referral programs, it’s absolutely essential that your employees are vested in your brand. 

Spend time developing internal programs and policies that engage your employees and ensure they’re having the best possible experience as an employee. Another core business benefit (besides referrals) is that your retention rates are more consistent. 

Employees know what you’re looking for in an ideal customer. While they know how your brand works from the inside, they may not necessarily have the knowledge or skills to identify the right-fit customers for your business. Provide training and resources so employees know what they’re looking for.

You are ready to handle a big influx of new customers. Once you start any form of referral marketing program, things can go viral very quickly. You want to ensure that every single customer has the best possible experience. Make sure you have enough staffing, resources, and tech support.

You provide stellar customer service. All your best-laid plans can go to waste if your customer service is sub-par. Having adequate resources can help mitigate much of the risks, but you still want to ensure your staff have the training and support they need to do a great job when they’re serving customers. 

Next, we’ll be covering all the specific details of what you should cover in each type of program template. We’ll also share employee referral program sample templates that you can build on to craft your own templates.

Employee referral program template: What to include when employees refer employees

Planning on mobilizing employees to bring in job candidates? Use our guide to create your program framework. Your employee referral program policy template should include elements such as an overview, goals, tracking and software, rewards, eligibility, marketing, and training and development. 

You can download a free copy of our employee-to-employee referral program template here. 

employee referral program template (employee to employee)

Now, let’s look at the details of the specific sections you should include, one by one. 

1. Overview

The overview is your snapshot of what’s to come in the employee referral program template. 

Cover the “why” for your program and when you want it to start (the launch date). You’ll also want to list and briefly describe all the individual elements you want to have ready before the launch.

2. Goals for your program

The first critical element of your employee referral program template is defining your goals. Goals can differ from business to business. But, in general, you may want to fill “x” number of roles in “y” department by a given date, or you may have several specific roles to hire for. If you have a larger organization, you may want to expand the scope to how many positions you want to fill by a specific date. 

Within the context of the big-picture goals, you can get as specific and as detailed as you want. So you can list the types of qualifications candidates need to become eligible for applying. You can list the recruitment process stage-by-stage. You can even list the people who need to be part of the hiring process for different departments, for example, the hiring managers of the department and the human resources (HR) teams. 

3. Tracking and software

The next element involves software and how you will leverage it to track the referrals your employees make. Granted, you can use spreadsheets, but this can get complicated very quickly when you start to scale. Ideally, you want a “set up and run automatically” type of solution – automation software. This type of software can execute all the tasks seamlessly, and a lot faster, in the background for you. 

The best automation software you can use for this purpose is employee referral software. The software generates unique trackable referral links for each employee to share, and enables referral tracking in real time.

Look for the following features in a robust employee referral software program:

  • The software should be able to completely automate referral tracking, the sending of rewards, and even program promotion.
  • The software should make it easy for you to customize the program to your needs. You should also be able easily integrate it with your existing processes. Otherwise, you may find that you need to go back and forth between multiple systems.
  • It’s worth considering a software that’s flexible enough to run both programs (where employees refer employees and where employees refer customers). You may want to have this option if you plan to grow and scale further down the line, so there’s minimal disruption.

4. Rewards

Rewards are the most critical aspect of your employee-to-employee referral program. Your rewards scheme can make or break the process for your employees. An effective rewards scheme will also be highly motivating for your employees, so they’ll consistently be scouting for quality candidates for you. 

Some questions you want to consider:

When do employees become eligible for rewards?

Will you pay the incentive right after a referred job candidate is accepted? Or after a set period of time following the hire? 

Paying out an incentive as soon as a candidate gets hired may not always be your best option. What if you decide that a referred candidate is not the best fit? Or what if a candidate gets hired, but then resigns within a week?

Instead, you might decide to pay the referral bonus 60 or 90 days after the candidate’s start date, if the candidate is still deemed a successful hire. This method also serves to motivate your referring employees to ensure they’re bringing on qualified candidates that will potentially stay for the long haul. 

Another way to offer rewards is to use a tiered reward structure. This means offering a small reward when a candidate completes a job application, another reward if the candidate gets through to the interview stage, and then finally, a much bigger reward if the candidate gets selected. 

Or, you might decide to reward your referring employee when a new employee is hired, and then hand out additional bonuses further down the line once you’ve determined that there’s a long-term future with the new hire. 

What rewards will you give out? 

Whatever the type of reward you use, it’s important to make sure they’re rewards that your employees will find motivating and be happy to receive. Cash is a universal favorite and can often be the first preference for most of your employees. 

But there are lots more options than just cash. You can also give rewards like gift cards, event tickets, or travel benefits, or offer training/skill development opportunities. You can even award more tangible gifts like gadgets, bags, or watches. 

If you’re unsure what to pick, simply ask your employees what types of rewards they would find the most motivating and enjoyable to receive. 

Will you gamify your program, with extra rewards for the top referrers of the year?

One idea worth looking into is gamification. That’s when you apply the same design used in games to motivate your own employees. Consider creating leader-boards, and providing higher-value rewards for the top referrers of the year. 

5. Terms and eligibility

In this template section, you’ll make it clear who’s eligible to participate in the employee referral program and gain rewards, and who’s not. 

  • Typically, all employees can submit referrals, with the exception of HR teams and senior executives. 
  • As a standard, hiring managers also can’t submit referrals for the positions who would report to them, but can submit referrals for other positions.
  • Think about whether you want to include part-time employees and contractors in the referral program.

Once you’ve determined employee eligibility, it’s time to look at candidate eligibility. 

Ask yourself whether you want to open up all the roles indiscriminately to the referral program – will any successful employee referral earn rewards?

Alternatively, you can only give out rewards for hard-to-fill roles. Also, think about the category of potential employees that’s relevant to the program. Should candidates be referred to full-time positions, non-temporary positions, or non-contract employee positions for the existing employee to qualify for rewards?

You can also go into more detail to tighten the eligibility criteria and make the rules more clear.

For example, must candidates be new applicants who haven’t applied in a year? What happens when a candidate is referred by multiple employees – do you want to reward the first referrer? 

You can also provide information on how employees can identify the ideal candidates in terms of qualities, skills, and experience for the position. 

6. How the referral process works

This element delves deeply into the finer details of how the referral process actually works from a practical perspective. 

Discuss how employees can submit referrals. Is there a specific portal or referral form they should use?

List the specific information you want employees to provide when they’re referring candidates. For example, this could include the candidate name, position name, job ID number and contact information, referrer name/staff ID, referrer email address, and contact information. 

Also, list the many ways employees can promote their referral links. Will they be given a shareable link that they can share directly to their social media channels? Will they send a direct email? An excellent solution that’s made possible through the use of referral software is creating unique trackable links for each referring employee, which they can share anywhere. 

Last but not least, do you want to provide a message template that employees can personalize? Or, do you want to leave the messaging to the employees themselves? If you would rather have employees share the way they see fit, provide guidelines on specific do’s and don’ts. 

7. Program promotion

Once you’ve established the foundational elements of your program, you next want to think about how you’ll promote it to your employees. Here are a few different channels you could consider: 

  • Slack or other internal messaging forums 
  • Inside employee portals
  • At company meetings
  • Via email
  • During one-on-one conversations 

8. How to brief employees about the program

The importance of training cannot be over-emphasized. Training helps employees understand how they can go about achieving the objectives. It also serves as a support system so employees have concrete guidelines and instructions to fall back on. Discuss the following as part of your training and briefing programs:

  • How to identify the ideal candidate: What specific traits, skills, and experience should they have?
  •  What types of candidates should NOT be referred?
  • Discuss open job descriptions in depth. 
    • People from different departments may not be as clear on the essentials needed for a given job.
    • Clear up ambiguities and explain complex or technical terms. 
  • Educate employees on how to avoid referral bias, also known as unconscious bias. Referral bias occurs when they (knowingly or unconsciously) exclude specific races, genders, or personality types from their referral preferences.
    •  People have a propensity to work with people who are most like them. Training can help them become more logical and focused on choosing the right candidate for the job. 
  • Train employees on how to use the referral program and track the status of their referrals. 
    • It’s basic tech but training can be highly appreciated. 
    • Training will also reduce the amount of questions about how the program works at the back-end, which you would otherwise end up having to field later. 

9. How you’ll communicate with employees

The final element has to do with communication and engagement. With referral program software, you’ll be able to carry out many of these key tasks without missing a beat:

  • Keep employees updated on the status of their referrals via the referral platform.
  • Send out updates periodically, so employees know all the latest promotions and any changes they need to be aware of with respect to the program.
  •  Solicit feedback on how employees are finding the program and what you can do to make things better or more effective. Software also makes it easy for employees to reach out to you via an online form, for example, with any questions they may have about the program. 
  • You can also provide feedback to individual employees about the strengths and weaknesses of their referrals, so they know what they can do better for their next referrals. 

Employee referral program template: What to include when employees refer customers

Planning on mobilizing employees as advocates who promote your products? This is the employee referral program template for you. You’ll need an overview, your specific goals, tracking and software notes, the rewards structure, eligibility criteria, how the referral process will work, promotion plans, training ideas, and a communication framework on your program template.

You can download a free copy of our employee-to-customer referral program template here. 

employee referral program template (employee to customer)

Now, let’s look at the details of the specific sections you should include, one by one.

1. Overview

The overview is a brief synopsis that talks about your big “why” for the program and the individual elements and accountabilities that are required to build your program from scratch. We’ll be discussing these elements next. Also, add a launch date, and ensure you’re listing every single element you need in place prior to your launch date. 

2. Goals for your program

The first and most important element is program goal-setting. Goals help define your action steps and help you achieve focus in your planning.

Make sure that your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Following SMART guidelines will help you create realistic goals that can be achieved within the set time period and measured against your success parameters.

Use revenue as the basis for determining whether your ROI is really measuring up. For instance, you can set goals such as:

  • Conversion rate (percentage of referred leads who become customers).
  • Percentages of employees making referrals.
  • Revenue generated via referrals within specific time intervals.
  • Average purchase value of referred customers vs. all customers.
  • Lifetime value of referred customers vs. all customers.

3. Tracking and software

Next, think about how you will track referrals and your ROI of the program. For small businesses, you may be tempted to go manual through the use of spreadsheets. But manual methods can become cumbersome. You’ll also be spending a lot of time with manual error-checking and tracking for payments. 

Using an automated method is much easier and faster, especially when you’re considering growing your business further down the line. Employee referral software can help you create unique trackable referral links for each employee to share, and enables referral tracking in real time.

How do you go about determining the best employee referral software for your business? Follow these guidelines:

The best employee referral software:

  • Automates referral tracking, the sending of rewards, and even program promotion, so you’re not constantly scrambling back and forth between multiple systems. 
  • Lets you customize the program to your needs, and integrates with your existing processes. 
  • Is flexible enough to run both types of employee referral programs (where employees refer employees and where employees refer customers). 

4. Rewards

The subject of rewards requires some thought and strategic planning. You want to provide rewards that your employees will genuinely want to work toward. If your rewards are not motivating enough, employees will simply not want to make the effort. Consider these questions for your program template:

When do employees become eligible for rewards?

Ideally, you want to reward the referring employee when the customer makes the first purchase. But this may not always be feasible for B2B businesses, which involve a fairly long sales cycle. In this case, you can always reward employees with a smaller reward for a qualified lead, and then a larger reward for an actual purchase. 

Will you reward the new customer as well, once they make their first purchase?

Rewarding the new customer in addition to the employee is a practice worth implementing. That’s because a reward structure like this functions like a twin motivator for your employee on the one hand, and your referred lead on the other. Your employee will want to keep referring, and your potential customer will feel like purchasing from you is the right choice.

What rewards will you give out to referring employees? 

Your rewards should be attractive, appealing, and engaging enough for your employees to want to take action.

Most employees typically prefer cash as it gives them the freedom to use the reward the way they want. They can save it, gift it, spend it, or invest it, according to their preference. Other attractive incentives include gift cards, gym memberships, event tickets, travel rewards, gadgets, corporate swag, and further training or skill development opportunities. 

What rewards will you give new customers?

While it’s tempting to give customers a one-off appreciation gift, what you really want to do is connect the gifts to a long-term relationship.Choose gifts that motivate new customers to keep coming back to your brand. Some examples include credits towards a future purchase with your brand, discounts, or product-related freebies. 

Will you gamify your program, with extra rewards for the top referrers of the year?

Gamification can help generate a huge amount of traction within a short period of time. As part of gamification, think about a tiered reward structure (where higher amounts of referrals earn larger rewards), as well as additional bonuses or big-ticket prizes for the top referrers of the year. 

5. Terms and eligibility

The next element is about nailing down the eligibility and other terms and conditions. Do you want to throw the floor open to all employees so that they’re immediately eligible to refer new customers and earn rewards? 

Alternatively, you could allow employees to participate only after they’ve been fully trained on all aspects of the referral process. So, in practice, your referral bonus program would become a fully-fledged, and formal, employee ambassador program.

6. How the referral process works

Also, describe how the referral process will work. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How will employees submit referrals? 
    • Will they have their own portal or do they need to submit referrals through a referral form?
  • What information about the leads they’re referring must employees submit?
    •  Ideally, limit the number of fields. Employees can lose interest when the form is long, complex, and unnecessarily time-consuming. 
  • What ways are available for employees to send referrals? 
    • Can they share links on email or social media? 
    • Will they have their own unique referral link?
  • Can employees write a personalized message for the person they’re referring? 
    • Will you offer suggestions for what they should include? 

7. Program promotion

Your employees won’t know about the program unless you tell them. Use available offline and online channels to launch a teaser to build anticipation. And then, once you’ve roused sufficient curiosity, launch the official program because that’s when your employees are going to be the most excited. 

Promote your program:

  • Via Slack or other internal messaging forums
  • Inside employee portals
  • At company meetings
  • Via email
  • During one-on-one conversations 

8. How to brief employees about the program

The next element is about imparting knowledge and skills. Place yourself in the shoes of your employees and think about what type of training they would need to become effective referral ambassadors.

To start with, provide a detailed brief about the ideal customer for your business, including their demographic, lifestyle preferences, pain points, and the social media channels they frequent the most. 

Also, talk about what makes your brand unique and why it’s the ideal solution for potential customers. Discuss your product features in depth, its advantages, and why it’s better than other similar products in the market. 

Provide a referral message template which covers the essentials but allows room for the employee to express their personality. At the same time, provide guidelines on brand voice and tone, plus what’s acceptable and what’s not in brand communication. Most importantly, determine how you will help employees know how to get their message across authentically, without sounding salesy.

Last but not least, provide training on the referral program. Talk about the why, how it works, how employees can check the status of referrals, how they can earn, and how they can expect the benefits to be dispersed into their accounts. 

9. How you’ll communicate with employees

The very last element of your referral program template involves timely communication with your employees. Referral program software is a great option to do just that, as it’s a lot more efficient, faster, and significantly less error-prone compared to using manual methods like spreadsheets and emails.

Think about how you will update employees of the status of their referrals. Referral software often integrates with your existing systems, so employees can check up on how their referrals are doing on their own employee portals or dashboards. 

Use promotional marketing tools embedded within your referral software, or a combination of email and online meetings, to share updates and changes to your programs. You can also use the same methods to announce and implement upcoming training programs. 

Provide ways for employees to connect with you in case they have any questions or are facing challenges with any aspect of the program. Ensure you respond in a timely fashion so employees know you genuinely care about how they’re getting on. 

Choose the right software for your employee referral program template 

The most important part of creating a successful employee referral program template is selecting the right employee referral software for your needs. 

Referral Rock referral software works well for all types of businesses and referral programs, and lets you set up employee referral tracking in days, not weeks!

  • Our software is flexible enough to run programs where employees refer new customers or refer new employment candidates
  • The software can help you fully automate your referral tracking, reward distribution, and even your program promotion
  • Plus, a dedicated onboarding specialist is included with every plan. So, you’ll have someone to walk with you every step of the way dedicated to your success!


Having ready-made scripts in the form of employee referral program templates can be a complete game-changer for your business. They help you structure your referral program, identify your deliverables, fix accountabilities, and develop concrete action plans to achieve your goals. Use our guide to help create your employee referral program template or simply use the sample templates we’ve provided and customize them for your unique needs.