Employee referral programs represent highly effective tools in boosting employee engagement, attracting new employees for your business, and driving sales of your products or services. Did you know that 45% of referral hires remain in their positions longer than four years, compared to 25% of those hired via job boards? Or that candidates hired through referral programs are 350% less likely to get fired? Whatever your sector, a referral program could bring untold benefits that enhance profits and improve your brand’s reputation. 

Of course, your program will only generate results if your employees consistently engage with the referral process. As such, you must actively publicize your program and persuade employees to participate. If you’re wondering how to promote employee referral programs, we’ve compiled a handy guide to effective employee referral program promotions below.

How to promote any employee referral program

As we explain in our guide to employee referral programs, there are two types of programs to consider:

  1. One in which existing employees refer qualified candidates for company vacancies.
  2. One in which employees refer potential new customers

Both referral models require attractive incentives and well-planned promotional strategies to work. The following tips explain how to promote your employee referral program as simple, attractive, and enjoyable for employees:

1. Offer meaningful incentives

Employees are unlikely to spend time and effort referring customers and job candidates if they can expect nothing in return. Incentive payouts provide the extra push to encourage employees to refer their friends.

What kind of referral bonuses should you offer, to keep employees engaged without breaking the bank? Tokens of appreciation could include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Gift cards
  • Cash bonuses
  • Event tickets
  • Travel vouchers and incentives
  • An extra paid day off (or two!)
  • Tangible gifts, such as gadgets
  • Opportunities for professional development

Of course, you must highlight your chosen referral rewards in all communications about the program. Employees are less likely to get involved if they’re unsure what’s in it for them. 

employee referral bonus step by step

2. Make referring easy

One of the best ways to promote your program is to make it easily accessible and usable. Employees are more likely to refer job seekers and customers if the process is quick and easy. Here are a few simple ways to make your program as intuitive as possible:

  • Create a dedicated page for your referral program that employees can access through all your program communications.
  • On this page, keep form fields to a minimum. Only ask for vital information, such as names and contact details.
  • Provide clear referral instructions on the page and in your internal communications to employees. The best way to accomplish this is with three or four easy steps. If the referral process requires more steps, it’s probably too complex and time-consuming!
  • Provide instructions in various formats to suit different learning styles. For example, you may wish to send written instructions, screenshots, and a quick video tutorial. 

As soon as employees discover how easy the referral process is, they’ll feel empowered to make frequent referrals and encourage their peers to get involved. 

leonardo referral steps

3. Gamify the experience

Studies show that employees are almost 50% more engaged with activities involving gamification compared to standard tasks. As such, presenting your program as a compelling game will drive engagement by tapping into your employees’ fundamental human instincts. 

Wondering how to promote employee referral programs through gamification? Start by giving employees a goal. For example, you could set up a leaderboard of the most candidate referrals provided in a given timeframe, or the most successful conversions resulting from referrals. Once the deadline has elapsed, offer the winner a grand prize, and recognize them publicly (say, on Slack, on social media, or at a company-wide meeting.) Then, start the process again to encourage even more employees to get involved.

referral rally

4. Use employee referral software

Employee referral software represents an affordable way to promote your program and reduce your workload. As well as creating a streamlined referral journey for your employees, software can automate program promotions at specified intervals and drive engagement on autopilot. Running a gamified referral program is also easier with referral software, as it tracks results in real-time and incentivizes employees to compete for the top prize.

5. Roll your program out to top-performing employees in advance

Provide your best employees with personalized invitations to get involved with your referral program before rolling it out to others. Your top-performing employees are likely to know great potential candidates within their professional networks and have cutting-edge knowledge about the kinds of potential customers likely to drive conversions. By involving these staff members at an early stage, you’ll demonstrate the value of your referral program and incentivize other employees to participate later on.  Invite them in person or via email, and position the program as a perk – after all, the greatest employees are likely to know other great employees (or have the best knowledge of who makes a great customer).

how to promote employee referral programs: sense referral message to high performing employee


You may also wish to roll out an employee ambassador program, where high performers receive special training to represent your company and earn significant rewards for making referrals. As well as enticing great candidates and customers, this strategy will encourage employees to optimize their overall performance. 

6. Share the program using digital communication channels

Make sure you promote your program via the channels your employees use every day. Whether your teams prefer to communicate via Slack, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Google Chat, or Jabber, remember to post updates across all relevant channels. If you send regular internal newsletters, why not dedicate a special section to referral program updates? You could also include real-time updates on your employee portal homepage. Reminding employees of the program every time they log on represents an effective motivation method.

7. Produce flyers for your employee referral program

While digital marketing may be ubiquitous nowadays, physical flyers represent a highly effective (and underrated!) promotional strategy. Did you know, for example, that 45% of people tend to hang onto flyers for future reference? You never know – some of your employees may pin the flyers to their notice boards or stick them around the office. 

Of course, you’ll need to highlight the program’s rewards and prizes on the flyer and include information about how to get involved. If you’re looking to fill specific vacancies, you’ll need to include granular criteria about the kinds of candidates you want. In other words, the more information you can offer about how to participate in the program, the better. 

how to promote employee referral programs: vail resorts referral flyer

8. Recognize your top referrers 

Rewarding your star referrers with prizes and public recognition isn’t just a way to show appreciation. It will also motivate others to optimize their referral rates. You might recognize every time a referral leads to a hire, employees who referred the most new customers in a month, or use another recognition system.

If you’re wondering how to spread the word, consider writing up a celebratory success story for your blog, including an image of the winner with their prize. You can then share the link to the blog across a variety of channels, including internal communications platforms, newsletters, LinkedIn, and more. When employees see these referrer success stories, they’re more likely to make referrals of their own.

It’s also a good idea to recognize the employee during team meetings or via public praise from your CEO. Just remember to include calls to action in all your communications, encouraging others to participate in the program and providing step-by-step instructions for making their first referral.

9. Keep employees in the loop

Employees may forget about your referral program if they don’t receive good news about its outcomes. We recommend sending personalized messages letting employees know how their referrals are moving through the hiring process or lead funnel. Such communications also present the perfect opportunity to thank employees for their hard work and remind them about what’s on offer for future referrals. As ever, include an informative call to action containing relevant links and need-to-know tips for boosting referral success. 

Bonus tips: Promoting an employee referral program for talent acquisition

Hiring a committed cohort of skilled professionals is vital for the success of any business. A referral program can help streamline the hiring process and reduce turnover by ensuring you hire the best and the brightest from within your sector and professional networks. If you’re still wondering how to promote employee referral programs to attract fantastic new hires, here are a few more tips:

1. Get your hiring managers on board

Hiring managers represent the frontline of the hiring process. As such, encouraging them to get involved with your referral program and spread the word among colleagues will drive engagement. Share the benefits of employee referral programs with them, including that referred employees tend to be more skilled and more loyal hires, and that referrals are a quicker way to find employees at a lower cost per hire. Then, give them all the information they need to share the program with the current employees they’re responsible for.

You should also urge hiring managers to provide employees with information about the kinds of skills and requirements necessary for filling job openings. In addition, ask them to share the referral program right away with newly hired employees, during onboarding. Providing targeted information will reduce your team’s workload by minimizing the number of applications while ensuring your candidate pool is brimming with high-quality candidates. 

2. Treat employees to a spontaneous lunch

There’s no better way to get employees excited about a new task or mission than treating them to a spontaneous lunch. Buy lunch for relevant teams that could help you fill open positions (say, buy lunch for the sales team if you’re looking for a salesperson). Announce the referral program – and the open roles you seek to fill – once everyone feels full and satisfied, as this will illustrate the importance of filling outstanding vacancies. You can even try taking employees out for a themed lunch. Say, for example, you’re looking to hire French speakers. Why not take everyone out to a French restaurant?

3. Hold a referral “happy hour”

A referral “happy hour” (or referral mixer) is a networking session in which current employees bring friends and acquaintances to meet hiring managers and other members of the senior management team. Naturally, you’ll need to remind your employees to read the job descriptions for outstanding vacancies and choose candidates with relevant skills and qualifications. As well as providing a valuable opportunity for potential new hires to discuss their credentials in a casual environment, holding a happy hour will help to advertise your wider referral program to employees. 

employee referral mixer

4. Try a referral huddle

A referral huddle is a 30–45-minute brainstorming session in which employees are given the time to come up with good-fit hires for a given position. Send invitations to your best-connected employees to get together in a room. During the session, provide prompts such as “Who’s the best [provide job title or role] you know?” or “Do you know anyone with [insert relevant skill]?”. Feel free to offer a few sweet treats to keep everyone’s brains in gear!

Start promoting your employee referral program today

As you can see, there are plenty of inventive ways to advertise an employee referral program within your business, whether it’s meant to attract top talent or new customers. Be inventive, and remember to tailor your strategies for your employees. 

One of the best ways to streamline your promotion is with the right referral software. Choose a software with automated engagement and promotion features. Referral Rock can help you promote your program on autopilot, and it’s flexible enough to help you run both types of employee referral programs.