Referral schemes can help increase diversity

Janine Chidlow

We received a great response to a recent blog post on our website, exploring how job advert wording can directly impact an organisation’s diversity profile. As part of that post we discussed how it is crucial for intelligent recruitment strategies to incorporate the diversity and inclusion agenda.

Following an interesting point raised by one of our clients recently, we have been considering the topic of diversity even further, looking specifically at the impact of referral schemes and asking ourselves: "How do referral hires impact organisational diversity?" "Do employees only refer carbon copies of themselves?"

The saying birds of a feather flock together certainly rings true – recent research suggests that employees refer individuals who are similar in terms of age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, and staff level. Some companies could argue that this will help achieve the all important goal of culture fit and embrace the opportunity to have employees who already embody the company values and DNA refer like-minded individuals. In an article for Forbes, executive coach and author Erika Andersen cites that 89% of hiring failures are due to poor cultural fit. With this in mind, the option to target certain networks within your organisation and actively promote referrals through them is something people leaders should consider.

In contrast to this view, some organisations shy away from promoting referral schemes, anxious of the impact they may have on their meritocracy or diversity culture. They may feel reluctant to recruit via referrals, concerned at the prospect of receiving CVs only from mirror images of current employees, potentially resulting in a negative impact on the diversity of their workforce.

At Resource Solutions, we absolutely believe referral schemes can help increase diversity - providing they are managed correctly and that diversity is already a core part of your recruitment process. In our experience, leveraging internal networks to innovatively promote referral schemes will undoubtedly enhance your organisational diversity and open the doors of your organisation to individuals who truly live and breathe your company culture.