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How involved are your employees in recruiting talent? Often the best people know the best people, and a vouch from a current employee often makes the employee and their referral accountable. This kind of system — called grassroots acquisitions — is integral to getting the best performers in a field.

But, often, HR departments won’t use referrals as their first choice, which can be detrimental to obtaining top performers and a recruiting budget.

A referral is free, whereas advertising and headhunting can cost tens of thousands.

You want the former to drive your talent acquisition during these economically challenging times. But implementation is critical.

Here’s how you can implement a winning grassroots talent acquisition program.

Develop a Strategy With the HR Team

The process begins by creating a framework for hiring. Identify the gaps in your current structure and then determine when you want to add these roles to your company — preferably segmenting the hiring calendar into quarters, especially for management-level positions.

The strategy session should also include a structure for sudden hires if employees resign with short notice.

Create Incentives for Successful Referrals

While strategizing, determine which incentives you can offer, given the budget.

Suppose your budget is limited; offer more time off, especially during quiet periods. If you have some budget, consider offering cash bonuses, the equivalent of a percentage of the annual salary provided for the role.

Consider implementing prize givings, like weekend getaways, tickets to sporting events, spa treatments, and so on, to honour frequent referrers.

Note: Team leaders and managers should naturally be exempt from programs relating to their teams.

Inform Your Employees of the Goals and Rewards

The key to a grassroots hiring strategy is informing employees of the ideal candidate you’re looking to acquire, more than the experience and expertise; describe the individual’s characteristics and ethos.

This gives your workforce accountability about who they recommend, as they’re likely to stress that their recommendations meet these characteristics.

Next, inform them of what they obtain if their recommendation is hired. The reward is likely to make them more invested in finding an ideal candidate than a friend or relative looking for a job.

Sending reminders about closing dates and rewards and sharing the final selection will keep the grassroots program alive.

Grassroots hires encourage loyalty and retention and can often be the most effective way to acquire high performers.

When implementing this program, remember the old idiom: birds of a feather flock together.

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