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Employee Referral Program Guidelines for Hotels

According to a survey conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 94% of hotels reported that they are currently experiencing a staffing shortage, with 49% noting that this shortage is severe. Overall, there’s more than 130,000 open hotel positions nationwide.

One of the best ways to boost your pipeline of candidates and fill your open roles with great talent faster is by leveraging your existing employees’ networks through an employee referral program. 

In fact, among Hireology customers, applicants referred by existing employees are four times as likely to become hires than applicants sourced via other channels — including job boards. In the hospitality industry this number is likely even higher as folks in roles like housekeeping or bartending typically trust their friends more when looking for a new job than they do third-party sites or even employers themselves.

What’s more, filling your open roles isn’t the only benefit of a great referral program in the hotel space. They’re useful when it comes to retention too. Turnover is high in this industry because for the most part, people can get similar jobs at all kinds of different hotels or other hospitality businesses like bars and restaurants. But if your employees know their co-workers and enjoy working with them, they’re much more likely to stick around longer.

However, most hotels know this. The problem you face is getting people to actually participate in your program so you can generate real ROI. So how do you build a program that actually motivates folks to participate? We’ve outlined five steps below:

5 steps to building a employee referral program for your hotel

A great hotel referral program requires intention and strategy. You need to be strategic about how you build your program, how much you decide to pay out, how you promote internally and more. And all of this needs to be tailored to the needs of your unique employee base. 

1. Define your employee referral program policy

First and foremost, you need to document your program’s guidelines. That includes everything from submission guidelines (Do employees need to use certain channels to submit or does referring a friend in a passing conversation count?) to any eligibility requirements (Can managers participate? What about referring a former employee or a family member?)

You want every aspect of the program to be clear so that folks know exactly how to officially submit a referral, when they’ll get paid out, who is eligible for participation, and more. Any gray area will deter people from participating.

2. Decide on your referral reward amount

Choosing the right referral reward amount is critical to driving engagement and maximizing ROI of the program. Rewards that are too low will deter participation, while rewards that are too high will be costly for you in the long-run — especially if you’re recruiting for high volume, high turnover roles.

In the hospitality space, the average reward payout is anywhere from $100-$500 for hourly roles. For easier-to-fill, high volume roles (e.g., bartender) that might be on the lower end. But for harder-to-fill roles (e.g., housekeeper) you may want to aim for the higher end. Typically, hotels pay this out in several installments — half when the new hire starts and another half after 90 days of employment. 

3. Promote your referral program

People won’t participate in your program if they don’t know about it. Clearly communicate the guidelines of the program, your open roles, and the payout amounts through channels that your employees pay most attention to. In the hotel space, this might even mean relying heavily on physical signage in high-traffic areas as most of your employees are not at desks or on their phones during the workday. You might also consider texting employees so that they see it on their phones when they leave for the day or while they’re on break.

Also, remember that most people need to hear something multiple times before it sinks in. Share any and all messages about your program multiple times  — even if it feels like you’re repeating yourself.

4. Make referral submission easy

Nothing deters folks from participating in referral programs more than a time-consuming process. If they’re asked to download an app, remember a password, or complete a form with dozens of fields, they are much more likely to give up. Instead, make submission as easy as responding to a text or an online chat. For example, with Hireology’s built-in referral technology anyone who clicks the URL to submit a referral is taken to a chatbot where they simply respond with their referral’s name and contact information — that’s it! The chatbot is mobile friendly too, so it’s really easy to navigate on-the-go.

Given that most of your hotel’s employees are not sitting at a computer all day, you can make it even easier to participate by turning your submission URLs into QR codes. That way employees don’t have to type in a URL on their phones or wait until they get to a desk. They can simply scan the code as they walk by, submit their referral’s information, and then move on with their day.

5. Track referral candidates and payout timing

Lastly, it’s important to keep your word when it comes to your referral program. That means actually vetting the referral candidates you source through your program and paying the correct referral bonuses on time. Of course, it’s easy to forget to follow up on candidates and make your reward payments if you’re tracking your program via spreadsheets or just in email. Instead, invest in tools like Hireology Referrals that allow you track these candidates alongside the rest of your pipeline and notify you when payments are due.

Referrals are increasingly a top source of talent. But referral programs don’t yield results without strategy and effort. So take some time now to breathe some new life into your program at your hotel to start building your referral pipeline today. Of course all of this is much easier to execute when you have a centralized tool for sending referral campaigns, tracking candidates, remembering bonus payouts, and more. Read our newest case study to learn how the recruiting teams at Hireology used our own built-in referrals technology to drive 20+ referral hires in just six months.

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