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Employee Referral Programs

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Recent data from Zippia indicates 45 percent of referral hires remain with the employer for longer than four years compared to only 25 percent of job board hires, making an employee referral program a solid investment for school districts.

Adopting an employee referral program is an approach to recruiting being used in several Texas school districts. These programs encourage current employees to refer high-quality talent they think would be a good fit with the organization. If the referral is hired and remains on the job for a certain period of time, the referring employee receives an incentive.


A well-crafted employee referral program offers several benefits. In addition to higher retention rates, allowing employees to recruit on behalf of the district can save both time and money on recruiting efforts.

Empowering current employees to recruit potential candidates also increases buy-in and engagement. This is amplified if the referral gets the job, which can give the current employee a feeling of pride or accomplishment.

Finally, current employees understand the organizational culture and the kind of work that needs to be done. Allowing the employee to promote the organization and match-make can improve the quality of the hire and elevate the district’s reputation and visibility.

Creating a Program

Districts should first define their hiring needs by identifying which positions would benefit from referrals. This will look different from district to district and may include large groups (e.g., teachers, bus drivers), or it may make more sense to narrow the focus.

The next step is to create a referral program that is simple and straightforward. Employers can consider adding a field to their employment application that allows the applicant to name the person who referred them. Another option is to create an internal form for current employees to fill out with the contact information of the person they referred.

Other questions to consider include:

  • Who will be eligible for the referral bonus?
  • Which candidates are eligible (e.g., new employees, employees who have had a break in employment of at least one year)?
  • How long must the new hire be employed before the referral bonus is awarded?
  • Will the incentive be monetary or non-monetary (e.g., paid time off, gift cards)?
  • How much will the district pay as a referral incentive, and will the amount be different depending on the position filled?
  • Will there be a limit on how many referral bonuses can be paid to a single employee?

Once the details are finalized, it’s crucial to effectively communicate the program to employees. Create a marketing plan and announce the launch in advance of the start date to build anticipation and awareness. Include details about the program during onboarding, in email blasts, on social media, and on the district internet or intranet. Design a flyer or poster to be hung in a high-traffic area at each campus and building. Remember that marketing the program is something that should be done for the life of the program, not just at launch.

It's also worthwhile to consider how HR will communicate with employees after they have made a referral who does not get hired. This could be something as simple as a thank you email.

Measuring Success

With any new endeavor, it’s important to set measurable goals. This will allow the district to track the success of the program and evaluate the need for changes. Establish the tracking of identified metrics from the start to ensure the information is complete. 

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Sarah James
Sarah James
Communications Specialist

Sarah James joined HR Services in 2019. Prior to that, she worked at a Central Texas school district for 11 years. She is responsible for managing web content, HR Services articles, HRX newsletter, social media accounts, and marketing efforts.

James has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Concordia University Texas in Austin.

Email Sarah if you have a story idea for the HRX.

HR Services

TASB HR Services supports HR leadership in Texas schools through membership offerings in specialized training, consulting, and other services.
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