Since social media involves people who supposedly know each other, people assume that friends and connections constitute a network that will behave along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell’s work, ‘Six Degrees of Separation.’ The idea is that it’s a simple matter for network referrals to be used to fill a company’s workforce requirements.
“6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” (6DKB) game is often used to illustrate the way that people are connected or ‘networked’. 6DKB is a trivia game based on the concept of the small world phenomenon. It rests on the assumption that any individual can be linked to actor Kevin Bacon within six steps.
While it has become common to refer to one’s collection of friends and connections as a network, and to accept that the 6 Degrees principle applies universally, things don’t quite work that way.
The fact is that the 6 degrees idea depends on knowing who you are trying to reach. If you know the person’s name, you may be 6 phone calls away. If you don’t know their name, it’s an entirely different problem. Then, you are an infinite number of degrees away. And, that’s the problem you face when you are trying to recruit employees.
Referrals are the best way to find new employees, right?
You are no more likely to hire all of your employees through a referral program than you are to broil everything you eat.
When you’re hunting for team members who will give the company a powerful competitive edge in a specific technology, do you want the VP of marketing’s frat brother or the Nobel prize winning scientist? Conversely, when you’re staffing a call center, do you want a hot shot Harvard Business School graduate or the brother-in-law of your best performer?
It is critical to never use referral programs to staff functions with check writing authority. The financial security issues are simply too great. Each position should be closely evaluated to make sure that the benefits of a referral process outweigh the disadvantages.
Referrals, like any Recruiting methodology have their place. They can be a short-cut to the perfect employee. They can also cause culture-rot if managed without care. Tapping into the collections of friends your employees know on social media is no panacea
All referrals are not equal. Referral programs range in design from high volume candidate flow drivers to the sort of referral you might make about a bottle of wine or a good restaurant. While the implementation approaches range widely in effectiveness, the idea that all referral programs yield predictable and repeatable results persists.
For the most part, social media driven referral projects boil down to betting that a network of friends can be converted into a competitive workforce. Is that really a smart idea?