Having current employees personally recruit job seekers for open positions can lead to more workplace diversity, new research shows.
Despite a previous belief that word-of-mouth recruitment contributes to job segregation, this tactic often contributes to desegregation, according to a study recently published in the journal Organization Science.
Even though employees tend to refer job seekers for open positions who are their same gender and race, that alone doesn't cause segregation, according to the research.
The study's authors said what matters are referral rates and that there are some groups that recruit more heavily than others. Researchers said, for example, that immigrant groups sometimes go from being small minorities in a workplace to big majorities because their members recruit more actively within their community networks. [How to Create a Great Employee Referral Program]
"If you have a group that is referring at a higher rate than other groups, then that group is – over time – going to become the majority, no matter how small it was to start with," Brian Rubineau, an assistant professor at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, said in a statement.
This type of referral behavior can be a huge tool for businesses trying to boost their diversity levels. Since most employers track how job seekers come to their organizations, they know how many are coming via word-of-mouth, according to Rubineau. [Why Diversity is Good for Business ]
“By also tracking the referral behavior of their employees, organizations can get a better handle on whether their word-of-mouth recruitment is pushing the organization towards greater integration or greater segregation," Rubineau said.
The key is having the systems in place to properly monitor which employees are referring others, who they are referring and how often they are actively recruiting potential employees. Gathering this type of data is what makes it possible to determine whether word-of-mouth recruitment is helping achieve diversity goals.
In a future study, Rubineau plans to examine whether referral bonus policies can be used to help organizations become more diverse.
The study was co-authored by Roberto Fernandez, a professor of organization studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management.