Want a better, more efficient way to hire employees? Try out employee referrals, which are consistently named the number one source of hire and retention. Employee referrals are linked to those you trust and therefore have already been “prescreened” for you. In addition, employee referral programs can create more cohesive teams since everyone is working together to find great talent.

So, how do you get started with employee referral programs? Check out these steps:

1. Create a strategic program

You may already have an employee referral program. However, how concise is it? Is it bringing in the results you want? If it’s not a strategic program, it probably isn’t. In fact, organizations that have strategic programs typically produce 48 percent of external hires, compared to formally managed programs (34 percent) and generic programs (24-27 percent).

Tip: In order to create a great strategic program, understand how your team operates. For instance, you may have to make your program more accessible to those who work remotely or telecommute. Or, you may want to focus on social recruiting in order to find the right hires. Take some time to evaluate your needs and then create a program based on these needs.

2. Set up your own career site

Career sites are extremely important in employee referral programs. Not only do they help your company to attract new talent, they also help you to formulate your brand. So, when you’re building your program, be sure to create a career site that shows your company culture, such as images of your office, detailed information on the company, and testimonials from current employees. All of this will help you to promote job listings.

Tip: Lots of resources exist that can help you build your own career site, from design to coding. When you use external resources, be sure the results are tailored to your organization and your needs, such as creating compelling job descriptions and including the right contact information. Remember, most organizations have career sites. Therefore, there’s no longer a reason to not have one.

3. Offer rewards

So you have a strategic program and a great company career site setup. So how do you now get your employees on board? One way is to offer rewards for quality leads, interviews, and eventual hires. You can have a myriad of awards, such as a day off, coupons to restaurants, a parking spot, or even social recognition.

Tip: Set the right reward for the your jobs. For instance, the reward can be different for leads than it is for an actual hire. So, an employee may receive a half day by providing a lead who successfully goes through the interview process, and a cash reward for something who’s brought on board. Tiered rewards gives employees an added reason to continue referring only top candidates.

4. Add a layer of gamification

Gamification is the use of game mechanics to encourage engagement. Essentially, gamification instantly recognizes the efforts of employees who proactively participate in the recruiting process. Many organizations have jumped on the gamification bandwagon, with spending on gamification projects to grow as much as $2.8 billion by 2016.

Tip: Gamification increases engagement by providing challenges and rewarding those who meet those challenges. So, in order to create a healthy level of competition, create a leaderboard that shows who’s meeting challenges, who’s going above and beyond, and which team members to look out for. Employees can then see who their competition is and what they need to do to come out on top.

5. Use automation

It can be difficult to keep track of every element of an employee referral program. When you find yourself losing track, use automation to keep everything in line. For instance, automation lets you share jobs easily with every member of your network automatically, so you don’t have to worry about compiling jobs or sending them out on a set day every week. Automation does the work for you.

Tip: Autoposting allows you to schedule an exact time and rate at which the jobs are shared. So, you could send out job blasts to your network every Wednesday at 2 p.m. When you take advantage of options like this, you don’t have to think about how the jobs are going to be seen because you’ve already set up a method that automatically does the work for you.

Employee referral programs are extremely beneficial to your hiring strategy. Creating a strategic program, starting your own career site, offering rewards, adding gamification, and using automation are all ways to create a great referral program. When you take these steps into account, you’ll not only have an outstanding program, you’ll receive quality leads and employees as a result.

What do you think? What are some other steps to a good employee referral program?