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We know that staff referrals can lead to a higher chance of a successful job match, but did you also know that they can help increase diversity in your organisation?

A study in the journal Organization Science by researchers at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management and the MIT Sloan School of Management found that, contrary to the popular belief that word-of-mouth recruitment causes gender segregation, it can actually help increase diversity.

Additionally, professors Brian Rubineau of Desautels and Roberto Fernandez of MIT Sloan noted that employers are able to influence the process to ensure that it contributes to workforce diversity, and not detract from it.

The key to doing so lies in the difference in referral rates.

While it is true that men refer more men and few women and vice versa, the difference between the referral rates plays a crucial part as to which group is likely to dominate over time.

“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,” Rubineau said.

ALSO READ: The one missing piece in employee referrals

Tools to achieve diversity goals

The researchers noted that most big organisations already track how people come into the organisation. They suggest that organisations should take it a step further to also track the referral behaviour of their staff.

“By also tracking the referral behaviour of their employees, organisations can get a better handle on whether their word-of-mouth recruitment is pushing the organisation towards greater integration or greater segregation,” Rubineau said.

He noted that some companies encourage employees to recruit through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter or email – and have systems to track the referring behaviour. By gathering data from both referrers and job applicants, it’s possible to monitor if the process can help the organisation achieve its diversity goals.

Another possible tactic is for organisations to encourage their employees to reach out to women and visible minorities within their contact networks.

Image: Shutterstock

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