How to leverage referrals to overcome care recruitment challenges

ALEX LAMONT • 25 Apr 2024

How do you make a splash when it comes to referrals? Is this the secret sauce that the care sector is neglecting? Giles Heckstall-Smith was joined by Natalie Page – Head of HR at Crossroads Care Surrey – to talk about their referral strategy and how industry colleagues can find a fresh way to hire.


Anyone who’s worked in recruitment for a period of time knows that referrals offer some of the highest quality candidates. People who are generally better qualified or better suited for a role. They offer someone who performs really well in an organisation and statistically, it’s likely to increase retention too.

At Jobtrain, we have been working with Care Friends and Care Character – our Jobtrain ATS, a referral system and an assessment system combined that will offer an end-to-end recruitment system that covers this and much more. We've also partnered with Care England on a white paper that explores this and care hiring further!

Here we ask Natalie about what recruitment is like for them at Crossroads Care Surrey, including how they make the most of referrals.

How does Crossroads Care Surrey hire candidates?

Natalie: We spent a lot of money on Indeed and recruitment agencies, advertising campaigns, recruitment fairs, putting ads up on the sides of buses – we’ve tried everything – but nothing beats the quality of new hires that comes from our referral scheme. There are certain types of people that will be a care worker. The sector is so lucky to have those people, but the work in itself gives such a sense of achievement, so we highlight that as much as possible.

We offer staff a bonus to recommend a friend or family member and we’ve seen massive success. In 2022, 19% of our hires came from employee recommendations, then went up to 34% last year and now we’re tracking at 50%!

We’ve started to do new starter interviews, speaking to people after they’ve joined us – and the feedback has really reinforced what we set out to achieve. By having regular check-ins with these colleagues we can track their enthusiasm and comfort for the role.

We do these in 4 stages: 4 weeks, 3 months, and then 6 months when they get signed off their probationary period.

How many candidates prioritise a work/life balance over salary?How does the reward scheme work?

We knew we had to do some work internally so we undertook a project to examine what works and what doesn’t – with a specific focus on rewards and benefits. When you talk to the staff they love their job so much. When you meet them, they’re so compassionate. They care about their clients and we wanted to put that front and centre. We took that approach to how we treat our colleagues. Honesty and transparency are key to building trust and keeping people informed.

Obviously, we’re a charity, so we can’t splash out on big bonuses, but we can invest in our people. We offer a welcome bonus to the referrer in two phases. They get half after 4 weeks and the other half at the end of a probationary period. We do long service too! 5-years service is £50, £10 years is 100, 15 is £150 and so on.

We’re not a perfect organisation, but what we are is perfectly honest, open and understanding. I think if you understand who you’re working for and why it matters you’re happy at work – and referrals lend themselves easily to that thought process.

Managing expectations

There’s a lot to be said about ensuring consistency. I don’t think we’ve done that very well institutionally and finding that consistency was quite challenging! But we’ve found how important consistency across line managers and onboarding is for a new hire. It means there’s a shared experience and we can easily spot any potential issues before they arise.

Do you support managers in messaging?

It depends on the role! I keep everyone updated on where we’re at in recruitment and encourage colleagues to talk about the role and the charity with friends and families in case someone in their lives is thinking of a change.

Social Media Testimonials quotes (1600 x 400 px)-4We always reinforce the things that make us unique. For example, we work on people’s availability, there aren’t set hours.

We’ve just recruited a new marketing manager who will manage the public face of Crossroads on things like social media. The sector has an older workforce who might not be confident with social media, so sending out a set of guidelines might not be useful to them. But we’re hoping to look at apprenticeships, and having a younger demographic might pave new ideas!

What are other organisations doing?

Giles: If you can inspire your people to the point that they’re strong advocates, they effectively become free advertisers for your organisation. There are tools out there that help with this. One of the best ones for the care sector is Care Friends. They have a slightly different approach. They have an app that encourages employees to share information or jobs and things via social media. As opposed to a signing-on bonus they have a points-based system where you can have micro rewards, so you may get a small reward or some points for someone who applies after you share a piece of content.

Or if someone is interviewed and offered after you refer them, points can be allocated and these can be turned into cinema vouchers, charitable donations, holiday vouchers etc. There are different approaches you can take around referrals and it’s just important you get as many bases covered as possible to find advocates for your brand.

Have you considered using alumni as advocates?

Natalie: We do exit interviews for every single leaver and one of the last questions is:

a) Would you come and work for us again in the future and
b) Would you recommend family and friends to us?

We have rewarded a leaver for referring someone in the past! Just because someone leaves it doesn’t mean they haven’t referred us to someone brilliant and we certainly reward that.

About Crossroads Care Surrey

Crossroads Care Surrey is ultimately a charitable organisation that provides unpaid care workers help and respite with the care they provide in their own home. Everyone in their life will become an unpaid carer at some point, as a parent, a partner – or in some circumstances, even children care for their parents.

Read up on the latest stats and facts in care hiring!