Role of Referrers in Hiring

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Jenna R. Pieper of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Charlie O. Trevor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ingo Weller of LMU Munich, and Dennis Duchon of University of Nebraska-Lincoln . They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “Referral Hire Presence Implications for Referrer Turnover and Job Performance,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Pieper discusses the events and circumstance that inspired this research:]

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This paper was motivated by a general curiosity about the critical role of referrers in referral hiring in organizational settings, and originated in a section of my doctoral dissertation. Referral hiring, or the practice of using recommendations of a current employee (referrer) to identify and hire a new employee (referral hire), often accounts for 30% to 50% of an organization’s filling of its job openings. To date, the attention of research and practice has focused primarily on the referral hires and their outcomes, leaving a glaring gap in our understanding of how referrers are impacted by the hiring of a friend or acquaintance. We were therefore interested in gaining insight into how the presence of a referral hire influences referrer performance and voluntary turnover.

Our findings, which are arguably the first to specifically examine how referral hiring impacts referrers, show that referrers are indeed impacted by the presence of their referral hire through a socially enriched workplace. In our study, employees with a referral hire present were 27% less likely to leave than employees without a referral hire present, and their performance improved by 5.1% when a referral hire was present. However, we found that job similarity (indicating heightened workplace exposure) between referrers and their referral hires, when compared to job dissimilarity, was associated with lower referrer job performance. Thus, it seems the costs, such as socialization and informal training, for referrers in similar jobs to their referral hires may offset the performance gains gleamed from the referral hire presence. Most important to our work is that we provide the only empirical evidence to date that referring enhances the social enrichment construct at the heart of referral hire discourse.

I think that future research on this topic should continue to consider the critical role of the referrer in referral hiring. My main advice for scholars would be to consider the interface between the various stakeholders in referral hiring, different referring pathways, the intricacies in how referring hiring unfolds over time, and the contingencies that affect its outcomes. A lot of fascinating contributions can still be made regarding referral hiring.

Finally, our work is important to practitioners. It demonstrates that the presence aspect is crucial. When coupled with the well-established benefits for the referral hire, referral hiring appears to be a value proposition for the firm because performance and retention gains emerge for both referrers and referral hires. Thus, our work would encourage continued practice of referral hiring. Practitioners can also take from our study that it is important to be aware of and work to prevent potential downsides associated with referral hiring.

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Interactions Between Justice Levels and Trajectories Predicting Behavioral Reciprocity

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[We’re pleased to welcome authors Alex Rubenstein of the University of Memphis, David G. Allen of Texas Christian University, and Frank A. Bosco of the Virginia Commonwealth University. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “What’s Past (and Present) Is Prologue: Interactions Between Justice Levels and Trajectories Predicting Behavioral Reciprocity,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Rubenstein discusses the events and circumstance that inspired his research:]

JOM_42_5_Covers.inddWe began this paper by considering the nature of how people experience fairness in the workplace. Certainly any instance of fair or unfair treatment can have an effect on employee’s attitudes and behavior in the future, but we were also interested in how the past can differently shape employee’s interpretation of the present. For instance, imagine two employees who think their organization is moderately fair. Previous studies would expect them to have similar attitudes and be equal organizational citizens in the future. However, we wondered whether past fairness experiences—specifically, the trajectory of experienced justice in the past, if has been getting better, worse, or staying the same—could color the interpretation of the present differently for these employees.

Our results, which are arguably the first that specifically examine how employees behaviorally reciprocate to this interactive pattern of past and present treatment, show that indeed the past is prologue when it comes to justice. We examined how present justice levels and trajectories over time interacted to predict helping behavior as well as future employee turnover behavior. That is, two employees who rate the exact same levels of current fairness at work may reciprocate differently (in terms of helping other employees and even their decision to remain a member of the organization) because of potentially different past trends of experienced justice. We found that the highest levels of helping, and the lowest levels of turnover were for those employees with high current levels of perceived fairness, along with a positive past trajectory. It seems that employees are most willing to reciprocate to their organizations when things are currently quite fair AND if things have been getting progressively better over time.

I think this research will spur new studies that consider the dynamic nature of organizational phenomena, and the value in looking at variables’ change over time. I feel the methodology of change modeling has only recently caught up to the theory, and a lot of fascinating contributions can be made regarding how growth and decline in phenomena (thoughts, feelings, behaviors) affect individuals, teams, and organizations as a whole.

I think new scholars looking at organizational justice can continue to take a dynamic look at its change over time, both in the short and long term. My main advice would be to brush up on research methods, such as latent growth modeling and structural equation modeling. We all have lots of questions, and its is important that researchers be equipped with the methodological tools to test those questions.

I think the most influential piece of scholarship I have read recently was Alvesson, M., & Sandberg, J. 2011. Generating research questions through problematization. Academy of Management Review, 36: 247–271. An important part of framing your study is not just “gap-filling”, but demonstrating how your study solves a problem, and this paper does a good job of explaining how to do this.

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Scales photo attributed to Artsybee. (CC)