Interview with BOK Financial

Aug 31, 2016

Tiffany Wilson, Sr. Corporate Recruiter

Her referral program runs like a dream. And given the immense scope of their company (A financial services holding company with 10 subsidiaries), getting it to run that way was no small task.

We interviewed Tiffany Wilson, Sr. Corporate Recruiting Manager at BOK Financial this week.

Her duties include managing a referral program that spans 10 subsidiaries with over 200 locations. The subsidiaries represent a diverse workforce comprised of retail and commercial banks, a brokerage firm, and a mortgage company. BOK Financial is the nation’s largest bank to avoid taking TARP bailout money in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, and they’ve got a great reputation as a dependable employer.

Designing and promoting her referral program is a monumental task! We interviewed Tiffany to find out how her team does it. We discussed the following:

  • Formalizing the program
  • Championing referrals
  • Enforcing referral policies, no exceptions!
  • Raising the reward amount
  • Building the right culture
  • Special promotional campaigns

Kendall (EmployeeReferrals): You remade your referral program about a year ago. What was in place before and what did you change?

Tiffany (BOK): Before we started using EmployeeReferrals, everything was manual, and we didn't have a good tracking system. We have always had a culture where the recruiters have gone to the hiring manager, and the people on their team and say, "Who do you know?"

We have a really talented group of recruiters. Sometimes recruiters don’t get enough applicants, and so they cold call, and they ask for referrals.

Kendall (EmployeeReferrals): How is your recruiting team organized?

Tiffany (BOK): We have recruiters divided into four different recruiting teams. We’ve got a Mortgage Recruiting Team, a Consumer Recruiting Team, a Revenue Recruiting Team, and an Enterprise Recruiting Team.

Kendall (EmployeeReferrals): How do you get referrals for jobs out of the small branch locations?

Tiffany (BOK): Actually, our Consumer Banking team has been our biggest source of referrals. We really push the referral program at that consumer branch level.

We set the expectations that we have a recruiting team that is responsible for selling the branch positions, but it is not all on our shoulders. In each company, the positions are a little different. The branches own the recruiting process just as much as the recruiters.

The mortgage recruiters put a lot of accountability and ownership on the employees of the mortgage companies to manage referrals. We have some pockets of our organization where that is not an expectation. In those groups, you see less referral activity because of our own expectations.

Kendall (EmployeeReferrals): How do you set those expectations?

Tiffany (BOK): Our recruiters are invited to a lot of the branch managers meetings. And they are invited to what we call New Employee Orientation. This is where we get a chance to say how new employees can help us. When a branch is short one or two people, it definitely affects everyone. Everyone has to work harder and longer hours. For instance, we say that if new employees help with referrals, we will help them. We have relationships that allow branch managers to call and say they need help.

For instance, if a manager calls and says that his job has been open for 30 days and asks what we are doing, we ask what are they doing. The Consumer Management Team is good at setting the expectation that help is needed from the branch managers as well. They enforce the message.

When we moved to the electronic platform, we increased the referral amount. If you are making $32,000 a year, a $500 bonus is a significant addition to income.

Kendall (EmployeeReferrals): How do you keep it all organized?

Tiffany (BOK): We have made logging the referrals in the system a "no-exceptions" policy and so see a lot of activity.

If employees do not put them in the system, they do not get the referral.

Kendall (EmployeeReferrals): How do you promote the program?

Tiffany (BOK): Because of our culture, we don't like to do a lot of engagement e-mails. We do run special campaigns from time to time, but a lot of the advertising of the program comes from individual recruiter interactions and not from mass e-mails. We are trying to get them to allow us to do more. Maybe because we don't get to advertise it through our intranet or e-mails, it forces us and our recruiters to push it at that level--the one-on-one. It's just as effective and maybe more effective.

Kendall (EmployeeReferrals): Do you have any other general advice for other people who are running your programs that you want to throw in there?

Tiffany (BOK): Your recruiters definitely have to use the system. Drive people there and talk about it often. We talked today in our managers' meeting about how to utilize the system more. We will look for ways to keep everybody engaged and using the system.