Creative bonuses for your employee referral program (that aren’t just cash)

Tiffany Jin
December 3, 2023
2 min read
What is an Employee Referral Program?
Employee Referral Program is a "win-win" for employees & company! It encourages employees to refer candidates for job openings, earning bonuses if their referral gets hired. Cost-effective & efficient, it taps into employees' networks while keeping them engaged & motivated.

To make the most out of your employee referral program, it's important to offer the right incentives that will encourage participation. While the majority of referral bonuses are cash-based, they aren’t necessarily the main motivator when it comes to employee referrals. In fact, research has found only around 6% of employees refer candidates to earn money. The main reasons employees refer candidates is to help friends find a job (35%) followed by to help their company (32%), then being recognized as a valuable employee (26%). Below are a variety of creative and alternative bonuses to a single lump-sum cash payout for a referral bonus. 

Tiered rewards

Tiered rewards are bonuses that are given in increments over a period of time as employees reach certain milestones. Referrers may receive an initial bonus when their candidate is interviewed (maybe a gift card or $200), but if the candidate is eventually hired and stays with a company for a certain amount of time they can receive a larger reward amount. 

Diversity Related

Diversity rewards are bonuses that are specifically designed to promote diversity and inclusion within the company. For example, a company might offer a bonus to employees who refer candidates from underrepresented groups. 

Vacation or Time Off

Companies can offer bonuses in the form of additional paid time off, mental recharge days or even an all-expense paid trip! 


Some companies offer bonuses in the form of charitable donations. For example, an employee might receive a bonus that they can donate to a charity of their choice. This can be a great way to give back to the community and help employees feel great about their work.


Sometimes the best bonus is simply recognition for a job well done. This could include public praise from a manager or a formal award ceremony. Recognizing employees for their hard work and dedication goes a long way towards keeping them motivated and engaged.

External referrals

Some companies offer bonuses to employees who refer candidates from outside the company. This can be a great way to tap into a company’s alumni or external networks.


There are many other types of bonuses that companies can offer. These could include things like health and wellness benefits or training and development stipends. The key is to offer benefits that employees value and that help them feel appreciated and supported.

Custom choice of the employee

Finally, why give employees a mixed bag of the above? Giving employees the freedom to choose their own bonuses can lead to extra engagement because employees can self-select what’s important to them - another way a company can show they value their people!

See how Eqo can help you reward your employees for referring your next great hire

Book a demo
Eqo - Employee Referral Tool