History’s First Employee Referral Program

“Veni, vidi, vici!” That’s what Caesar said when asked about his quick win at the Battle of Zela. The phrase is used to refer to a swift, conclusive victory.

Would you describe your current applicant hiring process as “I came, I saw, I conquered?”

In addition to poet, statesman, and warrior, Julius Caesar might have been the first ever talent acquisition specialist. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but it is noted in the collections of the British Museum that Caesar did indeed inspire the first ever employee-referral program. On a signed decree dated 55 B.C., Julius Caesar offers 300 sestertii to any soldier who brought along someone else to join the Roman army.

How did Caesar benefit from employee referrals?

Understanding what was being asked of his brave warriors, Caesar offered very generous monetary incentives to those willing to leverage their personal relationships for the benefit of the Roman army. Three hundred sestertii was the equivalent of 1/3 of a soldier’s annual pay. Keep in mind that this was a time of constant war. The pipeline of willing and able soldiers needed to be as full as possible, and it was regularly being depleted. Some soldiers were even rewarded with sign-on bonuses and large quantities of gold or land upon returning home from a campaign. As we’ve mentioned more than once already, it isn’t only about the money. In order to effectively meet the needs of the Roman army and expanding empire, Caesar was going to have to break tradition and recruit from all levels of the 5 different social classes, and even created special incentives for returning veterans. Even more, he went on a marketing campaign to create a unified force working together to serve the Roman Senate and people. In doing so, he created a culture dedicated to the cause.

This was a good paying job with the potential for a handsome payout, should you survive the next few years of battle. Caesar took advantage of this and turned his trained and engaged team into recruiters, scouting more of the same. By creating a desirable culture, providing a simple solution (getting rid of social classes for recruiting, and offering bonuses at the end of a battle) and offering an employee referral bonus, Caesar grew the Roman army much larger than previously thought capable. Caesar didn’t grow his army alone. He created the tools and atmosphere that made it possible for his already loyal team to help others join the cause. He came, he saw, he created a new way to recruit top-tier talent.

How effective is your employee referral program?

Has your organization undertaken the extraordinary task of fielding an army of talent through employee referrals? Following the same tried-and-true method, today’s recruiters and talent acquisition professionals can find themselves in a very prosperous situation, given they have the tools and support necessary to foster a next-generation employee referral program. Lingo is a next-generation app-based employee referral platform complete with social media and ATS integration.