Setting up a co-optation program in your company

Deux collègues souriants


Co-optation program or co-option is on the rise in French companies. According to the Sourcing Cadres barometer carried out by APEC (2019), employee co-optation represented the 4ᵉ channel for hiring executives in 2018. It has to be said that this scheme does not lack advantages. Here are our recommendations for setting up a co-option program in your company.

Co-optation, definition

Let’s start by defining the concept of co-optation. It is a recruitment method that allows employees of a company to recommend someone they know for a specific position. The person co-opted can be from the employee’s personal or professional network.

Also called “participative recruitment”, co-optation allows companies to obtain qualified people at a lower cost.

What is the difference between referral and co-optation?

There is a major difference between these two concepts.

allows a person to obtain a job thanks to the support of an acquaintance with a contact in the company. Co-optation, on the other hand, is more fair play. It involves studying a candidate’s CV and then comparing their skills with other applicants.

In other words, before considering a co-opted candidate, the company always ensures that he/she has the skills required for the job. This recruitment by recommendation allows the HR function to identify qualified profiles more easily. Indeed, in the context of a co-optation, the co-opter guarantees the skills of the co-optee. This question of qualifications and skills is completely absent from the principle of referral, which is characterised by an important emotional dimension.

What are the advantages of a co-optation program?

Co-option is effective. At least, that is what many studies prove. According to the APEC Sourcing Cadres barometer cited above, “48% of companies that used employee co-optation to recruit an executive hired someone they knew or recommended.

This success can be explained by the multiple advantages of co-optation:

Co-optation makes it possible to get in touch with highly qualified profiles that may be difficult to reach. By using the network of its employees, the company saves a lot of time: it no longer has to approach attractive candidates. The sourcing work is then done by the employees.

Co-optation also allows access to the “grey zone”, i.e. candidates who are not actively looking for a job, but who remain open to opportunities.
Co-optation saves recruiters time. It gives primacy to expert profiles recognised by their peers.

According to a Jobvite study (2012), recruitment by co-optation takes 29 days on average, compared to 39 days for job boards.

Speed also means efficiency. Again according to this study, 47% of co-opted people were still working in the company three years later – compared to 14% for candidates from a job board.
Co-optation helps to strengthen the feeling of belonging among employees and to value them. More than just employees, they become true ambassadors, ready to defend the company’s projects, values and culture.

Setting up a co-optation program

As you can see, co-optation is good for your business. But how do you ensure that it is implemented correctly?

Provide a framework

This is a basic piece of advice that applies to any new scheme set up in a company. To avoid any deviation and to implement a rigorous co-optation program, you need to define a clear framework. Who can and cannot be recommended by your employees? Which positions are open for co-optation? Set rules, which reflect your company’s values.

Define a clear and structured process

Also try to set up a clear and structured co-optation process. Your employees need to know who to talk to when they want to recommend someone, what tool to use to register the recommendation and to monitor the process.

Motivate and reward employees who coopt

Motivate your staff with incentives. Of course, the commitment of your employees and their goodwill might be enough to get them to adopt this scheme in the first place… But for co-optation to become a reflex for your employees, it is essential to motivate them – and thank them for their efforts, with a co-optation bonus for example, or even bonuses.

At Capgemini, for example, the co-optation bonus varies between 1,200 euros (for the co-optation of a junior profile) and 2,000 euros (for the co-option of a more experienced candidate).

Do not hesitate to be inventive, by proposing competitions or challenges, which would reward the employees who have made the most co-optations over a given period of time…

Valuing co-optation within the company

It is also important to make the most of the co-optation system within your organisation. Your teams must understand all the issues and benefits of this recruitment method. Because they are part of the company, employees are in the best position to recommend profiles. They know the company’s commitment, mission and culture, and are therefore perfectly capable of assessing the relevance of a candidate for a given position.

Also remember to alert your troops when a strategic position opens up. Communicate transparently about the talent shortages you are experiencing. In short: rally your employees around your recruitment challenges. If your employees are engaged, they should care!

Equip yourself with software

Think about getting dedicated co-optation software. Today, many solutions such as Social Referral allow you to automate your cooptation process by integrating seamlessly with your ATS.

Co-optation program, points to watch out for

Co-optation can be beneficial in many ways, but it should not be used as a systematic means of recruitment. The reason is simple: diversity and co-optation are not very compatible. Indeed, how can you ensure an inclusive and equal opportunity recruitment system if you only use your employees’ network to recruit?

The main limitation of co-optation is obvious. It is a system that gives primacy to the network of its employees. In other words, their former colleagues, classmates, relatives and acquaintances… Identical circles, in short, who share the same training, the same experiences… Beware, therefore, of the culture of the “entre-soi”, which is radically opposed to the principle of diversity.

Finally, you must make it clear to your teams that there is a substantial difference between cooptation and referral. Also, make sure that you integrate the recommended candidate into the normal recruitment process. All applicants must be examined in the same way (otherwise, it is no longer a recommendation, but referral!)

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