In a time when unemployment rates are on the decline, many employers find themselves once again in the seller’s seat, struggling to attract good talent. Perhaps no one feels the pinch more than skilled labor industries. ABRA Auto Body & Glass knows the feeling all too well, as the unemployment rate for skilled auto body technicians is virtually zero.

Facing such odds, ABRA took a new approach to filling its talent pipeline; rewarding employee brand ambassadors with bonus pay days. When Chief People Officer, David Kuhl, introduced the idea earlier this year, the company wasn’t sure what to expect. Let’s just say the proof is in the pudding. Earlier this month, the company presented one of its outspoken brand ambassadors with a check for $15,500.

Paint technician, Phil Olivarez, earned the bonus for bringing four body technicians and a paint prepper on board to work for ABRA. How did Phil attract so much talent, while still excelling at his full time role as a paint technician? The concept is simple: he loves the company he works for. Phil enjoys his work and the company culture, sees value in the opportunities the company offers him, and isn’t afraid to share this with everyone he meets. ABRA tapped into that passion, offering Phil, and any other employee a cash bonus for bringing auto body technicians to work for ABRA.

Why are employee brand ambassadors so critical?

Employee brand ambassadors offer a different perspective no recruiter or marketing campaign can offer: an insider view on what to expect. When competing for talent, pay and benefits are only part of the package. Candidates want to know what the company culture is, the pace of work, and the work life balance. These benefits are most believable when pitched from a current employee.

Engaged employees also have access to networks of people recruiters and marketers don’t. They are apt to know others in their trade and their industry. This opens doors for direct dialogue where the opportunity may not otherwise exist.

Why reward employee brand ambassadors?

Consider the trade-off. Every open position costs a company revenue. When you start to do the math, the revenue losses can add up quickly. Offering a bonus pay day also creates buzz among employees. When employees see their colleagues reaping the rewards, they’re willing to consider tapping into their network as well.

ABRA employees can still cash in with bonus pay days like Phil’s. The company continues to offer an ongoing cash reward ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 for each auto body technician referred by an employee.

There’s no limit to the reward an employee can earn? What would be the point? Every filled position generates valuable revenue, so why not let the most vocal brand ambassadors run with it. Employee, Phil Olivarez, hopes to continue to cash in, sharing his personal goal of bringing 20 more technicians on board by the end of the year. The reward if he does: $100,000. ABRA’s response: go Phil – the company would be delighted to present the check!