How references can regain their status as valuable documents
Employee references are an integral part of everyday HR work. But there are various factors currently undermining the impact of references. How do employee references have to be written and read so that they can be a valuable tool for employees and companies?
With friendly best wishes for the future, Ramona Fischer receives her reference right on time, on her last day. It contains phrases like ‘Ramona Fischer was very communicative’ and ‘she showed great dedication in carrying out her work’.
At home, Ramona proudly shows the reference to her flatmate. He raised his eyebrows and says, ‘are you happy with this? It says you always talked too much and had issues doing your job.’ Ramona doesn’t understand what her flatmate means. This illustrates that phrases that might sound good in references can be interpreted in a negative way.
Ramona’s circumstances serve as the perfect example of this issue. Under the Code of Obligation, an employee reference must be well-meaning as well as truthful. To ensure this, HR staff tend to rely on phrases like those we’ve just read. Many employees issue references that are too “nice” to make it easier for their ex-employees to find work or because they don’t want to run the risk of a legal battle.
These intentions are counterproductive, as this means that references become ineffective. They are plagued by empty phrases with little impact. An employee reference can only offer value if it is true and custom-written for the employee.
Individuality, completeness, cohesiveness and clarity are further legal requirements for an employee reference. Due to these requirements, HR specialists often use templates or copies of old references to ensure that a legally compliant document can be drawn up quickly.
This time factor should not be underestimated: as HR departments are taking on more and more strategic tasks, they often lack the time to create impactful, unique employee references that are also complete and compliant with the law. But the use of templates causes the reference’s impact to suffer: individuality often leaves a lot to be desired.
Help is at hand in the form of tools that use an evaluation matrix to create custom reference drafts. These drafts can then be further tailored and edited by HR staff in next to no time. We recommend the tool Arbeitszeugnis swiss+ for this purpose. This solution offers over 8,000 industry-specific and role-specific text building blocks to create fair, legally compliant and, most of all, transparent employee references.
References written in a transparent, truthful and individual way are impactful documents with value, and deserve to be read as such: without bias. After all, maybe Ramona Fischer really does have great communication skills, actively approaching people and easily shooting the breeze with clients. We think it’s important that references are read for what they are. That’s the only way that a reference can be valued by all involved. As a tool that makes it easier for HR staff to select the right candidate. A helping hand for employees that find it difficult to write a compelling cover letter. A valuable document that supports employees and employers alike.
Published: 20. October 2020