Why Glassdoor is Not Your Enemy

By Tricia Lucas | Leadership

Mar 07
HR Manager hitting laptop on fire with hammer.

For good or bad, Glassdoor is here, and other review sites can be expected to emerge to compete and or replace. This is neither totally good news for employees and job seekers nor bad news for employers, particularly those who learn to use Glassdoor to their advantage to engage their current workforce and reinforce their employer brand.

What Glassdoor Is

Founded in 2007, Glassdoor, with 33 million users, is a job listing site and recruitment tool with a twist: employers are reviewed by current and former employees, to give prospective employees an idea of what it’s like to work there. It has, of course, sparked debate, with some employers complaining that it’s not entirely fair or unbiased because the reviews can be left by disgruntled ex-employees in a dishonest, malicious fashion. This complaint has some validity to it.

Employees claim, on the other hand, that it’s possible to skew the reviews in the opposite direction, giving glowing reports of workplace satisfaction that do not reflect the actual experiences of people who work there.

The same problem exists on Amazon, IMDB, Yelp, or any other site that hosts user reviews. It’s impossible to host user reviews and be certain that they are all honest critiques.

The Pros And Cons of Glassdoor

Glassdoor allows candidates to get a different company perspective than just the corporate website. After all, what corporate website doesn’t boast about being the best place to work? For employers, honest reviews attract those that are a better match for their environment and weed out the ones that aren’t which in turn eliminates one potential source of job dissatisfaction.

On the negatives side, any vindictive ex-employee, competitor, or prankster can leave inaccurate reviews with very little recourse available to the slandered employer. Dishonest positive reviews can also be left, leaving prospective employees misled in either direction. Another negative is that Management personnel can change, and reviews left 2 years ago in reaction to a particular manager or policy that has since changed remain on the website.

Glassdoor Facilitates Workplace Accountability

When it works as intended, Glassdoor ensures that any employer running roughshod over their workforce will have a hard time with talent management. When monitored by HR or upper management, Glassdoor serves as an early warning system for employee dissatisfaction, letting them know that all is well or that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. This is the piece that is still very underutilized. In many cases, HR may be operating in reactive mode once a problem area explodes instead of identifying, acknowledging, and addressing before it becomes a larger issue.

Glassdoor Has Brought Marketing To The HR Bargaining Table

Marketing a company as a prospective employer is not just for college career fairs anymore. There’s a new venue in town, and it is in the company’s best interest to use it effectively to promote their employer brand. For HR to attract good talent, they must effectively market the company online. Employer brands are no longer spread by word of mouth but by social media.

Sprout Social, the provider of a social media management tool, embraces Glassdoor and provides this advice. “Before moving forward with a Glassdoor action plan, make sure the inner workings of your organization align with your established vision and values.” Be sure what you’re projecting online reflects what’s really happening because authenticity is key.

Google, for example, broke new ground in striving for employee satisfaction and building their brand. Free gourmet restaurants, on-site dry cleaning, massages, gyms and fitness classes, company-run busses to take care of the commute for employees, extravagant maternity leave and on-site childcare are just part of it, and it has paid off handsomely for the industry giant. Employee ambassadors and the company itself have been very proactive about marketing these perks and they get top talent for it. Marketing matters.

In Any Company, Top Management Makes the Glassdoor Reviews

Policy is set at the top, and those policies are a large part of what will engender Glassdoor reviews. If a policy is unpopular with the employees, they’ve got a venue to vent about it. This isn’t entirely a problem. The same venue that will punish a company for poor employee satisfaction also gives employers a vibrant feedback system. Glassdoor is a forum for employees who reach out to their management and CEO. It’s a place where executives can hear feedback directly and the issues don’t get filtered by layers of management who may have egos and personal agendas at stake. This direct access provides a diversity of perspectives that could just question if you really know everything. Sure go ahead and weed out the whiners but recognize there may be things you could improve that you have missed.

How One Company Aced It

Unfortunately, Glassdoor isn’t fully appreciated by some executives who see it as a threat to their company’s image. Others embrace the wealth of knowledge they gain by paying attention to their employees’ feedback. Madwire, a Colorado-based digital marketing firm, actively engages with Glassdoor. The CEO, J.B. Kellogg, personally responds to reviews that the firm gets, and he’s changed some company policies in response to the feedback.

Owen Tripp, CEO of Grand Rounds, a San Francisco firm, does the same thing, responding on Glassdoor to the few negative reviews that they get. It’s a wise policy, even though only 12% of the companies listed on the site interact with it in any fashion. Glassdoor sells services by subscription to some companies, but a basic free employer account allows companies to add pictures, write a description of their company, and reply to reviews.

Review Sites Won’t Go Away anytime Soon

Whether you love the concept or hate it, review sites are going to be with us for the foreseeable future, and it’s in the best interest of every business to actively engage with them. They provide feedback on a company’s culture, a company’s performance, drive traffic toward or away, and are becoming very, very popular. Glassdoor gets 30 million unique visitors every month and has 600,000 company reviews.

Glassdoor, like other social media platforms, is powerful and presents tremendous opportunities as well as challenges and requires a clear strategy and sustained engagement to get the most out of it. The game is on the field, and the ball is in play. Leaders will do well to show up and take control of that ball, instead of letting the play there happen without you.

At Lucas Select, based in Raleigh, NC, we are passionate about technology startups and about sales and marketing as professions and have built extensive national networks of top-performing executives and managers. Unlike typical staffing agencies and headhunters, our recruiting services ensure that your company maintains a sustained growth model that is supported by strong sales management, talent recruitment at scale balanced by on-going people development while aligning with your Company’s core values.

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About the Author

Tricia Lucas has over 25 years of demonstrated success in recruiting, marketing communications, and social media and helps technology companies recruit more efficiently by focusing on Recruiting Efficiencies, Employer Branding, and Social Media.


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