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Employee Engagement – Glassdoor Company Reviews: Cringe or Curious?
By Lisa Hays, Fresh Perspective
Posted August 7, 2015

Image of switching train tracksCorporate leaders sometimes act as if "what happens in the corporation stays in the corporation." In truth, that's never been reality. Given the prominence of work in people's lives, they talk about the work and the companies they work for often. Nothing new about that.

The only difference is it's now much easier to learn substantial details about a corporation, its culture, and how employees and former employees rate an organization on a number of factors using websites like Glassdoor. Once again, technology has made accomplishing something now simple, quick and publicly available.

Glassdoor OverviewGlassdoor Logo
Glassdoor offers considerably more than company ratings/reviews. In fact Glassdoor is the fastest growing career site passing former leader, CareerBuilder*. Glassdoor offers many resources for job seekers, such as job listings, the ability to upload a resume, and salary comparisons to name a few. As well, Glassdoor offers companies a well-trafficked site where they can post/advertise job openings, provide a company profile, and respond to employee/former employee reviews. Also a blog targeted to recruiters offers tips on best practices in recruiting, etc.

Glassdoor Ratings
Company ratings use a "5 Star" system; CEO ratings and willingness to recommend that company to a friend using percentages are easily reviewed. And, a sampling of written reviews pros and cons is readily accessed. Reviewers include both current and former employees.

In short, Glassdoor makes an excellent "one-stop-shop" for learning about the culture and employee engagement of an organization. Perhaps that's why Deloitte titled the "Engaging" section of their Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report, "Culture and Engagement: The Naked Organization." **

Leaders' Views on Culture and Employee Engagement
Per the Deloitte report noted above, issues such as increased corporate transparency, greater workforce mobility and skills shortages are pushing corporate culture and employee engagement to the top of business issues leaders must address. The Deloitte report notes 87% of organizations name culture and engagement as one of their top challenges. As shown in the chart below, 60% of respondents to Deloitte's study believe their current retention and engagement programs are fair or worse.

Deloitte Employee Engagement Chart

Additionally, it's clear, 1) these issues are not simply an HR problem, and 2) HR must be at the table when making strategic organizational decisions.

As culture and employee engagement have become key elements a potential hire looks for in a prospective employer, Glassdoor and other methods now provide considerable information about a company's culture and how employees/former employees believe employees are treated, motivated and rewarded. Company strengths and weaknesses are more readily apparent.

A management recruiter from a prominent firm told me about a situation with a candidate nearly ready to accept an offered position until they checked Glassdoor reviews. Based on what they read, they concluded the company wasn't the kind of place they wanted to work. They passed on the job offer.

Leaders Responses to Glassdoor Ratings
Glassdoor company ratings are new enough that some company leaders particularly those not actively engaged in company culture and employee engagement may not be aware of the ratings/reviews. That ignorance is likely soon over to be replaced by a genuine interest in learning from the ratings as a valid and valued source of input, or an extremely unwelcome in-your-face, public airing of dirty laundry.

Other leaders, who consider themselves responsible for driving positive company culture, strengthening employee engagement and developing talent, are likely familiar with Glassdoor reviews. They expect specific feedback about the company's inner workings, and perceptions of company policies, practices and benefits. They may view Glassdoor reviews with curiosity. For them, Glassdoor offers another means of learning where they are doing well, what needs attention, and proactively communicating with individuals seeking employment.

Conversely, leaders who know or at least suspect their organization's reviews aren't going to be positive more likely approach Glassdoor ratings and example reviews with a cringe, resigned to the task ahead. These leaders can most benefit from Glassdoor reviews if they choose to.

Which type of leader are you?

Ratings and Reviews
Since sample reviews are provided, it's easy to identify "hot topics" whether the viewpoint is positive or negative. Even the best of companies will receive an occasional poor review. What's important is to remove the "outliers" (positive and negative) and learn from the bulk of the reviews.

Smart leaders will provide guidance on how to respond to negative Glassdoor ratings/reviews and yes, a response is the appropriate action to take. The response should be timely, genuine and come from a person with a high level of responsibility, and from whom a response on that topic makes sense.

That's simply the beginning. The real work is in actually addressing the issues generating the poor Glassdoor reviews.

The specificity of comments is extremely helpful. And, Glassdoor shows how many reviews included a statement similar to the example. These examples can provide input for setting future policies, practices, compensation plans and benefit offerings.

In situations where the percentages of employees/former employees willing to recommend the company to a friend and/or CEO approval are low, it's time to engage in very direct, extensive and confidential conversations, surveys and other communication methods with employees to fully understand the issues.

Then it's time create an explicit plan for turning the situation around. Begin implementing changes ASAP. Explicitly let employees know you listened, heard, value their input, and are taking action to improve the company for the long-term benefit of employees and the company alike. It's well known that great culture and engaged employees strengthen company profitability. The reverse is also true. While perhaps difficult initially, the "heads up" served as an alarm giving you the opportunity to reverse course.

Looking Forward
Websites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn and others increase transparency to a company's workplace, and make it easier for employees to learn about new job opportunities and gain intelligence about company cultures. It's time you and your leadership team accept that transparency and more public accountability are simply part of 'doing business' in our increasingly fast-paced, technology-driven and highly competitive business environment.

Highly engaged companies attract the best talent, have the lowest voluntary turnover rates, and are more profitable over the long run. Glassdoor simply provides additional transparency for job seekers. The world we live now requires us to be at our best continually. With the right team and processes in place, you'll have confidence in your company's ability to achieve this with ease.

Action Items:

  1. If not already in place, create and develop a team and process to access and review Glassdoor and other selected ratings/reviews. Determine the parameters of this team's authority, versus what needs to be brought to the attention of senior leadership.
  2. Create an employer Glassdoor account and use Glassdoor as a proactive connection and communication tool. Establish the primary messages for use on Glassdoor and other selected sites.
  3. Respond to critical comments from Glassdoor reviewers, and use the combination of feedback provided by Glassdoor in efforts to strengthen employee engagement and build a highly desirable culture for the benefit of current and prospective employees.
  4. Review Glassdoor reviews of companies that generally receive very positive ratings/reviews to learn what topics are top-of-mind among reviewers and what specifically is viewed favorably and considered valuable by reviewers.

*Corlette, Bob, "Are You Suffering from Glassdoor Angst?" Kansas City Business Journal, June 3, 2015.

**Global Human Capital Trends 2015: Leading in the New World of Work, “Engaging” section, beginning on page 33; Deloitte University Press; to access that report, click here.

Fresh Perspective
Fresh Perspective helps business leaders make key strategic decisions. We adeptly research, analyze and synthesize results to deliver only ‘need to know’ insight to leaders so they make the right decision the first time. Lisa Hays, founder and CEO, gained considerable experience from widely varied roles in large corporations. She combines her 30+ years’ experience, expertise and objective viewpoint to directly help business leaders.

Lisa Hays, Fresh Perspective, Inc.
Twitter: @Periwinkle4Lisa

Meet Lisa Hays, President/CEO