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The HR professional’s guide to Glassdoor

Reputations can rise or fall on Glassdoor – the go-to site for job seekers wanting to know what life is really like inside your business.

It’s called the ‘Yelpification’ of the workplace. Anonymous online reviews by employees posted on platforms like Glassdoor are changing the employment landscape in Australia.

Now one of the world’s largest job sites, Glassdoor was founded in 2007 by Expedia creator Rich Barton, Tim Besse and the current CEO, Robert Hohman. Earlier this year, Japanese HR services provider Recruit Holdings acquired Glassdoor for $1.2 billion, which some saw as a sign it soon intends to push into markets outside Europe and the United States.

In its mission “to help people everywhere find a job and company they love”, Glassdoor has accumulated more than 40 million reviews and insights for approximately 770,000 companies on its site. Nearly 57 million unique users visit the site each month.

“This is not the first open insight to an employer’s world – social media has been taking us down that path for a period – but this is an organised, central space where people can tap into real-life insight into people’s employment experiences,” says Karen Gately, founder of HR consultancy Ryan Gately.

A 2017 employer branding survey by CareerArc found that 86 per cent of employers doubted the fairness of online reviews – but ignoring them won’t make them go away. “You don’t get to choose whether you’re on this platform or not – you are,” observes Holly Maginness, talent acquisition and on-boarding director at food brand Lion. “It’s better that we embrace it in a positive way and use it as an opportunity to learn.”

Some employers see Glassdoor as “just a place for people to whinge”, says Gately. “Smarter organisations understand that it is an invaluable source of insight into their employer brand.”

Employer branding

According to one survey, 76 per cent of job seekers research an organisation before applying for a position. Among the top results a candidate sees in that search is a company’s Glassdoor page. “It’s page one of Google,” says Michael Morris, head of talent at workplace relations specialist Employsure. “That’s why we spend a lot of time making sure the Glassdoor page is up to date, because we know that candidates use it.”

Glassdoor is a huge part of the branding strategy at Employsure, a young, fast-growing company that lacks the brand recognition of a large organisation.

“We spend a lot of time focusing not just on Glassdoor, but on our entire social presence,” says Morris. “I know what our rating is, and I respond to all of our comments. We put a lot of effort into it.”

Employsure’s high Glassdoor rating – 4.6 out of five – is a drawcard for applicants. “On a weekly, if not daily basis, we will have feedback from candidates: ‘I’ve looked at your Glassdoor page, I’ve seen the positive reviews, I really want to work at Employsure,’” says Morris.

“Employers can’t be arrogant anymore. Instead of assuming ‘everyone wants to work for me’, you have to focus on a candidate’s experience.” – Holly Maginness

Lion’s Glassdoor page is managed by the talent and acquisition team, who respond to reviews every week. “It’s a key part of our social media strategy,” says Maginness, who believes platforms like Glassdoor offer organisations the chance to tell their story in their own words.

“You need to be incredibly authentic and real to attract the right people,” she says. “The more corporate the message, the more it turns candidates off.”

Beyond company scores, the publication of scores for individual CEOs and annual top-CEO lists have made leaders more accountable for their performance. People want to work not just for a company, but for a leader, says Maginness. “Employers can’t be arrogant anymore. Instead of assuming ‘everyone wants to work for me’, you have to focus on a candidate’s experience.”

Glassdoor has capitalised on its popularity by offering a suite of paid services including employer branding, job advertising and display advertising. Roughly 160,000 companies have free employer accounts, which offer basic employer branding tools and the opportunity to respond to employee reviews. Another 7000 companies pay upwards of US$7000 (A$9400) a year for an enhanced profile that provides analytics, advertising and protection from competitors’ content.

How should you deal with a negative review?

Suzanne Lucas, writing at Inc., has three ideas for employers on the receiving end of a negative review: ignore, investigate or make changes.

The platform itself allows employers to flag reviews. These then go to a moderator who determines whether it violates Glassdoor’s community guidelines. Each user is allowed to post one review, per employer, per year. Any content that is fraudulent, discriminatory or which names individuals who aren’t in very senior company positions will be removed.

While unpleasant, a negative review can offer an opportunity for employers to identify problems and improve employee experience. It also reflects somebody’s perspective, notes Maginess. “Why should we filter that?”

Glassdoor and other social media platforms offer a valuable, unmediated view of what it’s like to work at an organisation, which both Morris and Maginness count as an advantage.

Increasingly, that transparency extends to pay. Glassdoor publishes salary information along with ratings and reviews, which Gately believes will have an equalising effect on remuneration. Historically, she says, it has been “very hard for employees to access accurate salary data that is not inflated”.

Exposing culture

Company culture is a key driver of employee satisfaction. If an organisation suffers from a toxic culture, it will show up on Glassdoor.

Reviews range from “It’s a great company to work for and if you’re considering applying for a job – JUST DO IT!” to “Terrible culture, abysmal leadership team, archaic systems and highly inefficient processes,” but most reviews land somewhere in the middle. In April 2018, the average company rating was a respectable 3.4 stars out of five.

“A culture that puts employees first isn’t just good for a company’s Glassdoor rating– it’s good for business.”

CareerArc’s Employer Branding Study found that just one in five candidates will apply for a job at an employer with a one-star rating on Glassdoor. Female candidates were 33 per cent less likely than their male counterparts to pursue a position at a one-star organisation.

In a time where gender inequality and sexual harassment are front of mind, it is not surprising that women in particular might be turned off by reviews that reveal a sexist culture. A review like this: “A bit of a men’s club so it’s hard for women to progress.”

A culture that puts employees first isn’t just good for a company’s Glassdoor rating – it’s good for business. A study led by George Daskalakis, a finance lecturer at the University of East Anglia, looked at the relationship between 326,000 overall satisfaction ratings of 313 public companies in the US and their profitability.

“Companies whose employees said they were highly satisfied performed better financially than those who were unsatisfied. The more reviews per employee that a company had, the more pronounced this effect seemed to be,” writes Daskalakis in The Conversation.

Both Employsure and Lion have a policy to encourage employees to leave a Glassdoor review. “If you have employees who are emotionally invested in your business with a real sense of ownership for the organisation, it’s more likely they will proactively share positive reviews,” says Gately.

This article originally appeared in the August edition of HRM magazine.

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Glassdoor is easily manipulated by both employers and employees alike. As a consultant, I have seen it happen. I am actually surprised it has much credibility at all except maybe for the ratings for large corporates where there are 1000’s of reviews. For SMEs, I would not put much reliance on the info available – good or bad.

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