Glassdoor.com: Social Media Tool or PR Nightmare?

Learning to Live With Employee Opinion

Since its founding in 2007, Glassdoor.com has become an important research tool for job hunters, corporate recruiters, and anyone looking for unvarnished behind-the-scenes insight into what really goes on behind corporate doors. Although Vault.com – established more than a decade earlier – serves much the same purpose, Glassdoor.com represents a far greater online brand risk…largely because the website provides free access to remarks posted by real, bogus and often disgruntled employees, and because those negative postings are often found on Google page one searches involving the company under fire.  For many of the 250,000 companies it currently covers, Glassdoor.com can be a PR nightmare waiting to happen.

Websites dedicated to employee dissatisfaction were social media pioneers; empowering workers to publicly call their manager a “5-Alarm Nut Job” without retribution, to gripe about low pay or a lousy lunchroom, and to warn others to look elsewhere for a job.  The most notorious of these early sites included RateMyEmployer.com (currently on life support),  F**kedCompany.com (which died in 2007) and JobVent.com, which was acquired by Glassdoor.com in 2009. The demise of this scruffy first generation of workplace gripe sites gave way to an even more powerful and credible second generation of professionally managed, sophisticated sites like Glassdoor.com, backed by private equity investment, and fueled by business models that ensure their long-term existence.

Here’s a survival guide for companies seeking to avoid, minimize or benefit from brand exposure that’s delivered on Glassdoor.com:

Address Root Causes – Companies that focus on employee satisfaction and provide internal channels for rank & file feedback have far fewer negative postings on Glassdoor.com. Effective workforce management, however, does not ensure a positive outcome on the site. For example, Texas-based Beryl Health (formerly Beryl Companies) is well-known for its employee-focused culture, and was a “Best Place to Work in Healthcare” according to Modern Healthcare magazine. Beryl’s former CEO Paul Spiegelman even wrote a popular book about the importance of employee motivation. But Beryl’s current Glassdoor.com rating is 2.5 (unsatisfactory) on a 5-scale, based on a few negative postings (of seven reviews in total) from its employees.

Work The System – To their credit, Glassdoor.com does have a protocol for screening out employee rants that violate their standards of legality and good taste. They also have a viable internal system for moderating comments that are flagged by another party as “Inappropriate.” As a last resort, if a posting is believed to be bogus, particularly harmful or libelous, a company can appeal directly to Glassdoor.com’s corporate General Counsel. There’s no need to be victimized. Companies should monitor employee comments on Glassdoor.com, and respond directly and aggressively when appropriate.

Purchase a Profile – For a fairly reasonable price, Glassdoor.com will provide an “Enhanced Employer Profile,” featuring a comprehensive description of your company. I don’t work for Glassdoor.com in any capacity, or receive compensation for promoting its products, but it’s a no-brainer to take advantage of an opportunity to provide credible, positive content that can offset misinformation, warts and shortcomings that others are sharing online.

Lobby for Support – It’s no secret that many companies “encourage” their happy employees to post positive comments on Glassdoor.com as a means to bolster their overall Company Rating. Unfortunately, some companies assign this role to their PR department, whose staff members pose as anonymous employees, pumping out false praise and motivating detractors to post additional rants. In some cases, it may be beneficial to lobby for employee support on Glassdoor.com by asking them to express their satisfaction with the company. However, this solicitation must be carefully planned and expressed in a genuine manner, or the potential for this effort to backfire, internally and online, is fairly high.

Embrace Criticism – When online detractors echo similar complaints, it usually means there’s some underlying truth to what they’re griping about. It also means that Glassdoor.com visitors will begin to believe them.  Although it’s contrary to corporate instincts, the quickest way for a company to stop online rants is to fix the related problems, or to explain to employees why it won’t or can’t. Allowing Glassdoor.com to serve as a canary in the coal mine can avoid problems that may be more significant than brand reputation.

Glassdoor.com is an online reality that requires pro-active and consistent oversight by fiduciaries of the corporate brand.  Understanding how to peacefully coexist and leverage this influential social media tool enables companies to minimize negative brand impressions, drive recruitment and demonstrate their institutional backbone to current employees.

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