The ways in which the internet connects all of us continue to grow and change. It has become a powerful tool for academics, consumers, employers, and job seekers. The last group is the most interesting, as those looking for something new or a change in employment now have the ability to vet potential employers through sites like Glassdoor. This has caused both validation and pain for businesses, as those with favorable reviews from current and former employees can help attract top talent while those with negative ratings and scathing indictments will scare off future job seekers. This leads to a unique activity that those of us in Public Relations are having to address: counseling businesses on ways to improve their reputations on review-based websites like Glassdoor. After all, positive and negative reviews, whether of your products, services, or work experience will affect your brand and status in the industry.
Utilize the Feedback
The first solution to the problem is the most obvious: take the time to read all of the negative and positive postings and identify the common trends found throughout. HR departments should create a series of recommendations for management to consider to improve the work experience and culture at their companies. Often, the issues are budgetary: complaints of salaries below the industry average, healthcare plans that are going down in quality, decreasing bonuses, longer hours, etc. It’s a simple matter of doing the math to see if some changes can be made. However, it often surprises employers when they repeatedly hear that employees are unhappy because they feel that their voices aren’t being heard. Remedying issues around communication and the chain of command can go far to increase morale (and generate new ideas to help businesses innovate and thrive).
Taking the time to examine reviews and create and implement plans to increase the employee experience will ultimately lead to more positive online feedback and a better company reputation. The only catch is that this process takes time to yield the results that businesses are looking for. To generate more immediate change, there a few other best practices that we recommend from a PR perspective:
- Be engaged: Just like with any other online review, consumers (or in this case, prospective employees) will retain or regain trust in a company if it responds to a negative review. The reply should be measured and objective. If the negative review is rife with over exaggeration or outright lies, it’s important to refute the claims with facts and logic. If the employee makes a valid point, acknowledge it and let them (and everyone reading the review) know that you’re taking steps to make changes. If the review is positive, simply replying with a note of appreciation and thanks is all that’s needed.
- Be timely: Related to the previous point, respond to positive and negative reviews as they are generated. In all of its facets, your company wants to be responsive to feedback, no matter the source. Ideally, one staff member should be designated as the Glassdoor/reviews website liaison to help ensure that the reviews are managed with little delay. If your company has a long history on Glassdoor that you’re just now addressing, resist the temptation to go back and respond to reviews that were written years ago. A sudden burst of activity to old posts will give the impression that the company is suddenly undergoing a campaign to improve their image and not taking the steps to listen to what was said and make improvements.
- It doesn’t hurt to ask: Make no mistake—employers should never compel or pressure employees to write positive reviews. This includes Glassdoor, LinkedIn, reviews of products and services on Amazon or Angie’s List, etc. That being said, if you know of a happy employee that expressed interest in the past about reviewing the company, there’s nothing wrong with seeing if the interest is still there. If they’re leaving the business under happy circumstances, there’s no issue with directly asking them to write a review. Just be clear on the terms: no one writing a company review should be doing it under duress nor should they be rewarded or bribed for their actions.
When it comes to attracting the best people to fill your vacancies, review sites like Glassdoor have caused the employment landscape to shift in favor of candidates. Job seekers are now checking on the backgrounds of employers where once only the opposite was true. The concept of soliciting feedback from employees on their work experience isn’t new, but the availability of that information to the public is. Creating strategies to respond to Glassdoor reviews is a task every company needs to address at an institutional level, with the support and input of your marketing and PR teams. Otherwise, you’ll be scrambling to repair the damage once a crisis of negative feedback affects your ability to attract qualified candidates.
Brendon Stellman authors the column “Pure BS” and is Vice President, Director of Client Relations for Milldam Public Relations.