Glassdoor: the Yelp of workplaces. Founded just over a decade ago, the website now hosts reviews of over 700,000 companies worldwide and has completely upended the balance of power between employers and employees. Workers now have the ability to speak their minds and vent about things like company leadership, office culture, and the competitiveness of pay and benefits.
Of course, any one review on Glassdoor—like any single review on Yelp—may be irrelevant or even unhinged. But in the aggregate, they can offer a powerful picture of what it’s like to work for a given company. As information about organizations’ inner workings has entered the public record through these anonymous reviews, employers have been forced to reckon with how they manage and treat their people.
While a corporate leader may want to address concerns aired online out of a benevolent desire to make their employees’ daily experience better, there may also be larger motivations that connect directly to their bottom line. Most prospective recruits in today’s workforce, particularly in higher-paid industries like finance and tech, check out an organization’s Glassdoor reviews before going into an interview. If the reviews indicate that there is little room for growth in the company, or that the CEO is a narcissist who doesn’t listen to anyone else, high-caliber candidates may choose not to accept an offer—or even apply in the first place—in favor of a company that fared better on Glassdoor.
Additionally, investors in today’s market are increasingly aware that organizations with engaged, happy employees are likely to perform better financially than unhappy companies in the long run. Investors may even look to Glassdoor reviews for information as they make their stock picks. For leaders of publicly-traded companies, this is a significant reason to be wary of negative public reviews from their employees.
Business leaders need not sit around and passively wait to see what type of comments roll in, hoping they aren’t too bad and that potential new hires don’t notice. Smart employers can actively empower their workers to share authentic, thoughtful feedback on their office environments, their supervisors, and even the overall organizational culture internally, so that employees never reach the point of becoming so disgruntled that they need to air their grievances anonymously online through a Glassdoor rant. They can take a proactive stance instead of a reactive one when it comes to employee feedback.
But how exactly does an organization design effective communication channels to preempt negative Glassdoor reviews? Consultants at Newmeasures argue that an “always-on” listening model is the best bet.
Always-on listening enables employees to proactively share feedback at any point, so that they don’t have to wait until the “right time” to make their opinions known (i.e. when the employee survey that is only conducted every two years is administered once again). The old-school suggestion box is a classic example of an always-on listening mechanism, but things like a safety hotline or an internal Slack channel also fit the bill. However, simply establishing a system is not enough and may even backfire, so it’s important to give the following questions some careful thought before you design and implement your always-on listening strategy.
1) Do employees know about it? If employees don’t know about the different options they have for offering suggestions or constructive feedback, they can’t take advantage of them. Ensure the always-on mechanisms are clearly communicated throughout the company, and encourage managers to continually remind employees that they are available—if learning someone’s name is any indication, most of us need to hear things more than once before we’ll remember!
2) Is leadership on board? Even if everyone in the company knows that they are able to offer their opinions and understand how to do so, your always-on strategy will almost certainly fail if senior leaders are not open to hearing and acting upon those opinions. It’s important to have ongoing conversations with leaders about why receiving this feedback is valuable and remind them to communicate transparently with employees about how that feedback is influencing culture, strategy, or policy.
Closing the loop is absolutely the key to success: if people don’t understand how new decisions were reached or feel that their suggestions just end up in a dark basement covered in cobwebs, they’ll likely feel more frustrated than they did to begin with—and turn to Glassdoor to vent.
3) Is there a culture of trust? A final key element of a successful always-on listening model has to do with the company’s culture. If workers do not feel respected and trusted by management, or if they fear retaliation if they really speak their minds, they will likely not feel safe and comfortable in using the new channel of communication. Those who receive the feedback and pass it along to the appropriate decision-makers should be careful to treat all feedback—positive or negative—with respect and gratitude, as all of it can be useful and help guide the organization to future success.
Establishing effective always-on listening systems can help you address negative sentiments before they infect overall morale, leading to bad publicity that hurts your ability to hire and retain the best people. Feeling valued is one of best indicators of engagement, and feeling heard is essential to feeling valued. With your listening “always on,” you can maximize your employees’ engagement and no longer live in fear of the promising candidate who asks, “I read this on Glassdoor…how do you respond?”