The GetFive Blog

WSJ Glassdoor Expose: How Big a Bombshell Is It?

March 6, 2019
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Et tu, Glassdoor? It’s getting to be that you can’t believe everything you read online anymore.

Here’s the latest. The Wall Street Journal just released what could be a bombshell lobbed smack into the middle of not only your hiring process but your company’s brand as well. It’s about Glassdoor, the online site where employees can anonymously leave reviews and star ratings about their employers.

Glassdoor started out as a small presence, a blip on the radar of hiring managers and recruiters. Employers didn’t think about it too much, either. But it has grown into a major force, disrupting the hiring process and making a company’s brand, or reputation, an urgent concern, more important than ever before. We’d go further and say it has disrupted internal policies and procedures in many companies, too. It’s the anonymity of the reviews and ratings driving all of this change. You get something wrong, handle a layoff badly, disgruntle an employee or a group of employees, fail to address a harassment complaint, let a bad manager roam free without constraint — any wrong step — and it could show up tomorrow morning on Glassdoor, emblazoned with a one-star rating. Enough of those and your company’s ranking will sink faster than the Titanic. And then when the best and brightest are intent on applying for your open position, they’ll see that low rating and move on to a company that’s rated higher.

As we said in our My Take blog last week, here’s a little background on Glassdoor:

Number of users: 57 million unique users each month
Number of company reviews: 35 million
Number of companies reviewed: 700,000
With those kinds of numbers, Glassdoor is giving job seekers valuable insights into the culture of a wide swath of potential employers.

But, just how valuable are those insights? WSJ says the jury may still be out on that.

WSJ uncovered that Glassdoor can be, and has been, manipulated by employers trying to up their ratings. The site has become such a powerhouse in the job market because those ratings are organic … but now we’re learning, maybe not so much. Here’s why:

WSJ showed that five-star ratings on Glassdoor tend to surge suspiciously. Two hundred in one day for a company that hasn’t had that many ratings in a year, for example. An analysis of millions of anonymous reviews uncovered more than 400 companies with oddly large numbers of single-month reviews that, naturally, just happened to be mostly positive. In some cases, the time period of the spike coincided with the deadline to make Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list. We see the writing on that particular wall, don’t you?

Just one example, according to WSJ: On Aug. 22, 2018, SAP’s “employer brand” team sent an email to employees asking for reviews to help the company hit the Best Places to Work list. That day, 193 reviews poured in, most of them five stars. SAP made the list as a result. It’s not the only example. It’s one of many.

For its part, Glassdoor warns companies not to coerce employees to post reviews or offer them incentives to do so. But it does encourage them to ask employees for reviews.

So, how big a bombshell is this WSJ report in the end?

From a company’s perspective, the Glassdoor Best Places to Work list is publicity and recruiting gold. If you’re interested in your company’s brand (and who isn’t?), then, is it so wrong to let employees know about the deadline for making the list and ask them to post reviews if they so desire?

Bottom line: On any site that allows reviews, you’re going to have trolls and moles. The trolls drag you down for nothing but the perverse pleasure they get from doing it. The moles are insiders who post glowing reviews to counteract the trolls. Somewhere in the middle, you’ll get an honest picture of whatever it is: a restaurant, a hotel, a contracting service, or a company.

What’s vital for companies is to keep authenticity top of mind, making that the first line of everyone’s job description. Treating employees well from recruitment to retirement has never been more important, and it’s especially true when companies are going through layoffs and people need outplacement. If you want to learn more about that, contact us at GetFive today.

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