How Companies Can Deal With Online Employer Reviews

Negative reviews on employer review websites like Glassdoor can hurt a company’s future prospects for recruiting top talent. Here’s how they should approach the challenge.
Glassdoor Reviews employer brand

Online employer reviews are making life difficult for companies’ recruiting efforts.

Only 34 percent of job seekers will apply to work at a company with an online employer rating of 2 out of 5 stars, according to the 2017 “Employer Branding” study from CareerArc Group LLC, a human resources technology company based in Los Angeles. To combat negative ratings, companies must pay attention to reviews and treat their workers better, said Robin D. Richards, CEO of CareerArc.

As employer review websites such as Glassdoor gained popularity, employers have struggled to have their companies portrayed positively online. “They’re not used to being treated at all by their rank-and-file [employees],” Richards said. “They’re used to deciding what their brand is. They’re used to telling the world what their brand is. Today, it’s the employees, the candidates and the past employees that are telling the world what your brand is. You have nothing to do except for consume those perceptions.”

CareerArc’s survey also found that 86 percent of employers either feel online reviews are unfair or somewhat fair, though they know that negative reviews can cost them qualified applicants. “You don’t get a chance to combat that because you were stubborn about participating in the online review marketplace because it was unfair,” Richards said. “Well, guess what? You lost out of two out of three candidates from even applying to your company because you were too arrogant or stubborn to deal authentically with your issues.”

Perceptions of Accuracy

While one person might view a comment or review as accurate, others could disagree. “I think companies have to go away from this perception of accuracy. Accuracy is in the eye of the beholder,” Richards said.

Instead, he thinks business leaders should focus on participation. A single review — positive or negative —  won’t gain much traction. However, if there are 100 reviews and 90 say that managers at the company are cruel, then they probably are, Richards said. The number of reviews will help in accurately identifying problems within.

“Everybody is so different in terms of how they can see a company’s culture,” said Georgene Huang, CEO of Fairygodboss, an online career community with job reviews based in New York City. Although humans read every review prior to going live on her company’s website, they can’t arbitrate whether something is true or not. “The word ‘accurate’ is difficult because I think, inherently, your workplace experience is subjective,” she said. People have different managers and job roles and work in different departments, impacting an overall rating of a company.

Also, the structure of a review website impacts how people respond to questions. If reviews are kept open-ended, it invites venting. So Huang created incentives to make sure reviewers are being honest and reviews are accurate.

First, people must leave a review in order to see other reviews, thus preventing payment for reviews, which is commonplace in consumer product reviewing. There are also 15 questions, some of which are open-ended or have scales of 1 to 5 for people to use for ratings on areas such as flexibility at the company and if women feel they’re treated equally to men.

What to Do With Reviews

When a business leader sees a review, they should act. If there’s incorrect information, correct it by contacting the website by reaching out via a comment on the review.

Employers can also use review sites to research benefits packages of other companies, Huang said, citing that some companies come to her site to find information on maternity leave. Then, human resources practitioners can advocate for better policies internally by pointing to what competition does.

Still, continually monitoring one’s own online reputation is still important. Louis Mosca, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Orlando, Florida-based business management consultancy American Management Services, said that his company checks social media sites such as Glassdoor and Yelp daily. If he has an idea of who wrote the review, the company attempts to contact them. This happens about 20 percent of the time, he said.

It’s especially important not to shy away from the negative reviews, Mosca said. If someone reads a negative comment and sees the company response, the company gains credibility because of willingness to discuss the issue or admit to making a mistake.

Nevertheless, these reviews can be devastating, Mosca said. “I know for a fact that what people write on the internet has cost us talent.” And that talent could have been very strong, which cost the company opportunity and profit, Mosca added.

Mosca’s advice for companies is to have a digital marketing staffer monitor online reputation. For companies unable to afford this, Mosca suggests finding a local reputation manager and working with them on a monthly basis. Although small businesses can’t afford a designated staffer, they also can’t afford to let their online reputation go unchecked because it will cost them people, opportunity and business, Mosca said.

How to Repair Reviews

CareerArc’s Richards said he asks his employees to write reviews. At the beginning of a company’s run, their aggregate reviews are likely poor, as people are more likely to rate and post when upset. The last to review are the happy employees. “Tap into the most overlooked resource: happy employees,” Richards said.

However, not all agree on this methodology. If a company has poor reviews on Glassdoor and asks employees to write positive ones, it can backfire, said Kate Bullinger, executive vice president and global lead of employee engagement and change management at Weber Shandwick, a global communications and engagement agency. “That almost never ends well. Ultimately, you want to affect the culture of the organization, and if you’re having to go around and ask your employees to write positive things about the company on a social media site, it’s pointing to a larger cultural problem, which kind of defeats the purpose.”

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In a way, online reviews can help that cultural problem, said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick. “Feedback is important,” she said, adding that the reviews should compare to employee surveys. Feedback from these sources can help business leaders avoid challenges in the future. “That’s how crises arise, if you aren’t keeping your ears open to what’s really going on,” she said.

Also, it’s important to have the correct information about the company on the review site, Gaines-Ross said. Accurate information about benefits, company size and a branding video can help in talent attraction.

This accuracy should extend to the employer brand overall. A 2017 study from Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, “The Employer Brand Credibility Gap: Bridging the Divide,” found that only 19 percent of employees worldwide feel there is a strong match between the employer branding and actual experience working at a company. By improving this alignment, companies can see better recruitment, retention and productivity, the study said.

With low unemployment in the U.S., this sort of differentiator benefits companies. “The employer brand is only going to rise in importance in the years to come,” Gaines-Ross said.

Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email