In my work as an executive coach, I will sometimes peruse the Glassdoor comments of both client companies and prospective client companies. It helps me to get a better sense of what some of the key issues within an organization might be – or so I thought.
Some questions have always run through my mind about the feedback expressed on websites like Glassdoor:
1. How representative is the feedback expressed?
2. Are those that are disgruntled with their company more likely to post on Glassdoor than those who are happy, thereby creating an unrealistic skewing of the data toward the negative?
3. Even if the feedback is reasonably accurate, how much does it matter?
In doing some deeper research into this I discovered two main things. First, the data found on Glassdoor isn’t very accurate. Second, leaders still need to pay attention to it because, like it or not, prospective employees do give some weight to that they see on Glassdoor and other similar sites.
Data Accuracy, or Lack Thereof
According to a detailed study cited in How Good Is Glass Door: “… There was virtually no correlation – the overall Glassdoor star rating was a very poor indicator of what it is really like to work at a company”. Further, “We conservatively estimate that a company’s negative employees are 5 to 8 times more likely to post a review on Glassdoor than their positive employees”.
Clearly, the data appearing on Glassdoor leave a lot to be desired. In fact, it seems like these ratings can easily be so wrong that they can have a very misleading impact both on prospective employees and on the employers (should they choose to pay attention to them).
But let’s look closer. First, I am sure that most savvy prospective employees (and those are the ones you most want to hire, right?) will know to take Glassdoor ratings with a large grain of salt. If they see over-arching patterns in the comments that repeatedly show similar issues, they will likely take notice. And if they see a similar pattern of positive comments they will likely take notice too. Anything else, while it may be a bit disconcerting and lead a prospective employee to question the employer, isn’t likely to carry too much weight with the employees that you most want.
Second, Glassdoor’s list of the best companies to work for, based entirely upon their ratings, certainly lines up very well with the feedback I consistently hear from the people I work with at a number of the top companies on this list. So, I have to question the assertion that there is virtually no correlation between Glassdoor’s data and what it is actually like to work at a company.
Perhaps people feel more free to express their real opinion with Glassdoor since it’s very clearly a third party and should have near zero chance of repercussions, unlike the likely perception of internally run surveys. Or perhaps the data set used in this study wasn’t complete enough to give us an accurate picture. I have a hard time fully believing that there is virtually no correlation given how much anecdotal experience I have to to contrary. Maybe one of these days I will fund a study of my own.
What, If Anything, Do You Do With The Survey Data On Glassdoor?
As an experienced executive coach and veteran of Silicon Valley, I like to think that I will take a data driven approach to a problem like this. Yet, the data doesn’t fully line up with what I anecdotally experience every day. I’d like to think that I’m pretty seasoned and savvy, and yet I still give some weight to what appears on Glassdoor even in the face of a study claiming the data has virtually no correlation to what it’s actually like to work at a company.
The mere fact that I have this struggle confirms that, like it or not, a good number of prospective employees will pay attention to what is posted on Glassdoor. So as a business leader, you can’t afford not to pay attention too, especially in the midst of this very heated talent war we’re in.
Here’s What I Recommend Business Leaders Consider Doing With Glassdoor Feedback:
1. Take it with a grain of salt, but ignore it at your own peril.
2. Look for patterns in the written feedback. If you see a large number of reviewers saying very similar things, there’s likely a good amount of truth to it.
3. For those negative things that you see again and again, address them. Address them by actually taking some actions internally to improve, and by openly acknowledging the problem and what you’re doing to address it.
4. Consider managing the perceptions on sites like Glassdoor. You can’t afford to let you brand get tarnished if it’s not accurate.
5. Take a look at what Dell did to help manage perceptions on Glassdoor.