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Overcoming (or Avoiding) a Poor Glassdoor Rating

Startups have unique challenges in attracting top talent. While people interested in working for a startup are typically less risk averse than those attracted to more established companies, they will still weigh risks carefully – especially when comparing competing opportunities.

When recruiting, a positive Glassdoor rating may be only one of several factors that influence a candidate’s interest, but negative reviews and an overall low rating will be a strong deterrent.

The average Glassdoor rating is 3.3 out of 5. If you are looking for “average” candidates, then a rating in the 3.0 to 4.0 range will probably not be an issue, but if you want top candidates, then you may need to overcome a Glassdoor rating that is less than 4.0. If your company’s rating is less than 3.0, this can present a significant obstacle.

What if you have a Glassdoor rating that does not accurately reflect the quality of your company? There are steps that you can take to overcome this. As an executive recruiter, I have recruited top talent to companies with a Glassdoor rating under 4.0 because I knew that the reviews were not truly reflective of my client and was able to make a compelling case.

In some instances, where the company is looking for a strong leader or even a Head of People to help take the company to the next level, the Glassdoor reviews are integrated into the story and help to illustrate why the person’s special leadership or people management skills are needed. This can be appealing to someone who loves a challenge as long as they are convinced that they will truly have the latitude to make a difference.

What are some steps that you can take to improve your company’s Glassdoor rating and possibly even overcome a rating that is not truly reflective?

First of all, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask the question, “Are the negative reviews a warning sign that changes are needed within your company?”

  • Do the reviews signal the need for executive coaching to upgrade your abilities or to add another leader to the team to complement your strengths?
  • Has your management team kept up with company growth? The Head of Customer Success that you hired to lead a team of five may not have the skills to lead a team of 25, resulting in high turnover and disenchanted team members who vent their frustrations on Glassdoor.
  • Are you hiring people who are a true fit to the culture and the company stage? I think of a client who hired a team of sales development reps that had never worked for a startup and their complaints on Glassdoor were a reflection of unfamiliarity with the challenges (and rewards) of a startup environment.
  • Does your company’s onboarding adequately set people up for success within the company?

Some ways to counter negative reviews and to increase your company’s rating:

  • Proactively build your company’s Glassdoor profile page to make a positive and dynamic company presentation.
  • On your website and in your job posting, present a compelling story about your company including positive quotes from team members. This may help to mitigate what the candidate sees on Glassdoor at least enough for them to apply for your opening.
  • Personally, respond to all of the reviews. Thank the reviewer for the feedback. It is important that the responses to negative comments not be defensive or accusatory in any way. If the person has said something that is not accurate, succinctly state that you respectfully disagree. If the person is no longer with the company, thank them for their contributions and wish them well. I think it makes a strong statement when the CEO is the person who responds.  Remember to respond to the positive reviews as well.

Example: I am sorry to hear that this experience did not work out the way that you hoped it would. Thank you for the feedback. Even though my perception of what happened is much different, I will share your comments with other leaders in the company to make sure we aren’t missing anything. We are continually trying to make XYZ the best possible place to work. I sincerely hope that you find a better fit for your abilities and aspirations. –DBW

Example: I’m really sorry we had to part ways. I appreciate your contributions while you were with XYZ. We needed something different from your role than we needed in the past, and I acknowledge your frustration. I’m confident you will find a great role out there that fits your skills, talents and abilities. It was my pleasure to give you a generous severance as a bridge to your next adventure. All the best. –DBW

  • Elicit Glassdoor reviews from the team members who are happy with the company. Make it clear that there is no pressure and that they have the option to remain anonymous. Explain that their review will help to attract people like them to the company and will give future employees a true impression of what it’s like to work there. If there have been negative reviews, you can share that you are concerned that this will keep good people away and you need their help to paint a positive contrast.
  • If you are counteracting a low rating following a layoff or reorganization where disgruntled ex-employees have stormed Glassdoor, then this calls for a proactive boost by several team members who can honestly share a positive review. Even better if you or members of your leadership team can request reviews from past employees who parted amicably.

Glassdoor can be a source of valuable feedback, but why wait for this to show up publicly?

Fostering open channels of communication and a safe environment where constructive comments are welcomed and not punished will provide an ongoing flow of valuable feedback. This feedback allows the ability to address small problems before they become big problems and to double down on the positives that are revealed through the feedback.

A knowledgeable Head of People can help to set up mechanisms for generating a flow of feedback and provide guidance within the company of ways to effectively share concerns or issues. If your company does not yet have a People leader, then consider bringing in a consultant to help create an environment conducive to constructive feedback.

When someone leaves the company, an “exit interview” where the departing employee feels appreciated and heard can be a source of valuable feedback as well as minimize the potential of airing grievances online. If your company does not have a Head of People, the best person to conduct the exit interview may be another company leader other than the person’s direct boss.

A layoff or reorganization is a ripe time for frustration and disgruntlement. Handling the situation in a way that shows respect and consideration will go a long way in helping employees to depart peacefully.

Recently, I was struck by a comment by CEO Coach, Jerry Colonna. During an online townhall meeting to help a group of leaders navigate the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, he acknowledged that some of them would have to downsize their teams. He reminded these leaders that even though they were having to let people go, it was important for each person to know that the leader still believed in them.

If you need advice about how to overcome a poor Glassdoor rating in attracting desirable candidates, please reach out.

I can also be reached on LinkedIn.

Donna White

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