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By Andrew Hazelton

Everyone is a chatty customer in the world of social media. It's no surprise therefore that brands are no longer created or its perceptions managed by marketers, but rather by consumers. And these talkative consumers now include your employees. Welcome to the new reality of transparency courtesy of the 500-pound social media gorilla called "Glassdoor."

Glassdoor in concept…
Founded by former Expedia veterans in 2007 and backed by Google Capital, the website offers a two-sided "marketplace" for employees to anonymously post salaries, interview questions and reviews of their employers. Similar to Linkedin, such information is often used by job seekers eager for insider information on those employers they are contemplating applications. Simultaneously, the platform also permits employers to respond to content, as well as post jobs and try to fill them with the best candidates. Glassdoor claims more than 7.5 million reviews and other information posted on more than 340,000 companies. It also claims 27 million members from 190 countries, with 25% of traffic coming from outside the U.S.

Glassdoor in action…
More than 2,000 employers pay to use the site's services and about 31,000 have signed up for free accounts where they can publicly respond to reviews and get access to Glassdoor's analytics. It boils down to this… an increasing number of companies are realizing they neither can ignore Glassdoor reviews, nor should they.

In particular, companies can leverage Glassdoor in several key ways:

  • Mining employee feedback to supplement Associate or Employee Engagement Surveys, in order to promote engagement and positive company change;
     
  • Turning negative reviews into positive outcomes, by gaining insights into how employees feel the company is doing and why they might be losing talent – this can be invaluable information to augment exit interviews. And from a potential candidate's point of view, it makes a potential hire generally more informed;
     
  • Allowing companies to know about and address "false or misleading statements" by disgruntled employees or those merely trolling, which can damage a company's brand equity;
     
  • Establishing greater and more diverse social media presence in the market – along with Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter – to openly and actively engage the market for PR and brand awareness campaigns. Remember, consumers are the new brand marketers.
     

Glassdoor clearly speaks to both accountability and opportunity for companies in their quest for internal culture-building and external brand awareness and equity, especially for those organizations that strive to treat employees as customers. Indeed, Glassdoor is a successful proof-in-concept, as the metrics clearly demonstrate that employees share their experiences online if they feel valued and well-treated. Of course, the flipside is true as well – companies must be prepared for the good, bad and ugly. And job seekers use all of this feedback much like Amazon rating systems to guide their selections of employers. Choosing employers is now about individuals committing to purposeful affiliations with brands. This is why employees can serve as the best advocates any brand can have – and it's arguably a low cost approach.

Glassdoor in your company's corner…
J.D. Powers, Gallup and the like are now old school consumer satisfaction surveys, whereas Millennials are being dubbed the "Glassdoor Generation." Companies often set lofty PR and marketing goals for itself as part of a scorecard approach to measuring its overall performance and impact. For instance, a decade ago most companies of the Fortune 500 wanted to be ranked among the "Best Places to Work" or earn the coveted "Employer of Choice" moniker.

It is critical to understand that top talent of the millennial generation and beyond look to social media metrics instead. Here is where Glassdoor can work for you now and moving ahead. It may surprise you how many hospitality-leisure companies are recognized by Glassdoor's analytics, which can companies can and should be leveraging in a myriad of ways to appeal to and attract the best of the new talent pool. For example, below are metrics that catch the millennial eye:

Top Companies for Cultural and Values: Walt Disney Company #17

  • Best Places to Work: #1 Airbnb, #13 In-N-Out Burger, #16 Expedia, both beat out such iconic companies as Apple and Twitter
  • Top 25 Work-Life Balance: Orbitz Worldwide
  • Highest Rated CEO's: Lynsi Snyder, In-N-Out Burger, #17, Dara Khosrowshahi, Exepdia, #21
     

Those are celebrations, but the metrics also reveal market weaknesses and opportunities. Two cases in point, first no hospitality-leisure company was among the "Top 25 for Compensation & Benefits." Instead, the companies on this list were dominated by the technology industry. Perhaps then, the hospitality-leisure industry needs to re-examine the way it incentivizes and retains its talent.

Second, our industry failed to break the list for "Top Companies for Career Opportunities" – the top three were Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Company. Think about it… "compensation/benefits and career opportunities" are critically important to all incumbents and applicants at all employment levels, so this information should give pause to every organization not on the list and arguably motivate some self-reflection on what tactics, strategies and overall philosophy companies are using to gain and retain top talent now and in the future.

Real-time information and connection to the market that defines and shapes brand perceptions. This access can give companies lift and leverage when used thoughtfully, or left unchecked and unharnessed, it can bring deflation and negative impacts that arguably compare well to being at the mercy of the crest of the dark tsunami of social media. That is the power and prejudice of Glassdoor, and it is only the beginning.

About Andrew Hazelton

Andrew Hazelton is founding partner and Managing Director at AETHOS Consulting Group. An experienced recruitment consultant, he has over a decade of retained executive search experience in a variety of industries, including hotel, restaurant, gaming, real estate, finance, and technology. He has authored a number of articles on executive selection, general HR trends and compensation for the hospitality industry.

Contact: Andrew Hazelton

ahazelton@aethoscg.com / +1 (718) 618-4376

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