I remember working for a larger corporation when I was younger and we'd be asked to dress up on certain days when we were expecting clients or important guests. Like children, we were instructed to put on our best behaviour that day. Take a deep breath. You can change into your T-shirts when they leave. Phew!
But what if it wasn't just for a day? What if it wasn't for show? What if the surrounding walls to your office were made of glass and it meant that anyone could pop in to have a look, anytime? What would you do differently? What would you have to hide?
This is exactly what Glassdoor, the anonymous company review site, seeks to unveil. Founded in the US in 2008, Glassdoor is the market leader for company reviews with more than 383,000 companies across the world and increasingly so in Singapore being commented on by former and current employees.
The walls between organisations and the outside world are demolished; revealing the good, bad, and ugly accounts of what it was like or is like to work at that organisation.
Disgruntled that you didn't make it past the interview? You can even rate your interview experience. Think: Glassdoor is the equivalent of TripAdvisor or Yelp for organisations.
While best known for its rankings, Glassdoor also runs one of the largest job search and recruiting platforms with 27 million members. Its rating and salary reports cover more than 340,000 companies in over 190 countries and territories including many in Singapore.
What does this mean for companies?
Privacy is so 2014 – transparency is the new chic. Just like how traditional word-of-mouth marketing has transcended with online communities and social media, prospective future employees of today are making decisions based on information provided by stranger online communities.
Yes, it's funny that people are far more inclined to trust anonymous reviewers than company CEOs. But hey, how much trust can you place in company-controlled press releases?
Today's marketplace wants to know the inner workings of your firm – do your employees enjoy the everyday? Are they happy? And you can't unravel the whole truth with one-sided accounts that originate from the company.
Take Amazon for example, recently in the news for pros and cons for working there and the alleged working practices employed by founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
Bezos himself gets a high rating of 82% on Glassdoor, Amazon gets a moderate rating of only 63%. Compared to his peers, this ranks way behind Google (96% and 91%), Apple (95% and 82%), Facebook (95% and 89%), and Twitter (100% and 83%) and other companies competing for the same workforce.
There are also more negative comments than positive ones which shows how passionate employees are upon leaving. Two-thirds are complaining against those leaving positive statements. The constant theme of "no work life balance" was one of the main complaints from the New York Times article that started the furore into their workplace environment.
This will undoubtedly make it harder for Amazon to employ people globally and including their operation in Singapore. This is a global social media feedback platform after all.
Can you therefore afford to ignore Glassdoor in Singapore? Its SEO magic points jobseekers to Glassdoor job adverts early in the search engine. Needless to say, it'd better be overflowing with positive reviews; otherwise talent will look elsewhere, especially somewhere like Singapore where there is full employment and professionals have a multitude of employment choices.
Jobseekers, can you trust Glassdoor?
Glassdoor is the same as any crowdsourced review site from Tripadvisor to HungyGoWhere; it can be manipulated by both employee and employer. Glassdoor rejects 10% of all posts but how many more get through that look acceptable but are fake? This of course can work both ways, make a company attractive to work at and make it less so. You ultimately have to decide.
But does this undermine Glassdoor's credibility? Think about it: Would you boycott a restaurant after seeing a bad review on Yelp? I personally would go check it out anyway, with adjusted expectations. They sometimes end up delighting me.
I also know of hospitality establishments who employ "ghost reviewers" in India to better their page reviews on TripAdvisor and downplay that of their competitors'. However enough bad reviews would mean me not visiting the place at all, so it definitely has an effect.
Glassdoor allows all employers to respond to reviews and claims not to remove reviews or other user-generated content for its paying clients. Can you trust them then? The level of trust one wishes to place on user-generated reviews is subjective to the individual and if you wish to bank your faith in an organisation purely based on anonymous reviewers, the opportunity cost is up to you to bear.
If an employer threatens to remove their adverts if they get too many bad reviews, would Glassdoor be tempted to do it if no one found out?
I have heard of companies in Singapore getting bad reviews taken down because they know the power of the social media when it comes to hiring. I have also heard of companies threatening staff if they do post a bad review on Glassdoor. So can you trust the reviews you read if employers like this succeed in wiping out all the negative ones?
Likewise if an employer doesn't know about Glassdoor and vindictive employees paint a very bad picture of them, then this could be incredibly damaging to their recruitment strategy. They may not even know why no one is replying to their adverts and recruiting.
Better to be safe than sorry and engage with Glassdoor and ensure you address all employee concerns before they ruin your employer branding and reputation.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Chris Reed has 25 years of senior marketing experience on both the client and agency side in the UK and now in Asia Pacific. He is the CEO and founder of Black Marketing.