Employer Reviews in the Age of Web 2.0

For most people, it has become a standard behaviour on online shops and hotel booking websites: Before you make a decision, you read what other people have to say about the product or service in question. If the reviews of an offer are predominantly negative, its survival, at least online, is seriously in danger.

This mechanism can increasingly be seen applied in other areas as well: For restaurant ratings, you go to "Yelp", for medical services to "iWantGreatCare" - and for employer reviews to the likes of "glassdoor".

For many HR managers, this is a worrying trend. But don't worry, we got you covered. Here's everything you need to know about employer reviews - and how you can use them to build a strong employer brand.

How employer reviews work Most platforms let three different groups of people review employers: applicants, trainees, and employees. Applicants describe their experience during the selection process, if they felt respected and treated fairly, if the communication was satisfactory etc. Trainees and employees talk about everyday life at the company. To enhance these reports with a better overview, employer review websites pre-structure reviews with a set of categories: Reviewers get to rate leadership quality, team spirit, wages, working atmosphere etc. separately. They can then on a list of employee benefits check those that are offered at their company, e.g. free lunches, an attractive location, or child-care facilities. For all other comments about their employer, they can use "pros" and "cons" text fields.

Opportunities and risks for employers Everything depends on whether you've done your homework as an employer and are offering your employees an attractive working environment. If so, you'll be sure to get great reviews and can use them to attract top talent. If not, you will most likely get very few or very bad reviews - and this will increasingly create a problem for you: Employer review websites are becoming popular, and your reputation as an employer depends on good reviews.

How to handle reviews If you learn to embrace employer review websites and recognise their potential, they can become a valuable recruitment and retention tool:

1. Present your company: All the major review websites offer employers to set up a profile where they can introduce themselves and show off their employee benefits.

2. Ask employees to write reviews: Don't be afraid someone might leave a bad rating. Instead, encourage employees to publish their honest opinions. It will help you uncover your weaknesses as an employer - but it will also show employees and potential candidates that you're willing to have an open and honest dialogue with them.

3. Answer to critical reviews: Negative comments are a great opportunity for you to show employees and possible applicants you're listening to criticism, that you're taking it seriously, and that you want to tackle the problems and keep improving the working conditions in your company.

4. What's the competition up to? Make sure you read reviews about competing companies, too. They can provide valuable insights and can help you understand where your strengths are as an employer - and where you need to step up your game if you want to be able to attract the best people.

If you see employer rating portals as an opportunity and make use of them accordingly, they can be a true asset for human resources. More often than not, it's an uphill battle because it involves dealing with actual problems within your company. But one thing is certain: If you decide to simply ignore those websites, you'll have an increasingly hard time to hire good people. (Also read: "E-Recruitment Basics in a Nutshell")

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