With “September Surge” hiring season entering full swing, it’s important for companies to know what is being said about them. Platforms like Glassdoor, Fishbowl, Blind, Vault, LinkedIn and Comparably have become powerful tools for providing a window into a company’s inner workings and cultural nuances that likely won’t be discovered through employee surveys.
Online reviews can have an impact on overall reputation, recruiting efforts and employee retention. Recent studies have found that 84 to 86% of American job seekers research companies online and consider current and ex-employees reviews when deciding to apply to a role.
Employees and other stakeholders voicing their thoughts and opinions about their companies on these digital platforms can be a great source of information and create opportunity for dialogue, but it is also an important reputation management channel that requires monitoring and engagement.
Create a Monitoring Strategy
The first step for communication professionals is to develop a comprehensive plan and process for monitoring employee conversations on public platforms, likely in partnership with human resources. This involves actively and consistently tracking mentions of the company, its culture, interview and work experiences. Manually monitoring sites, setting up Google alerts, using automated tools and other social listening platforms can be helpful in finding positive and negative mentions.
Respond to Reviews Online
Should companies respond to reviews? Research says yes. Sixty-two percent of job seekers say their perception of a company improves after seeing an employer respond to a review, according to a Glassdoor U.S. Site Survey.
This is true for positive AND negative reviews. One-size-fits-all statements that often appear on review sites (mostly in response to positive posts while negative posts remain ignored) won’t accomplish much, and may do more harm than good.
- Acknowledge feedback, the specific points raised, express gratitude for the poster’s time and reiterate the company’s commitments to a positive work environment.
- Don’t engage in discussion online. Offer to have a conversation or provide an alternate route for someone wanting to provide feedback.
- Responding shouldn’t be just about damage control. A proactive approach demonstrates that the company values feedback and is willing to make improvements where necessary.
What are Employees Allowed to Post?
That depends on your social media policy, which should at a minimum prohibit posting confidential information. Check with your legal team for policy guidance and enforceability, as legal protections exist for companies and for employees. For example, the National Labor Relations Act allows employees to share compensation and working conditions with others, including posts on social media. However, employees who publish false facts or reviews that are clearly libelous or defamatory might be subject to legal action.
Update and Circulate Social Media Policies
Check that your social media, professional conduct and privacy policies are up to date and are understood by employees. These policies should reflect the current digital landscape and provide clear guidelines for employees when discussing the company online. Ensuring that policies are well-defined and easily accessible to all employees helps promote responsible online behavior.
The same need is true for your issues management, escalation and crisis communication plans. These plans are critical tools in addressing emerging challenges quickly and effectively and can help mitigate potential damage to your company's reputation. Legal, human resources, public relations and leadership teams should be made aware of recurring conversations and issues that are likely to gain traction.
While the rise in online dialogue can present challenges, it also opens doors to more open and authentic conversations.
- Communication professionals should ensure that feedback is shared with leadership and appropriate internal departments to showcase what is working well and where there are opportunities for improvement. If you see themes and consistencies in reviews about work/life balance, leadership transparency, opportunities for promotion, internal communication and culture, it is likely that these sentiments extend far beyond the review page.
- Creating internal channels for employees to voice their concerns can help address issues before they escalate to public platforms.
- Fostering an environment where feedback is valued and acted upon promotes a culture of transparency.
It's essential for companies to pay attention to their online reputation, especially when trying to attract top talent. Communicators can help support their companies – and current and potential employees -- by establishing a robust monitoring and response strategy, enacting clear social media policies, and perhaps most importantly, embracing feedback and using it to drive positive change.
Cheryl Fenelle Dixon, Principal and communication consultant, Perfectly Clear Communications.