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Employee Reviews Gone Wild

September 12, 2012

How important is employer equity? While a few business magazines and periodicals provide lists of some of the best companies to work for, job websites such as glassdoor.com are taking such reviews to a more Yelp-like granular level.

For example, Willliams-Sonoma earns an employer rating of 2.9 out of five stars on glassdoor.com based on ratings provided by 295 current or former employees. Forty-seven percent recommend the retailer to a friend. President and CEO Laura Alber received an approval rating of 49 percent.

A "Review" section sums up the 295 ratings with each review including "Pros" and "Cons," and a few providing "Advice to Senior Management." One review posted last week by a current sales associate in Manhattan that gave a three-star rating read:

  • "Pros - Great discount, most of the people that work there are great and easy to get along with, flexible schedule (most of the time)
  • "Cons - Management is never on the sales floor! Short-staffed and associates are abused and overworked because the management is too cheap to hire more associates to be on the sales floor. All the company cares about now is getting customers to sign up for the Williams-Sonoma credit card.
  • "Advice to Senior Management - Hire more associates to work! Stop nagging about the credit card, actually MANAGE the store and not find any excuse to be in the back office away from customers."

Glassdoor poster downloadA "Salaries" section reveals that sales associates earn on average $9.01 an hour at Williams-Sonoma with a range between $7.00 to $11.00, as well as salary data on 126 other job titles based on 386 salaries received by employees. An "Interview" section features individual reviews of the recruitment process, including typical questions. The site also includes a "Connections" tool to locate job search contacts through Facebook as well as various available jobs.

In its marketing, Glassdoor states, "What sets us apart is our 'employee generated content' — anonymous salaries, company reviews, interview questions, and more — all posted by employees, job seekers, and sometimes the companies themselves. Now with nearly 3 million salaries and reviews, you have all the information you might need to make your next career decision."

The outside content enables Glassdoor to put out rankings of the best places to work, the top companies for work-life balance, and the highest ranking CEOs. Other sites providing similar data include careersbliss.com, salary.com, vault.com and payscale.com.

On his blog at marketingcraftsmanship.com, Gordon Andrew of Highlander Consulting said such employee review job websites could be a "PR nightmare waiting to happen" but also a beneficial social media tool. He advises companies to focus on employee satisfaction and open feedback internally; explore toning down any excessive rants on such sites; encourage happy employees to post ratings; and fix recurring problems mentioned in reviews.

Discussion Questions:

Could you see employer review websites such as glassdoor.com positively influencing workplace environments? How are social networking tools overall changing the recruiting process? What should and can retailers and brands do to be more proactive in improving their employer reputations across social networking communities?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Are social networks in general making it more important to maintain a positive workplace reputation?


Employer review websites are a natural offshoot of the Internet, where the public can hold forth on every and any topic. Glassdoor simply aggregates comments about employers. That a site would choose to do this is not surprising.

Retailers should use these sites to look for feedback. Too often, retail is top down. Bosses make decisions and employees are supposed to implement them. Gaining insights about the effect of those decisions can be important to making the workplace better, and happy employees tend to make happier consumers.

The success of glassdoor points to the need to engage employees in candid feedback. This requires an open, continuous dialogue between management and employees. There is much useful information to be gained, from how to enhance the customer experience and drive sales to how to decrease employee turnover.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Unless you are employed by a privately held benevolent company or an employee-owned cult, you most likely work for a poorly rated employer. Most of the time it comes down to the dollars. Pay people more than they can get anywhere else and they will be happy. Otherwise, learn to deal with disgruntled workers as being part of your business model. Unfortunately, that is a valid business model.

David Livingston, Principal, DJL Research

Social media continues to expand into areas that were previously word-of-mouth. Like much of SM, there is value to retailers if, and only if, they dedicate time and energy to listen to it. Most successful companies spend time and money gathering information on how their associates feel about the company and then reacting to issues. Having this information online provides another tool to collect the information. The key, however, is what management does with the information.

Bill Emerson, President, Emerson Advisors

Such sites can have a positive impact, much like the sites that rate hotels, airlines, etc. But all such sites need to be taken with a grain of salt because screaming malcontents can tip the scales, just as phony positive reviews can. Employers would be wise to keep an eye on these sites for general guidance and the opportunity to fix things that have clearly gone wrong.

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Warren Thayer, Editorial Director & Co-Founder, Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer

Retailers and companies of all kinds should continuously communicate and create channels of feedback, up, down, and throughout their own organization. That information is confidential, and should be protected from release to competitors or from eyes of the unintended.

Placing this type of information on social networks has a ring of gossip, innuendo, and a waste of productive energy. Working with fellow associates is not about a "gotcha." Retailers can remain proactive by keeping associates in the loop as to the key objectives of the organization, and how the group is tracking toward successful progress.

That same type of feedback can and should be offered to associates in their periodic reviews. That feedback goes both ways. It does not, however, belong on a social network.

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Roger Saunders, Global Managing Director, Prosper Business Development

Millennials are the generation that craves other people's reviews and better retailers must assume they will check such sites, just as Boomer managers are checking Tweets and FB status updates.

Glassdoor could be a good source for upper management would be to see the common complaints of employees -- too few on staff leading to overwork and upper management absent from the sales floor.

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Bob Phibbs, President/CEO, The Retail Doctor

Yes. If I had a $1000 for every company I worked for who did a background and credit check on me and who later went belly-up, I'd be very wealthy woman. We, as retail professionals, need to check on the environments we give our time and talents to, and to see if these companies are really worth that time!


Even without aggregators like Glassdoor, employees are sharing feedback on social sites. I see huge upside for sites like Glassdoor if retailers (HR and management) take a very active role. Feedback is going to be shared with or without you. The question is will you take an active role in the conversation? Glassdoor helps attract employees to share feedback in one central location. Sounds like a win for retailers.

John Boccuzzi, Jr., Managing Partner, Boccuzzi, LLC

A company must decide what it takes to be sustainably successful. That begins with what it takes to create profitable customers. Then it's concentrating on serving those customers better than anyone else could serve them.

If it is determined that a company's recruiting process, workplace environment, social networking, and business philosophy are not focused laser-like on preserving those customers, recruit specialists to assist.

If everything is well placed and working as planned in your company, let the consultant community, which is an rapidly-expanding world, hammer on someone else's glassdoor.

Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

Sure, it could positively improve the workplace. First off, it could give management insight into the minds of their workers. It could help management formulate plans to spend more time in the hiring process and employee education. We seem to have reached a point in our society where many consider a job a right. This is and always has been a myth. In most cases a job is an 'at will' situation. When employees whine and complain, they most often undermine the goals of the employer.

I have visited Glassdoor.com and read some of the reviews on past employers and have found them to be very weak. The employees reviewing seem to think that a job is a 40 hour a week proposition and seem to resent actually working to accomplish goals. I wouldn't want them on my payroll. They should go to work for the government where accomplishing something is optional.

Ed Dennis, Sales, Dennis Enterprises

If businesses had 'perfect' information on what is exactly inside employees' heads at any moment in time, and then acted upon that perfect information to improve the operations of the organization, wouldn't that be a good thing?

IMHO, the question of "What should and can retailers and brands do to be more proactive in improving their employer reputations...?" is slightly off-target. Reputations are the RESULT of real strategies and actions to improve the employee environment, and those strategies and actions go well beyond $ only. Improve the environment and you improve the 'reputation'.

glassdoor.com clearly isn't 'perfect' information. But it's MUCH better than either no information or potentially biased internally gathered info. Smart companies will embrace this information, listen to what is said, and thoughtfully act on it. These sites CAN positively influence workplace environments...but only if management pays attention. More importantly, this information can be a source of competitive advantage for those who embrace it.

Kevin Price, President, The Market Performance Group, Inc.

As others have said, this is just one more way that people can express themselves and another place that needs to be monitored. Underscoring all of this is the need for proactive, regular feedback from employees AND the willingness to act on the findings. While you will always have some folks that are disgruntled, listening to concerns and acting on them is critical!

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Brian Numainville, Principal, The Retail Feedback Group

I say let's put as much distance as possible between employees, and between employees and their employers by using technology to avoid actually talking with each other. Personally I think human relationships, self-esteem, awareness, connection, insights, feelings and all that other touchy-feely nonsense are totally overrated. All dialogue should be anonymous and happen only via a screen. Why talk when you can Twitter? Why engage when you can email?

Not only should we deal with each other that way at work, but we should apply the same philosophy to our customers. "Down with relationships" I say!

The race is no longer human.

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Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation

Information wants to be free. And the internet helps, as the printing press did long ago. Yes, I do believe that more information in the hands of more people will cause great employees to make better decisions about where they work... flowing through to an effect on how employers behave. The answer isn't to "manage" the social media. It is to listen and react to the feedback.

Having said all that: if someone posts my standard case interview question to glassdoor, I'll be mad.

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Jonathan Marek, Senior Vice President, Applied Predictive Technologies

COULD this website (and its brethren) positively affect the workplace? Sure. WILL IT include fake information, whining and comments from uneducated people who have too much time (and too little intellect) on their hands? Most definitely.

My thoughts toward a site like this are more pecuniary: what do they hope to "monetize" here...who, exactly, are going to be the advertisers targeted?


First, I sense a bit of cynicism in the commentary. But that could be just me. I do have just a couple thoughts. One is that nearly all of the process of job search, recruiting, sharing, and hiring comes from the web. The shift here from the traditional methods is astounding. That needs to be taken into consideration -- serious consideration. That is, as many jobs are found through social networking or job related sites, job and interview research is also likely to be close to 100% via the internet. These two things go together.

As with anything on the web, it is reader beware. The same skepticism should be placed on these types of reviews as they should be with consumer product reviews. The existence or non-existence of any filter to the site should absolutely be considered.

Lastly, if any retailer is not monitoring its reputation and communication on the web, they do so, or should I say don't do so at their own risk. Sure, there are always the disgruntled that you can't protect against, but the potential is there to manage the message to a great extent.

I found it interesting that traditional or well known retail didn't hit the top 10 unless I'm missing something. We talk often about that here. Retail has a long way to go to be considered as even among the top choices of a career path.

Most of us that take part in discussions here do so because we have a part in retail and for the most part, I believe we actually love what we do. How do we better carry that message? How do we share our experience that a career we love is worthy of those seeking a career path today? I think we could do better. We need to do better.


It was always critical to focus on employee engagement. The social network platforms have simply made it a public discussion. Yes, many of the comments are going to be pay oriented and pay and benefits will always be the lowest scores on an employee survey. However, most people looking at Glassdoor and other sites are digging deeper than pay. Also, Glassdoor is just one data point people are using.

The lesson: focus on driving employee engagement because it is the right thing to do -- both for the employees and for the business -- not because you are worried about Glassdoor.

Mike Osorio, Senior VP Organizational Change Management, DFS Group

I hope I am giving credit properly. If not, forgive me. Ken Blanchard in one of his books talked about "management by walking around." Management can learn so much about what employees are thinking and saying simply by asking. Of course with today's many ways to communicate, there are countless sites to voice opinions. With the "open air" policy the internet allows, management better stay on their toes and on the sales floor or more comments like the ones in the article will abound.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

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