Why You Should Never “Incentivize” Employees to Boost Glassdoor Ratings

When we saw last week’s article in the Wall Street Journal exposing how some businesses have driven spikes in 5-star Glassdoor ratings, it hit us right in our employer brand-loving hearts. The article revealed that some companies periodically pressure employees to help their companies make Glassdoor’s “Best” list or offer incentives in return for completing reviews. And we’re here to affirm – you should never incentivize employees to boost Glassdoor ratings.

The problem with the approach taken by some of the companies profiled in the WSJ article is twofold: First, they try to “game the system” rather than enable organic, authentic input from employees. Second, they assume that elevating or maintaining high Glassdoor ratings can be a quick, one-time effort.

In our work with a variety of employers, we encourage our clients to think of Glassdoor and other employer review sites in the context of a deep, multi-faceted, ongoing employer branding effort, led by a few basic tenets:

  1. Encourage ongoing feedback. It’s fine to encourage employees to post Glassdoor ratings, but this should be in the context of ongoing communication efforts. When you make a concerted push for 5-star ratings, say, in the month before the site publishes its “Best Workplaces” lists, the spike is noticeable – and could be flagged for inappropriate activity.
  1. Seek authentic feedback. Resist the impulse to suggest that your employees leave positive reviews or guide them in selecting “5-star” ratings. An authentic employer branding program that helps employees feel valued and appreciated will do more to present an honest picture of your company than coercing – however gently – a specific response. And, leave the swag behind. Offering incentives in exchange for completing reviews undermines authenticity and may leave your employees feeling manipulated.
  1. Invite everyone. Rather than request reviews from only those employees from whom you expect positive reviews, cast a wide net so that all employees feel encouraged to share. After all, the reviews – positive and negative – provide valuable insight on how your employees feel about the workplace.
  1. Examine your business with more scrutiny than your Glassdoor ratings. Reading Glassdoor posts is for employers what reading reviews is for actors and artists. It’s a good tool to help you recognize strengths on which you should build, as well as opportunities for you to improve. So, look for what it says about you in the aggregate, and be willing to scrutinize how and where you can start to make improvements.
  1. Make it easy – and non-punitive – for employees to share concerns. The easier you make it for employees to share concerns with you in an open, honest manner, the more likely they’ll be to help you make improvements, rather than voicing their frustrations online.

Above all, remember that consistency is essential to creating a welcoming, supportive workplace that makes employees happy to come to work each day. And it’s a long game. So, avoid “flavor of the month” engagement programs that change with the latest online reviews. Instead, think of it the way you might think of driving a car – pay attention to what’s immediately around you, but always keep your eyes focused further ahead to where you are going. And when negative reviews DO appear, respond promptly with an eye toward the future.

At Relish Marketing, we help our clients recognize that Glassdoor ratings are one component of their overall employer brand. When, what and how you communicate – with candidates, new hires, current employees and recruiters – make more of a difference in how potential employees see you than any online rating system.


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