Just as Yelp has radically changed the way we pick restaurants for dinner, Glassdoor now offers job applicants a similar process for deciding where to send their resume.
It works like this: employees leave anonymous reviews on their companies’ Glassdoor pages, offering prospective employees an inside look at company culture, salary structure, and opinions of management.
As is the case with Yelp, a negative Glassdoor average can dramatically affect a company’s ability to drive revenue, recruit top talent, and attract investors. In fact, 83% of job seekers now base their application decision on company reviews and half of consumers won’t do business with a company with a rating below 4.0 (out of 5).
Most companies can’t achieve that 4+ star rating without a review management process in place, and it’s easy to see why. Without being prompted, who do you think is more likely to spend time on a jobs website: happy or unhappy employees? And without being asked, who do you think is more likely to leave reviews: satisfied or disgruntled employees?
By prompting employees for reviews at the right times, not only do you correct for an inherently negative reviewer bias, but you also help potential employees make better career decisions.
But improving a Glassdoor page is not as simple as blindly blasting emails out to your employees and expecting the problem to go away. (In fact, not only does pressuring your employees to leave positive reviews go against Glassdoor guidelines — it’s also the kind of thing that’s likely to come back and bite you long-term.)
A more thoughtful approach requires getting employee buy-in ahead of time. It means sending review requests out to the right employees at the right times throughout their tenure at the company. It requires responding to individual reviews and consolidating feedback trends to turn them into actionable company improvements.
A comprehensive Glassdoor initiative is a lot of work, and it often becomes someone’s full time job. Business owners who are looking to turn the tide and improve their Glassdoor rating must therefore answer a critical question: “should we manage the process in-house or hire an external agency?”
As I’ll lay out here, there are three main considerations when wrestling with that decision: economics, expertise, and employee sentiment.
What Is The Cost Difference?
A simple way to gauge the cost difference is to take the in-house salary of the person who would run the initiative and divide by 12 to compare to the monthly agency fees.
An HR Coordinator makes nearly $48,000 annually in the US. Of course, that doesn’t take into account the costs required to advertise for the job posting or pay for a recruiter. (Standard recruiter fees are now about 20 percent of the employee’s salary up front.) Nor does it take into account employer’s costs for taxes, benefits, and health insurance.
There are additional costs to consider for training -- I’ll get into that below -- as well as retaining the talent you recruit.
This isn’t a surprise to any business owner, but it’s a point worth considering. As Larry Gurreri of Sosemo points out, the recruiting lifecycle never ends.
“You need to determine if your company has the means and commitment to retain talent, or in other words, the budget available for raises, bonuses and employee perks,” says Gurreri.
“If your answer is not a resounding “yes!” the safe bet is to hire an agency.”
Do We Have The Necessary Expertise?
If you’re in need of Glassdoor help, the chances are high that your team hasn’t wrestled with this kind of problem before. In that case, the economic decision will actually be more complicated than simply comparing annual salaries and incidentals to the agency quote. You’ll also want to consider the expertise required to execute a review management campaign efficiently and effectively.
Have your employees dealt with review management issues before? If not, what kind of learning curve are you forecasting as they familiarize themselves with the relevant software and implement a company-wide review management process? And perhaps a more important question: how much worse might the situation get while your team is learning the process by trial and error?
Given the importance of Glassdoor in the recruiting process -- competitors are just one click away -- there’s a certain comfort in knowing that you could start tomorrow and avoid a learning curve or lengthy experimentation process.
What Will Our Employees Think?
Companies looking to fix Glassdoor internally have another problem to consider: the ask itself.
Corporate reputational issues are sensitive, and it can be challenging to toe the line between asking employees to leave reviews without coming across as coercive or desperate.
That’s a problem, because happy employees are most motivated to leave positive reviews when they appreciate how it helps the business, are ensured anonymity -- and most importantly -- don’t feel pressured by their own company.
Working through Glassdoor problems with a third-party provider can alleviate that pressure, clarifying the goal as more business-oriented and less personal.
Thanks to the implied legitimacy and confidentiality that comes with an independent agency, employees have an easier time believing that you really are looking for authentic feedback and aren’t just trying to sweep a problem under the rug.
When your team understands you’re taking the problem seriously, they’ll be much more likely to give authentic, accurate, and positive feedback.
Turning Your Glassdoor Page Around
It should go without saying that no Glassdoor page will get better in the long-term without a strong base of happy employees. If you concentrate only on improving your online reviews without making improvements behind the scenes, you’re likely to end up right back where you started.
That being said, with the right plan in place, you can turn Glassdoor from a reputational hazard into a competitive recruiting tool.
My suggestion? Focus on what you know best and leave the online reputation management to the experts. Not only is it economical, but it also gives your team the bandwidth to make the most of the feedback you receive. By keeping your attention on your business and your employees, you’ll be better equipped to make the most of that data and align your business accordingly.
Originally published on Forbes.com.