Negative reviews? Don’t fret

While critical employee reviews can affect a company’s public perception, there are ways recruiters can deal with them


Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

In the age of social media, it is natural to fear negative comments about your company, especially since they can affect the recruitment of top talent. Such reviews, on employer review sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Seek and Vault, should not be feared, however, because they provide an opportunity for companies to respond, clarify their stance, and even learn from them. In fact, Glassdoor advises companies to respond to reviews, whether positive or negative. In its e-book Don’t Fear The Review: 3 Reasons Bad Reviews Are Good For Business!,  the site says: “Bad reviews give a company credibility. They also give employers the chance to engage with employees, show they care, and implement changes that improve their employer brand and reputation!” 

“If you have a bad rating, extract what’s working and amplify those pieces. Be transparent in your leadership—let employees know that you’ve read the reviews, you’ve heard them and you are doing your best to address feedback,” says US-based Glassdoor community expert Jessica Jaffe on email.

She adds, “Our internal surveys have shown that 69% of Glassdoor users are more likely to apply for a job if the employer actively manages its employer brand by responding to reviews, updating their profile, sharing updates on the culture and work environment, etc.”

Chaitrali Singh, director of human resource (HR), India, at ZS Associates, says that surveys conducted by the global sales and marketing consulting firm over a period of time have found that a job seeker’s decision to accept an offer tends to be influenced by online reviews only after s/he has cleared the interview stage. “They look at the reviews before applying to know more about the company, but at that point the comments are not taken as seriously,” she says.

This doesn’t mean, however, that a company should not acknowledge a terrible review. Negative reviews should not be ignored or deleted, warns Paramjit Anand, executive director (India) at global management consulting firm Acreaty. “Social media is very reactive. Even a small wrong can blow up if you try to hide it,” he says, pointing out that many people misuse such platforms by posting false reviews because they have either been fired, or were not competent at their work.

So instead of panicking, a company should do its ground research to understand the credibility of a negative review.

Jaffe says there is no need to stress over one or two bad reviews if they are outliers. “Our research shows that the majority of Glassdoor users read at least six reviews before forming an opinion of a company,” she says.

Singh adds: “We have often seen that the younger generation is more comfortable with sharing their views online. If only one section of your employee is writing the reviews, then it might paint a distorted view. Companies should encourage existing employees to share their independent opinions so that any negative review gets balanced.”

The reviews on most such sites are anonymous. The good part is that the response a company posts to a review (much like responding to a comment on Facebook) can also be viewed by everyone, offering better insight into the company.

To understand how to effectively address negative reviews, we posed some scenarios or common complaints and asked HR experts across India to respond.

There is no work-life balance

Work-life balance is especially hard to achieve if your employees often travel overseas for work. “You can respond by saying that while we cannot promise a work-life balance, we will help you achieve a work-life integration, where life can interrupt work and vice versa. This means, your work is more flexible. You can go out for a personal errand in the middle of the day and log on for work again from home, or work on the weekend to take a day off during the week, etc,” says Singh.

There is no scope for growth

Growth can mean different things for different people. If a person feels that his current position is not helping him/her progress in his/her career, they might give a bad review.

A review like this offers companies the opportunity to give their side of the story, believes Anne Prabhu, senior partner at Hunt Partners, an executive search consultant. 

“Hear them out, respond to them by giving the reason for the lack of promotions of late. Remember to also give them an idea of the plans for the future,” says Prabhu.

Everyone is overworked

Companies should be a little more tactful here and indicate that in a market where recession is always looming, long work hours imply more business. “It might be that you won more business recently and therefore work pressure has increased. It shows the company is growing, which potential employees will appreciate,” says Prabhu.

What will also work is informing the readers on the review website about the company’s next hiring cycle. “This will serve a dual purpose—existing employees will know that the long work hours will not continue forever, and potential employees would get to know of the company’s hiring plans,” explains Prabhu.

The pay-package isn’t as good

Comparing different companies can be tough, says Singh, adding that there is no point discussing compensation policies with outsiders. Instead, the company can highlight on the review website its additional, non-financial benefits like better healthcare services, paid leaves, transport and childcare facilities, which can help potential employees make a decision.

As for addressing the concerns of existing employees, “a good way to go about it would be to educate them face to face about the package they are drawing. It might be that the salary is not as high but other compensations make you a favourable employer. Then focus on those,” says Singh.

The work culture is bad

Work culture is a subjective term, so explaining your vision and mission might help, says Anand. “Respond to the review in a subtle way and speak about your culture of diversity—showing how some people have prospered while some may not feel as comfortable. If possible, take the conversation offline—maybe a call or a meeting with the reviewer would help. Try to figure out what the issue is,” suggests Anand.

The leadership is incapable

The trickiest one of the lot would be questions about the leadership. If only a few people have complained about this, says Prabhu, it would be ideal to introduce a positive aspect to it: “Respond by saying that while not everyone’s leadership styles may be suitable, there are examples of other leaders in the company who are bringing positive changes.”

If it turns into a recurring complaint, however, it is up to the manager against whom the complaint is directed to reflect on it in a constructive manner, says Singh. “He should take it upon himself to figure out what the issue is and likewise bring about some change.”

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