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Employer Reviews and Online Reputation Management

A bandit writing negative employer reviews online

We’ve talked briefly before about how important it is for an organization to develop and follow an explicit social media policy. Social media is a double-edged sword, after all: it provides organizations the opportunity to build their brands like never before via audience interaction and engagement, and yet it’s that very interaction and engagement that can amplify any misstep into a PR disaster. For Canadian employers in particular, online reputation management is crucial what with Canada having the tenth-highest social media engagement in the world.

Most any business present on LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or Twitter has had to contend with negative comments from time to time for one reason or another, but those websites give businesses control over their accounts (being able to delete comments or block individuals as necessary), and they’re each a repository for all sorts of information, not just feedback. There are, however, many sites dedicated to little else but feedback on everything from restaurants to hotels to products – and employers are no exception. In fact, sites dedicated to employer reviews by former and current employees are on the rise and have serious implications for any business regardless of size, tenure, or industry.

The shadow of employer reviews

Just as restaurant, hotel, or product review sites seek to empower consumers to make informed purchasing decisions, sites featuring employer reviews seek to empower job seekers to make informed application decisions. And the power of peer-produced content should not be underestimated. People tend to believe content written by those they see as equals (e.g., a fellow consumer or job seeker) rather than more authoritative sources, such as the news or an organization itself. These facts become foreboding for employers when you consider the following:A woman looking at negative online employer reviews

  • Disgruntled employees are five to eight times more likely to post employer reviews.
  • Sites featuring employer reviews typically only require an email address for someone to create an account, meaning anyone can easily create several accounts with several different email addresses to pose as several different people.
  • Sites featuring employer reviews allow for complete anonymity and do not have ways of verifying whether a reviewer actually ever worked for a given organization.

Given these facts, it’s easy to see how just one angry employee (or former employee) can litter the internet with negative reviews about a given employer – in fact, they need not have ever been an employee at all; perhaps they’re just a resentful candidate or customer.

Considering how much people tend to trust such reviews and that we’re all more sensitive to negative rather than positive information, according to psychological studies, online reputation management, particularly among potential employees, becomes a daunting task that, if mishandled, can have significant repercussions for recruiting top talent and, ultimately, growing revenue.

Embracing employer reviews

Many argue – even lament – that social media has taken organizations’ brands away from them, placing their reputations in the hands – and at the mercy – of the mob. This inversion in brand management – from an organization telling its audience what its brand is to the audience now telling an organization what its brand is – has kept many marketing professionals up at night. The rising popularity of websites dedicated employer reviews has now spread the contagion to the HR department. But is it all doom and gloom?

A woman with good online reputation managementThe answer is a resounding “no”. Ever since consumers started talking to each other about companies’ products and services, it’s provided companies the opportunity to gain valuable insight into how they’re perceived, and how their competitors are too. Smart companies then use that information to make improvements and gain advantages in the marketplace. What’s more, however, is that online discussions have allowed companies to communicate more directly, immediately, and frankly with consumers. This interaction between consumers who talk to each other and the companies who join in the conversation forms a community wherein a company gains not merely detractors, but defenders – putting some the onus of online reputation management in the hands of the consumers themselves – and a brand that remains top-of-mind among its target market.

When it comes to employers and candidates, it’s no different. In addition to providing employers insight into how various talent pools perceive them, most websites featuring employer reviews allow for employers to respond to comments and create that same sense of community among candidates that e-commerce sites create among consumers. Such a community also allows potential applicants to gauge an employer’s corporate culture (assuming the employer effectively communicates such messaging), which in turn helps ensure the employer receives applications from only the most qualified, best-fit candidates.

Money can’t buy you love

The rise of online employer reviews and the implications that come with it, has inspired a brand new business model: positive employer reviews for a fee. It’s important to steer clear of such companies. Integrity is key to an employer review site’s success, and they’Man paying another man for false employer reviewsve wised up to pay-for-praise services  – and those who purchase them. Once discovered, an organization that’s paid for false positive employer reviews will pay the piper in consequences that range from lower search results to conspicuous flagging to outright excommunication.

In truth, paying for positive employer reviews is a desperate move that no organization should have to contemplate, especially when interacting with online communities is free. The new world of online reputation management may seem intimidating at first, but it has in fact provided a more transparent, advantageous playing field for candidates and employers alike.

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