Through the Looking Glassdoor; getting scores to match company culture

4 min read
Nov 7, 2017

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 Peter Phelan is a self-professed corporate culture doctor. With an impressive track record as Chief People Officer at both Shutterstock and Mediamath, we’re tempted to call him a culture wizard; Mediamath topped Glassdoor’s best places to work list three years in a row, and Phelan’s work now as CEO and Founder of ValuesCulture helps create high-performing companies with strong positive cultures. He describes his work as “helping companies distill their cultural truth”.

A thought-leader in the HR field, Phelan has addressed issues such as the value in anonymous surveys and the effects of ‘cultural debt’ on company growth. He spoke at TINYcon2017, articulating best practices for Glassdoor; the online recruiting site with a database of employee-written company reviews. With job markets getting increasingly competitive, reviews on sites like Glassdoor are becoming a serious part of the recruiting/hiring process, with the possibility of attracting new talent, or scaring it away.

Read our key takeaways below, or watch the whole video, with extra best practices explained.

Why should I care about Glassdoor?

Increasingly, culture is being acknowledged as a competitive advantage. But still, according to Phelan, only 18% of companies think that they have the right culture. Worse are the consequences when others perceive that you don’t have the right culture. These negative impacts are felt in many different ways at different times, but a poor Glassdoor rating is one of the biggest external indicators to others of a poor company culture.

Managing the risks: Reputation, Relationships, and Revenue

The Glassdoor stakesWith a poor Glassdoor rating, Reputation is one of the first things to suffer. A poor Glassdoor rating can put unnecessary friction in the talent acquisition process, Phelan explains, as prospective employees read a myriad of negative reviews about your workplace. And the data shows that more than 50% of job seekers are using Glassdoor to research their future employers.

More than just dissuading potential employees from joining the team, bad Glassdoor reviews can cause issues with on-site Relationships, among these is cognitive dissonance for the current team. Phelan explains, “if they think that things are going well, and then see a bad page, they wonder ‘oh my god, maybe we do suck?’” Even when things are going well internally, if your employees can see that other companies have higher Glassdoor scores, you might be opening yourself up to poaching, as employees look for greener (and higher-rated) pastures.

Finally, a poor Glassdoor rating can have a direct impact on Revenue— it’s increasingly being used by investor groups to evaluate existing culture. And as Glassdoor sees more mentions in board rooms, it will become more imperative not just to improve those ratings, but to build cultures that reflect those good scores.

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The three fundamentals to improved Glassdoor success:

Luckily, getting that Glassdoor score up doesn’t require miracles, just a few small commitments and some patience.

  • The first of these commitments starts with responsiveness. Commit to responding to as many of your reviews as it makes sense to (to be honest, not every review will warrant a response). Corrections are an easy place to respond. “When you have solid proof that someone is saying something incorrect about you, definitely correct it, but in a gentle way.” And when it comes to constructive feedback should be met with grace and humility—apologizing and being humble will read well to your audience, and who knows, it might be exactly what your company culture needs to get to the next level. It’s also okay to assert what you’re doing well, when you see the opportunity.


  • The next commitment you need to make is to positive storytelling. Update your assets and copy online to reflect your emotional value proposition. Make sure that everything you’ve put on your profile is accurate and down-to-earth; there is a downside to being too aspirational. Showcase your geographic diversity, rather than being headquarters focused in your copy and photos, and highlight your strengths.


  • The final commitment is to enlisting engagement from your team. Review sites tend to draw negative feedback, since people are seven times more likely to review something when they are feeling negative about it than when they are feeling positive. Especially if you have internal data that reflects a better satisfaction than what you see on Glassdoor, it’s completely reasonable to make that ask of your team, getting the internal data to match that very public platform. Asking hiring managers to write reviews on Glassdoor is a good place to start, since they have a vested interest in making sure that candidates aren’t getting turned-off by your ratings.

Glassdoor; making it an asset to your talent acquisition

Ultimately, Glassdoor isn’t going anywhere. And it is quite likely that the people that you interview will be looking up your company to get a sense of what the workplace culture is like. You can pretend Glassdoor doesn’t exist and ignore it, or you can be proactive about what those prospective employees are going to see.

When your Glassdoor score can tell an inspiring story about what an excellent culture you have, you’re going to retain and attract top talent, which in turn affects all of your business outcomes. There’s a moment that stands out, during Phelan’s talk. He quotes Theodore Roosevelt, saying “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Glassdoor is an opportunity to show your team, and the people who could join it, that you care.


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Peter Phelan spoke at this year's TINYcon 2017. To reserve your tickets to next year's TINYcon, and make sure that you're keeping up to date with the latest in employee engagement and company culture, get your early bird tickets now! If you're looking for more tips or info on improving company culture, you can also read our culture report here.


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