Become a five-star employer by listening to reviews
What can HR do with negative feedback?
Every HR department wants to be able to say their workplace is happy. You want every staff member to love their job, want them to recommend it to their friends, and want them to look forward to Mondays, rather than dread the start of a new working week.
However, that’s not always possible. There are always going to be those who, for whatever reason, aren’t enjoying their experience with your company. And, in today’s increasingly-connected world, it’s easier than ever for your employees to express their frustrations with both you and with others who might be interested in working for you in the future – often in public forums such as job-reviewing site Glassdoor.
Joe Wiggins, Head of Corporate Communications EMEA at Glassdoor, told HR Grapevine that the impact a bad review has on a business will depend on multiple factors, such as if the review follows a pattern found in other reviews, the number of reviews that an employer has overall, or the volume of reviews that an employer receives. “However, we do know that negative reviews can have a negative impact on a company's employer brand and ability to hire,” he said. “Our UK research found that a third of jobseekers would potentially pull out of a recruitment process if they read negative employee reviews of the company.”
But, while seeing a bad public review of your organisation can feel like a punch in the gut, there are steps you can take to both limit the damage such as reviewing causes and learning from the criticisms of disgruntled employees.
“I personally read every review that is left on Glassdoor, and where there is something that appears ‘negative’ the review is shared with the local HR Business Partner (HRBP) and Managing Director so they are aware and can investigate further,” Graham Trevor, Human Resources Director at Randstad UK, told HR Grapevine. “We’ve had several examples where the reviews have triggered us reviewing our processes or our onboarding robustness.”
As an example, Trevor once found several reviews suggesting one of the firm’s small offices had a manager who was not setting targets properly and failing to support new recruits through their first few months. “Within one day, the HRBP had made contact with the manager to discuss this and review their approach,” he said.
And it’s not just the feedback you find online that can help you improve. Neil Morrison, HR Director at Severn Trent, uses internal employee surveys to discover individual trends within the business. “In our annual survey, we ask for improvements that our employees think we could make,” he told HR Grapevine. “We get around six thousand comments, and I read every one to see what themes we have and need to be working on.”
When looking for overall trends of the issues Severn Trent workers were facing, pay transparency was brought up repeatedly. “Our people wanted to better understand how to get a pay rise, and where to I sit verses others,” Morrison explained. “As a result, we were able to take specific steps towards resolving that. When you have multiple employees mentioning the same topic, then you can extrapolate a theme of what you should focus on.”
However, he added that it is important not to take negative feedback to heart. “You tend to find that people who comment are at the extremes of employee attitudes,” he said. “It’s either that they think your firm is the best thing ever, or they think you’re the worst company ever. That’s why it’s so important to look beyond just one or two comments and identify areas where you can grow and improve.”
Once you have made progress you can then go back to those who had criticisms and explain what you are doing to fix it. Wiggins said that responding to reviews can be very powerful – if you keep a cool head. “Take the high road and show you have really taken the reviewer's thoughts on board,” he said. “Treat your candidates and employees like your most valued customers when responding to their feedback. Avoid canned or generic responses and address specific concerns honestly.
And he added that, even if your reviews are less than glowing, respond anyway. “Not only does it prove that you're committed to transparency - a prerequisite for quality candidates, potential business partners and even investors - it shows that you value your employees' feedback.”
“In summary, I absolutely believe in the power of employee reviews and the difference they can make if employers act on them quickly,” added Trevor. “We absolutely see the value in both good and bad reviews!”