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StrategyAug 14, 2018

Honest Glassdoor Reviews Reveal Leadership Best Practices

Justin Bell

For companies who rely on digital and technology talent, like Credera, a talent war is raging.  Many of the CMOs, CIOs, CTOs and digital executives I work with rank talent retention and acquisition as a primary focus area. The fact is, hiring top talent is critical to executing on investments they are making in digital, analytics, and customer experience, and that talent becomes more difficult to find every day.

As companies attempt to compete and win in today’s increasingly fast-paced, digital world, the ability to attract and retain exceptional talent is a key differentiator. Having a strong and attractive corporate culture is one of the most important factors for talent acquisition and employee engagement. Exceptional talent is attracted to a great company culture, which can no longer be faked or quickly manufactured by even the most brilliant PR campaign.

Adding to the complexity, we have entered a new era of crowdsourcing that is dramatically impacting the talent acquisition landscape. Cultural transparency and visibility are at an all-time high. With tools like Glassdoor and Indeed on the rise, now, more than ever, the power is in the hands of employees and job-seekers who are able to share and access raw, unfiltered, firsthand employee perspectives.

corporate culture influencers revealed in glassdoor reviews

In an effort to understand what aspects of company culture attract outstanding employees we turned to Glassdoor. With more than 11 million employee reviews for over half a million companies, Glassdoor is far-and-away the leading crowd-sourced job site. After analyzing hundreds of Glassdoor reviews, we identified six key areas that influence an employee’s perception of corporate culture.

In our findings, several themes emerged that track with Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” Maslow’s model of human motivation is made up of five levels (physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization) and suggests that people tend to strive for higher needs only when lower-level needs have been fulfilled. We also discovered that the issue of trust is paramount and present in nearly every employee-employer interaction along the hierarchy.

Our research showed lower Glassdoor ratings from employees who felt their basic needs of safety, belonging, or esteem were unmet (see Glassdoor reviews for companies like Dish Network, Ace Cash Express, or Family Dollar Stores.)

In fact, Glassdoor ratings seemed to climb in direct correlation with how employee’s needs were being met and/or exceeded in the specific areas along Maslow’s hierarchy. Organizations with rankings higher than 4 (on a 5 point scale), had a much higher number of reviews with altruistic themes, revealing that employees felt they were a part of something greater than themselves. For examples, one WD-40 employee says, “My values and vision of life matches that of the vast majority of our Tribe members. So I get to come to work, be myself, feel like I’m doing things that matter, and matter far more than the dollars associated with it.”

Who says great cultures are only at trendy companies in Silicon Valley? WD-40 is a legacy manufacturer of lubricant, building an exceptional environment for their employees. They have a 4.2 Glassdoor rating.

According to Maslow, business leaders have the ability to influence, “the conditions so that peak experiences are more likely, or … perversely, less likely.” To attract and retain the exemplary performers, leaders must foster environments that allow employees to move toward self-actualization. In order to do this, we must ensure they feel valued and have a sense of belonging. Engaged and inspired employees are most often found in organizations where the higher level needs of Maslow’s hierarchy are met. Perhaps this is why organizations that rank higher on Glassdoor are typically more successful financially.

impact of leadership

In our research, I was reminded that culture begins at the leadership level. The predominant aspect contributing to high or low employer reviews was the level of trust in leadership. Leaders and managers have a tremendous opportunity to influence corporate culture and attract top talent to their teams.

According to the Great Place to Work Institute, “at its core, a great workplace is about the level of trust that employees experience in their leaders, the level of pride they have in their jobs, and the extent to which they enjoy their colleagues.” The Great Place to Work Trust Model demonstrates the importance of fairness, credibility, and respect between the employee and management.

Every action we take as leaders either erodes or builds trust. Actions, like admitting mistakes, communicating with honesty, giving credit to others, putting yourself on the line for your team, and asking for feedback regularly, are excellent ways to establish trust. At the same time, lack of engagement on a personal level, failure to set clear expectations, and micromanagement erode trust.

In order to win in today’s talent war, company culture cannot be ignored. As leaders, we have a tremendous opportunity to influence that culture. With this in mind, I’ve been asking myself the following questions in an effort to grow as a leader who cultivates environments where top talent can thrive.

  • How well am I listening to team members?

  • When was the last time I asked my direct reports for feedback?

  • How am I engaging on a personal level with employees?

  • How am I empowering employees with appropriate autonomy and independence?

  • Do I understand the unique goals and passions of our top performers?

Our research on Glassdoor reviews shows leaders of excellent cultures actively work to build trust among their direct reports. In order to effectively do that, we must listen and identify employees core needs, in order to help them move up in the hierarchy, in turn allowing them to become more engaged contributors. At Credera we’ve learned over time that when our team is made up of highly engaged employees, our culture tends to be at its healthiest. And, top talent is attracted to a great culture.