Online reviews aren’t coming from just guests now. By monitoring and responding on websites that allow current and former employees to review the workplace, hotel companies can improve their reputation with potential employees.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—The current low unemployment rate allows prospective employees to be choosy, giving them power to negotiate with employers for better pay and working conditions. Often factoring into a decision to accept or reject a job offer are reviews and ratings on websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed left by current and former employees.
For hoteliers looking to hire and retain qualified, talented employees, monitoring these sites has become an exercise in reputation management, to ensure potential hires aren’t scared away by false, misleading or incomplete information.
Debra Cannon, director of the school of hospitality at Georgia State University, said this trend represents another brand-building opportunity for employers. The industry already has experience working with guest review sites, and some have likened these employer review sites to being “Yelp for employees,” she said.
“Regardless, it’s important for the hotel industry, for hotel companies—across the board, for any industry—to have a strategy to respond to this,” she said.
Responding to reviews
Cannon said she has tried to assume the perspective of a potential employee when looking at ratings and reviews of several hotel companies on these sites.
Many employee reviews are going unanswered, which is a shame because it’s a missed opportunity, with both good and bad reviews, she said. But the problem is that this is new territory for most companies, and as such many haven’t yet developed a strategy for addressing it.
Potential employees visiting these websites include students majoring in hospitality, which employers are trying to reach and impress, she said. Information on Glassdoor states most job seekers look at six reviews on its site before they decide if the company is one to which they want to apply.
These online review sites could create the first impression a potential employee has for a company, much in the same way a hotel’s website may be a guest’s first impression of a property, Cannon said.
“Someone could get a bad impression from a company and say, ‘I’m off,’ and click to another page,” she said. “The importance of the first impression is monumental.”
How employers respond to online ratings can help shape that impression, but one thing they shouldn’t do is try to stop or dictate those ratings in the first place, Cannon said.
She cautioned against giving any type of order, directive or even a strong suggestion to employees that they leave positive reviews.
“That will show up in the reviews, and it’s an incredible turnoff for potential employees,” she said.
Digital employer reputation management has been a focus area for some time at Marcus Hotels & Resorts, Matt Martin, director of talent acquisition, said. Though still an emerging trend, it’s something everyone should have been paying more attention to before, he said.
“It’s an area we as an organization and as an industry could focus on a bit more,” he said. “I do think it’s something that will be a bigger and bigger trend.”
A company’s strategy for responding to reviews by employees can be similar to its strategy for handling online guest reviews, Martin said.
Employers can claim the company profile on these sites, which notifies the company when there is a new posting and allows the company to respond to reviews.
“We try to reply—I can’t say we’re at 100% and get it done as timely as we would like sometimes, but we try to say this is something we need to address,” he said.
Handling negative reviews
Responding to a negative review with a strategically worded message can tell potential employees important things about the company, Cannon said. It shows the employer cares about employees’ opinions and takes into consideration what they say, she said.
Employers should avoid being defensive in their responses, she said. Instead, they should thank the poster for sharing their experience and express the company’s concern. If the company has an open door policy for employees to express their concerns, this would be an opportunity to talk about it, she said.
A potential employee who doesn’t know anything else about this company would see that as a powerful message, she said. Websites such as Glassdoor, which monitor users, report that employers who respond to reviews see 65% of users’ perceptions of the company improve, she said.
Negative reviews are another resource for learning what employees are thinking and seeing, Cannon said. If a particular company has only negative reviews, that company needs to spend some time identifying any common themes or trends, she said.
When these criticisms appear again and again, that should be a red flag something internally needs to happen, she said. These reviews shouldn’t be the only source of data, she said, but they need to be incorporated into the total picture.
Hoteliers should look for trends with specific properties, which may be easier to spot at larger properties within a portfolio, Martin said. But if there is a lot of negative feedback from a smaller property, that is a worrying trend, he added.
“If we see a pattern of negative feedback in a disproportionate amount at one property, we will take action in there,” he said.
Ninety-eight times out of 100, the GM of the property will know what happened and be able to explain what happened and how he or she responded, he said. In the other cases, the employee had an issue but didn’t communicate that to the company, or the company offered a resolution that the employee didn’t like, he said.
Before deciding how to respond to reviews, an employer should evaluate the company’s social media policy to ensure it doesn’t prohibit the discussion of wages and working conditions, said Sylvia St. Clair, associate at Faegre Baker Daniels. Because of the National Labor Relations Act, restrictive policies have been found to be unenforceable and are struck down by courts when they’re overly broad, she said.
Employer responses to a review must not reveal any confidential information about employees, such as disciplinary information in a personnel record, she said. These are public websites, so any information posted to the websites would become public and potentially evidence in an unlawful termination case.
“I would advise not to discuss details around termination or a decision to terminate,” she said.
Handling reviews that the employer believes to include false statements is a challenge for a number of reasons, St. Clair said. These employer review sites typically allow users to post reviews and ratings anonymously, which means it could be difficult to know the identity of the employee. An employer could pursue a defamation claim, but the burden of proof can be high, she said.
Sites such as Glassdoor do have a policy in place, however, that allows employers to contact the site if they believe a user violated a site policy, she said.