It’s become commonplace to check the online reviews of restaurants and hotels before visiting, to ensure we’ll get a great meal or to avoid an uncomfortable bed. By looking at reviews online, we can instantly get the good (or bad) oil on almost any product or service, – and lately this has come to include what a company may be like as an employer.

Where once we might have applied for a job with some trepidation as to what lay within the workplace walls, now everything is laid bare in the “online company review”.

In a poll of 630 New Zealanders, recruiter Hays found that more than 80 per cent of jobseekers say the online comments of former employees influence their decision to apply for a job or work for a particular organisation. More than a third said the comments definitely influenced their decision and a further 45 per cent said they took such comments into consideration.

Jason Walker, managing director of Hays in New Zealand, says increasing numbers of jobseekers are looking at online company reviews and the sites are having an impact on their perception of particular organisations.

“In mere minutes candidates can learn a lot about what it’s really like to work for an organisation, which allows them to make a far more informed decision about whether they want to apply for a job there.”

Current and departing staff can share insights on a range of topics that would not otherwise be available to job candidates, and Walker says this has led to a huge shift in the quantity and scope of the information available.

“Rather than the organisation controlling the message about what it’s like to work for them, current and former employees now do so, warts and all.”

Glassdoor is a popular international company review site and although a dedicated New Zealand site is “coming soon”, Kiwi companies can currently be accessed through its Australian site, Glassdoor.com.au. SEEK’s New Zealand site is due to launch online reviews this year.

Glassdoor enables reviewers to score companies with up to five stars. Existing and former employees can comment on the pros and cons of the company, share staff benefits, advise what happens in an interview and give advice to management. From the negative: “Long hours, too much politics and the amount of sucking up you have to do is really not worth it”, to the positive: “Friendly environment, good employee wellbeing, good career advancement”, the comments make for eye-opening and informative reading. However, experiences of a company can differ between individuals.

One-fifth of those surveyed said online comments from former employees did not influence their decision in any way, and Walker says this is often due to a lack of trust in the source of the content, since reviews are anonymous.

“A former employee usually leaves a business because of disengagement issues that may have already tainted their opinion of the organisation, and it’s rare that the employer will have an opportunity to respond.

“These sites are tools to help you build a picture of a business, and some will want to make up their own minds based on extended research and experience, rather than just being influenced by the comments of former employees.”

Hays recently released a report outlining what is needed to keep employees happy and engaged, and therefore unlikely to leave negative feedback when they leave:

  • A sense of being valued.
  • Recognition for a job well done
  • Understanding how their success will be measured.
  • Understanding how their role helps the organisation achieve its objectives, and
  • Clear communication of objectives and strategy.

The leaving process that helps former employees remain positively engaged with an organisation’s brand is crucial, says Walker. He thinks that although it’s difficult to change the perception of a disgruntled employee, there are things that can be done to leave a final good impression.

“It’s important to get the basics right, such as making sure all the necessary paperwork and payroll calculations are completed quickly and accurately, as you will want the departing individual to be co-operative in handing over projects, contacts and processes,” he says. “And an offboarding process should ensure a departing employee is offered an honest and accurate reference, is thanked for their work and feels valued for their contribution, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing at the time.

“With a former employee potentially becoming a powerful brand ambassador, you want to make sure they leave with a smile on their face and a willingness to talk positively about their employment experience.”

Walker adds that an exit interview is also a good way of recording and acting on any major concerns contributing to the employee’s resignation. “You can use the leaver’s experience to improve and develop your own engagement programmes.”

Source: New Zealand Herald

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