It would be almost unthinkable, in today’s digitally savvy age, to book a holiday without finding out what other travellers thought on TripAdvisor, or to buy a book without investigating the views of readers on Amazon. And now the idea of crowdsourced reviews is coming to the GCC workplace, as Glassdoor – the ‘employee review’ site that is firmly entrenched in Europe and the US – spreads its wings across the Middle East and Asia.

On Glassdoor, staff offer their opinions on the pros and cons of their workplaces, and post details including average salaries and even the type of questions that are asked at interviews.

Glassdoor claims to have 30 million users globally, who have posted more than eight million reviews. In the UK and US in particular, the savage nature of some reviews has shocked businesses, and the site has begun producing lists of the best employers as rated by its users. It has steadily become a staple of the recruitment process: in the UK, 68 per cent of candidates say Glassdoor is a believable source of information, making it more trusted than companies’ own collateral, according to a survey from Career Design Coaching. It is common for Glassdoor comments to be raised during interviews, and in the US 90 per cent of jobseekers say they had read a review of an employer before going to an interview.

Many Middle Eastern companies already feature on the site. Multinationals such as EY and Deloitte have garnered dozens of local reviews, while the like of Emirates, Jumeirah and Qatar Petroleum have all been reviewed, mostly positively, by existing employees.

Umran Mehmood, director of HR Source Consulting in Dubai, says there are powerful reasons to take note of what’s said about your organisation on Glassdoor: “It gives employers scope and reason to change unethical practices, and offers a potential employee an insight into the company. Employers could use it to improve their brand to create competitive advantage.”

Jamie Ong, HR business partner at Fairchild Semiconductor, adds: “Glassdoor reviews can help HR professionals understand how employees feel about the organisation. They can also use it to find out how competitors match up in terms of hiring and salary. It’s an open channel, and any opinion matters.”

The question is how to respond to reviews, particularly negative ones. Unilever is among a growing number of companies that opts for total transparency, actively encouraging employees and candidates to rate it – the FMCG giant’s recruitment site even links to its Glassdoor listing.

Others choose to offer responses to critical comments, though this runs the risk of appearing to ‘manage’ the conversation. In the July issue of People Management, Rob Walker, head of resourcing at disability charity Mencap, suggested occasional employer intervention could help: “Those rare cases where an employee or applicant has outright falsified their version of events can be catastrophic. I believe there is an argument for a short, dispassionate response putting the record straight.”

But no matter how you respond, being aware of the public dialogue about your firm is fast becoming non-negotiable. The online conversation will continue regardless.

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