Online reviews could be harming your business

It requires barely any effort for current and former staff to jump online and leave not just a rating but a comment about their employer. No matter how nasty. So I was curious recently to see how colleagues of mine in the past had rated the two employers at which I was employed the longest. The contrast was surprising. And not only because they were so different.

It was surprising primarily because my experiences were completely antithetical to the sentiments expressed on these popular review sites. One of them, for instance, had the employer I loved the most rated a mere 3.1 out of 5 with comments like “If you care about your sanity and mental health AVOID AVOID AVOID!!!” while the employer I loathed was given a higher rating of 4.0 and many variations of “excellent work culture”.

What are your staff saying about you online?
What are your staff saying about you online?

The influence of these posts shouldn’t be underestimated. Had I read these reviews prior to my employment, I may have been dissuaded from accepting the job I otherwise would have loved. My employer, too, may have similarly missed out on recruiting talented people – and probably did – all because qualified candidates perceived the potential risk as too great.

There are further implications beyond that anecdotal example as evidenced in a newly published study that analysed almost 350,000 of these reviews across more than 40,000 organisations. The researchers’ objective was to draw conclusions regarding the factors that influence job satisfaction, employee turnover and organisational performance.


They were especially surprised to discover remuneration, which includes not only salaries but associated benefits as well, was “one of the least influential factors” on job satisfaction. Significantly more impactful were employees’ perceptions of their firm’s culture, values and senior leadership, all of which were found to exceed every other criterion.

Since these reviews prompt employees to state whether they’re former or current members of staff, the scholars are able to further mine what is quite a rich data set to predict the drivers of employee turnover. Because, sure, a disgruntled employee may vent online about their tough boss or inadequate pay but the cause of their disgruntlement may not be what compels them to quit.

Which is incidentally the case. The findings revealed the one predominant driver of an individual’s eventual resignation was the extent to which staff pressure was excessive at their workplace. Conversely, working for a reputable company or one that grants sufficient flexibility were the two features that ranked highest among those who were most loyal.

This all leads to the “so what” question. The insights generated about satisfaction and turnover from these online reviews may be interesting but surely they’re of little worth to a hardcore business professional whose ultimate purpose is to make a lot of money. Hence the value of the researchers’ third and final analytical stage: the consequent economic impact on the firms’ performance.

To ensure the accuracy and fairness of these calculations, the number of reviews narrowed to approximately 35,000 across 161 organisations since a wider range of financial reports needed to be accessed (such as data on sales and debt).

It won’t be news to anyone who values the value of the human element in business to learn satisfaction and profitability were indeed correlated, with the strongest correlation evident in terms of how employees felt about their work/life balance and senior leaders.

This indicates “non-financial information is of key importance” when determining the present valuation and future profitability of businesses, particularly when taking into account the “inability of standard accounting measures to capture investments in intangibles”.

That’s why it pays to pay attention to what staff say online.

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Source: Thanks