One way they do this is through Internet sites that rate companies based on anonymous input from current and former employees, and even people who only tried getting jobs with a company.
But the impact these user-generated sites have on a company’s reputation is debatable. Glassdoor.com, for example, touts its “inside look” at more than 26,000 companies. Large companies like Wal-Mart list hundreds of anonymous comments, which in reading lead you to the not-so-shocking revelation that some people like their employers and some people don’t. Many other companies garner only one or two comments, most of them rants about stupid bosses and rotten culture.
Basically it’s like listening to strangers on the bus to work.
To be sure, some companies use search engine optimization – also hyped as “online reputation management” – to push negative comments deeper into the Internet clutter. Other companies have their flacks post anonymous positive comments to counter the anonymous criticisms (the ethics of which are for another post).
Most employers, however, simply ignore the sites. And in most cases that’s the best approach.
Why? Because without attribution, scientific basis or mass context these opinion boards have as much information value as random graffiti.
It’s no surprise that a relatively few unhappy, unnamed employees are more likely to gripe online. And that creates representations way out of sync with more credible reputation measurements. Look up insurance giant Aflac on Glassdoor.com, for example, and you get a 5,000-employee company with a “neutral company rating” because half of the 26 comments that make up the score are from people like the agent who wrote that “they have no morals and they don't know what their [SIC] doing there.”
Meanwhile, Aflac was named 2009’s most reputable and ethical insurance company by Reputation Institute's Global Reputation Pulse, an annual public survey of the nation's 153 largest corporations. Second year in a row, too.
It doesn’t take a PR expert to know which image matters most.
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