“Delusions of adequacy”: Glassdoor opening a window to working life at major retailers and suppliers

JB Hi-Fi has great people, is an industry leader and is a fun and vibrant workplace. Harvey Norman is an employer that “rewards its employees based on the amount of profit generated by the employee”, so if you work hard you will be rewarded. Samsung is a “great brand to work on undergoing massive growth so [there are] huge opportunities”, but there is “no work/life balance” at the Korean giant.

These are just three “reviews” posted by current and former employees on the new human resources-cum-social media website Glassdoor.com.au, which has been slowly growing in prominence in Australia, after launching in Sausalito, near San Francisco in the United States, as a start-up in 2007.

Glassdoor claims to have a database of 6 million reviews, CEO ratings, salary reports and job interview guides, compiled and added constantly to by past and present employees.

Prospective employees can research a company before applying or accepting a job by logging in with their email address or Facebook account and can access the site for two weeks before having to upload their own resume and start writing reviews to maintain access. There are apps for iPhone and Android, so users can stay abreast of various job permutations from their smartphone or tablet.

In order to ramp up publicity for its services, Glassdoor has issued media releases, which it styles as blog posts, covering several tempting, clickbait style topics like the “11 Dos and Don’ts for Quitting Your Job” (consider the decision carefully and tell your boss in a one-on-one conversation, but don’t rant to colleagues or end up in a “flaming row”) and the “5 Tips to be Happy at Work” (don’t stress out and ensure you have a work/life balance).

Ultimately, the site exists as a primer for potential employees and seeks to demystify one of the great anxieties we face in adult life: fitting in to a new workplace. Much like the first day of school, starting a new job comes with a significant learning curve. What is the dress code? Are you able to take breaks when you want or do you have ask permission? Are there any perks that can be exploited or traps to avoid? Although a lot of the Glassdoor reviews I read in researching this article contained an element of snark, especially from past employees, there was also quite a lot of positivity.

For example, the former Harvey Norman Fountain Gate salesperson whose pay decreased significantly because a downturn in the retail market affected his commission, said the store still possessed strong esprit de corps: “Every team I worked with was great. Very good opportunity to develop strong communication skills” (sic). Even the commenter that offered the caustic “delusions of adequacy” assessment used in the headline to this story had nice things to say about Harvey Norman: “Some great staff in lower positions and some key management areas that work hard and treat people like actual people. Have made some great friends through working here, and learned some great skills.”

On the LG Electronics Australia page, one former marketing assistant writes that the company was “always an exciting place to work” but it was a constant frustration having budgets approved because of the hoops the Korean headquarters made the local office jump through.

I sent an email to Glassdoor’s PR department asking if and how the company verified that these reviewers actually worked at the company, and if there was any checking that the information being published was indeed correct. Media spokesperson Scott Dobroski replied saying Glassdoor takes this issue seriously and that 85 per cent of content submitted to Glassdoor goes through its “content moderation process” and is published, while the remaining 15 per cent never appears on the site.

“We take our data integrity incredible seriously, so yes, we do make serious efforts to verify employees are who they say they are,” Dobroski said.

“Anytime a former or current employee shares content on Glassdoor, such as a company review or interview review, we use a multi-tier review process as part of our content review and moderation process, which includes technological review and human-touch review.

“We don’t disclose further detail of this review process to prevent gaming. In addition, each piece of content that’s submitted to Glassdoor by employees must meet our community guidelines, otherwise it does not appear on site.

“In fact, 15 per cent of content submitted to Glassdoor does not appear on site because it does not meet these community guidelines or because it appears suspicious.”

The community guidelines Dobroski refers to include never editing a submission, applying human moderation to review “each piece of content” and removing content if there is evidence that a person was incentivised to submit it (commonly called ‘astroturfing’).

Glassdoor also has a recruitment service for employers called Talent Solutions. It claims to have 1,500 current clients and its stands apart from the big recruitment sites like Seek and Monster by matching discerning, high quality candidates with companies they may not have heard of.

Opening the Glassdoor — Can you match the reviews with the company?

Comment:

a) “Store manager was obsessed with powerplay. In the 4-5 months I worked there, 4 people resigned because they could not co-operate with management.”

b) “Relaxed and laidback environment, subsidised lunches, lots of free parking, in good location. Not very far from the CBD. Friendly environment.”

c) “This was a life-changing experience that has made me a better leader and person.”

d) “Management has a very limited understanding of the Australian B2B ecosystem. Attempting to build an Enterprise Business based on Consumer Business practices. Sales management is disorganised. Management are obsessed with internal meetings, reporting and training, at the expense of customer meetings.”

e) “Learn to work as a team, under pressure and how to talk to customers. Flexible hours, decent hourly rate and always paid on time.”

f) “Spivs/bonuses are not always paid as owed/promised and are often taken by upper management to use for themselves.”

g) “Good work atmosphere. Work is generally easy going. Get access to the latest technology and learn how to use it. Pretty bad upper management. Bad employee discounts. Unreasonable restrictions on casual hours.”

Company (listed alphabetically and not in the same order as the above comments):

1. Apple Australia

2. Dick Smith

3. Fisher & Paykel

4. Harvey Norman

5. JB Hi-Fi

6. Samsung Australia

7. Woolworths

An earlier version of this story had incorrect ratios of submitted content appearing and not appearing on Glassdoor. The current figures are accurate.

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