Glassdoor CEO ranking, did you know you had one?


Some companies go to extraordinary lengths to secure high rankings on Glassdoor. Others pay little attention. Believing that it’s just a website for employees to vent their frustrations as payback for perceived ill treatment.

Which approach is the right one?

 “The employee is just as powerful as the employer.”

Glassdoor has been around since 2008, started by two co-founders, Tim Besse and Robert Hohman who wanted make exit interviews public. Allowing potential job seekers the opportunity to find out what a company is really like before they join and allowing current and exiting employees to have a voice about their experiences and the companies they worked for. And rate the CEO too. Since then then, Glassdoor has become the most powerful company review site in the world.

Here are some stats just to paint the picture:

·        67 million unique views every month

·        50 million reviews, insights and salary information listed

·        12 million jobs listed

·        The average company rating is 3.4 (out of 5)

·        The average CEO approval rating is 66%


The value of Glassdoor

Before the internet came along, the most trusted source of information came from “people like me”, a phrase coined by Eldelman’s ‘Trust Barometer’. “People like me” would have been friends, colleagues and neighbours. Social media has changed that and given “people like me” a huge voice. A voice that we exercise frequently when it comes to sharing our experiences of products and services.  We only have to look at the proliferation of reviews on Amazon, Trust Pilot and Trip Advisor to understand the influence that online feedback has on our buying behaviour. And our job search.

For candidates, Glassdoor provides a treasure trove of the good, the bad and the ‘okay’. Years ago they could only rely on “people like me” to give them the inside scope. Now they have access to hundreds if not thousands of reviews on what it’s really like to work for your organisation.

For employees, Glassdoor is a chance to voice their opinion without fear of reprisal. They can share their experiences, views on management and make recommendations. They do it to be heard, but also to help others in their decision making process.

For investors, they use it to source qualitative data about the management of a business and understand the employee sentiment. An analyst from the Bank of America Merrill Lynchfound that shares of companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq, with high Glassdoor ratings outperformed those with low ratings by almost five percentage points a year from 2013 to 2018. Why? So they can decide whether or not the company is worth investing in or even buying. Perception is everything and Glassdoor gives an insight into the management practices of a business that investors can’t afford to ignore.

For you, it is an opportunity to really understand how your people feel. How did they rate the interview process? What do they think of the culture? How are they and others treated? What are the opportunities for development? What don’t they like? What’s their advice to you and senior management? And how would they rate you, as the CEO? Would they approve, disapprove or have no opinion?

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The reality is, employees are less trusting of what you have say. And your culture is not what you stand up to declare at annual conferences, or the words you put up on the wall in your head offices.

It’s the day to day interactions that your people have with you, your leadership team, each other and your customers. It’s about whether you say a genuine hello to your junior staff when you walk past them in the corridor. Your tone of voice in an email if an employee has made a mistake. The values that you reinforce based on how you act towards others. How you promote people. Give access to development, support returning parents, ensure equitable treatment, champion inclusion, give back to the community and pursue a purpose bigger than just profit.

These are the things that matter to employees.

CEO ranking

Before I move on to talk about what you could do (and shouldn’t do) to improve your Glassdoor score, let me just mention the CEO ranking and how it fits in with the Glassdoor Employees Choice Award for the Top CEOs.

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When providing reviews on your company, your employees are asked to share what they think is the best reason to work for you (the pros), what’s not so great about working for you (the cons) and provide advice to senior management i.e. the people who should be able to influence company culture. Employees are also asked to rate other factors associated with their employment, such as how they would rate your performance as a CEO, senior management etc. When they are asked to rate you, they will be able to specifically say whether they approve, disprove or have no opinion of you.

When determining who wins Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award for the Top CEOs, Glassdoor take into account the following:

1)   Quantity of reviews – across two leadership attributes. Your employee’s score of you and their score of your senior management. In the UK you need to have more than 35 reviews to be considered.

2)   Quality of reviews – how well do your employees share insight into the pros and cons of working for your organisation. It’s basically when they fill out all the sections with more than one word answers.

3)   Consistency of reviews – the Glassdoor algorithm accounts for trends over time so a last minute surge in high scoring reviews won’t work.

What you shouldn’t do to improve your Glassdoor rating

In my previous life as a HR practitioner, I remember having many a conversation about Glassdoor. Namely, how do we improve the feedback scores?

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We would spend a good amount of time debating all the possible ways we could get a better rating. From asking identified ‘advocates’ of the business to submit complimentary posts (‘we won’t tell them what to say of course’) to including a direct link to the Glassdoor company page at the end of our online exit interview surveys.

“But there’s nothing wrong with asking Sally to write a review. I mean we’re not going to tell her what to say, but she’s been here for years and loves it so….”


“It would do our employer branding a lot of good if we could get a few people to strategically write on Glassdoor. Can you ask them to do this do you think?”

Or even better.

“Well I don’t’ think what’s written on Glassdoor is an accurate reflection of what it’s like to work here so people who disagree should have the chance to write about the positives so it’s a balanced view. I think that’s only fair for the candidates reading it, don’t you think?” Hmm yes. Fair to the candidates or fair to you?

Statements like these may make logical sense but in encouraging this type of conversation you are missing some crucial pointsTherefore if I had to create a master list of what not to do, here’s where I would start:

1)   Glassdoor, and other review sites, are about promoting transparency. Candidates do want to know what your culture is like. And it has to be a true reflection. Be truthful and ensure your employer branding collateral is a fair representation of your business.

2)   Don’t create what I call an ‘Operation Glassdoor’ project or strategy or initiative. Some of my fellow HR colleagues may disagree with me on this one but I believe your rating on Glassdoor is a metric and should be used to measure output, not become an input. Make a plan to improve your culture, boast the morale of your teams but don’t make a plan to specifically target your Glassdoor rating.

3)   Avoid pressurising your employees to write favourable reviews. Earlier this year, Wall Street Journal ran an investigation to understand how companies can manipulate Glassdoor to influence reviews that sway in their favour. It discovered that some companies use coercion to encourage their employees to write positive reviews. They may have been able to justify it to themselves, but externally it’s not a good look.

4)   Just because your perception doesn’t match what you read, doesn’t make it less real or true. You will take it personally and that’s fine. But don’t get too caught up in trying to defend yourself or your organisation. Instead, use that energy to do something about the feedback. Be committed to making changes. Not hunt down the person(s) who wrote the bad review.

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5)   Don’t make it a HR thing. How your employees feel affects your whole business. Yes HR can support with the right advice, tools etc but it shouldn’t be passed over to them because Glassdoor comes under the ‘people’ banner. There’s a role for everyone in your senior leadership team to play. You are all the custodians of your culture.

What you could do instead

1)  Subscribe to company alerts

You can set up an email alert through Glassdoor that sends you an email every time a review is written about your company. Bearing in mind the myriad of reports you have to read through that condense large amounts of information into percentages and statistics, it can be a welcome change to actually read the live, real time feedback from people within your business.

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2)  Claim your Glassdoor company page

Ask your HR Director if you have claimed the Glassdoor company page. The free version allows you to edit some basic details. The paid version allows you to customise the look and feel of your company page so it is an extension of your employer brand. To be clear, you don’t need to upgrade to the paid version to improve your ranking, but if it’s part of a wider employer branding strategy then it might be a good idea.

3)  Build it into your everyday processes

If you want to encourage your employees to leave feedback on Glassdoor you need to make it business as usual otherwise employees will feel that you care more about the rating than you do listening to what they have to say.

For example, when you have appointed a candidate, as part of their onboarding let them know they can leave a review on Glassdoor if they wish. Or, think about how you communicate to your employees about your approach to soliciting feedback. If you are still using annual engagement surveys, gather feedback during regular performance development reviews etc. you could add Glassdoor/employee review websites as an outlet for your teams to share their views outside of the formal feedback process. Although I would always advocate that anything to do with performance, feedback and support should be facilitated in real time but I know not everyone operates that way.

4)  Listen with an intent to hear. Then act.

If you’re employees are unhappy and have provided you with feedback, listen with an intent to truly understand the problem. Don’t listen preparing to respond. If there are challenges with your line managers for example and those issues are manifesting itself with low engagement scores, high turnover rates and specific mentions on Glassdoor for example (it does happen), it’s important you do something about it. Train said line manager or replace them. It’s that simple.

5) Over communicate

If there are particular challenges you are facing as a business, be honest and tell your teams. Don’t gloss over it, thinking you are protecting them. Not every CEO will get things right all the time and people are more forgiving than you think, provided you are honest with them.

Up the ante of your communication mechanisms. Find new and novel ways to share your messaging. Seek outside help if you need to. Make sure your Department Heads and Line Managers regular talk to their direct reports and encourage a free flow of feedback that doesn’t have to go through layers of hierarchy and bureaucracy.

6)  Create one-to-one special moments for your employees

Too often we manage communication by email. A lot of emails.

Don’t underestimate the power of having a coffee with a junior member of the team to genuinely understand what’s affecting their world in the here and now. What’s going well, what’s not going so well, what are they concerned about? Ask them what’s the one thing you could do to make their life easier?

It has to be genuine. If not, your employees will be too scared or intimated to say what they really think. Or fear that they will get in trouble with their line manager when he or she finds out what they’ve told you.

If this is just part of what you do in building a transparent culture where everyone has a voice, that fear will soon go away and people will get used to it.

A few of those interactions will soon spread like wildfire and reinforce their connection to you and your business.

7)  Develop your employees

And I don’t mean sending them on a time management course or including their induction or on boarding training as ‘development’.

The need for enhanced training and development has seen a resurgence in recent months with the development of emerging technologies and a need for organisations to up the ante when it comes to reskilling and upskilling their current teams.

This should be a key part of your people plan, with a comprehensive strategy underpinning it that addresses what you will do to support the development of your teams and how this fits in with your strategic objectives.

But don’t just communicate this to your senior leadership team and budget holders. Communicate it to everyone and break it down in a way that provides clarity about what will happen and when.

Glassdoor isn’t just a numbers game

You can ignore it and hope that organically it corrects itself so that the ranking feels like a fair reflection. However reviews are subjective so you will always have to account for that. However, don’t underestimate the value of listening to your people, acting on insights and continually focusing on building a great empathetic culture. Focus on the inputs and the positive reviews on Glassdoor will come.

Should you be worried about Glassdoor? Yes.

Online reviews can make or break your customer’s decision to buy from you.

Glassdoor can make or break your employee’s decisions to work for you.

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