When I’m scrolling through the web on my phone, I often land on websites where customers are encouraged to leave reviews. There’s a big reason behind that request: A 2017 survey found that 97% of consumers factor reviews into their buying decisions. It’s called social proof.
Just as consumers want to “try before they buy,” job seekers want to see whether employees like working at a given company before they apply. That’s why they check out employee reviews on the ever-expanding list of rating sites such as Indeed Company Pages. In fact, 95% of U.S. workers in a recent Indeed survey say that when considering a new job, insight into the company’s reputation is “extremely” (62%) or at least “somewhat” (33%) important.
For anyone multitasking at home (or bad at math), that’s only 5% of people who say that an employer’s reputation ISN’T important at all.
But what if your organization is small and has only a handful of reviews, some of which are out of date? Or what if you’re with a large company that has some negative reviews because of a problem that has since been resolved? In situations such as these, it makes sense to pursue new reviews to sweeten that bitter cocktail. But asking for them is tricky. If handled improperly, your efforts can backfire — let’s face it, asking for reviews is usually implicitly asking for positive reviews.
Here’s how to ask for employee reviews in ways that are not only ethical but also likely to garner honest, positive feedback:
1. Never ask for positive reviews.
Directly asking employees for positive reviews is bound to make them feel pressured, angry or suspicious of your motives. Don’t do it. Ever.
Plus, some job-review sites have algorithms and filters designed to automatically detect fraudulent reviews. When discovered, these reviews are immediately deleted.
What you can do is craft a message, via email or another format, that helps motivate employees to post a review — as long as you don’t suggest you’re hoping for a positive one.
For example: “Many job seekers read employee reviews to identify places they’d like to work. Authentic reviews from workers like you, listing the pros and cons, can help us appeal to top candidates in this competitive labor market. Please consider contributing your honest feedback.”
2. Time your requests for reviews strategically.
For obvious reasons, if your company just laid off a dozen workers or its stock market share prices have plunged, it’s not a good time to ask for reviews.
A better bet is to time your request around positive employee milestones and key company moments. Here are a few examples:
- Orientation and training: Ask employees in each new-hire class to leave reviews of their interview experiences while they’re fresh in their minds.
- Milestones and anniversaries: When an employee hits a work anniversary (we call them Indeediversaries), congratulate them on the milestone and leverage their experience for a review. You might send them an email with a link to a reviews site, such as, “Now that you’ve been here for a bit, would you mind sharing what it’s like to work here from your perspective?”
- Promotions: When employees receive promotions, give them kudos. And while you’re at it, let them know they’re a great example of people who make a positive impact at the company. Tell them you’d appreciate it if they’d share their honest career path experience online.
- Special events: Did your company just hold a fun event, such as a team-building off-site or sponsor a charitable activity? Ask for employee reviews in the weeks following an event, especially if they were given time off to participate. However, don’t ask during an event, as this could imply that you’re “attempting to lead the witness.”
- Positive company moments: Has your company earned an award? Received a positive mention in the media? Rolled out a particularly strong onboarding program? Each of these scenarios presents a golden opportunity to ask for candid employee reviews, as well.
One caveat: The algorithms of some reviews platforms may flag a flood of new, positive reviews as suspicious. When possible, spread out your requests for reviews over time. You can also limit requests to one department or team at a time, rather than asking on behalf of the entire company. Again, the timing should be organic and make sense for the individual employees, not your desire to raise your company rating.
3. Always respond to negative reviews.
No one expects to see all five-star employee reviews; in fact, that could count as a red flag. Every company can expect negative feedback at some point. Instead, what’s critical is if and how you respond to negative employee reviews.
#ProTip: NOT responding to a negative review is, in fact, responding to that review with silence.
When an employee posts a negative review, respond to it right away. The worst thing you can do is ignore it. Others will see that you didn’t respond and may conclude that you simply don’t care, that the reviewer’s criticism was accurate — or both.
On the other hand, authentic, transparent response to an unfavorable review can actually change perceptions of your company from negative to positive. In the aforementioned Indeed survey, 36% of workers say their perceptions of an employer would be “much more positive” if that employer had responded to a negative employee review, and 36.2% say their perceptions would become “somewhat more positive.” Only 19% of respondents say an employer response wouldn’t change their minds.
Responding to reviews may also encourage other employees to post their opinions since they’re more likely to feel their voices are heard.
4. Validate – Empathize – Call to Action
In my opinion, here’s the best way to respond to a negative review.
- Thank the reviewer for the honest feedback.
- Show them you understand the criticism.
- Explain what the company is doing, or plans to do, to correct the problem (without making promises you can’t keep).
- Don’t argue with or question the criticism; this can make you look defensive, which is worse than not responding at all.
- Ask for more information if you need it. The context isn’t always clear with double anonymous reviews, so reach out if you need to make changes and even provide direct contact options in your response.
Respond to positive reviews, too, by thanking reviewers for taking the time to provide feedback. This further reinforces the message that the company is aware and appreciative of everything employees have to say. I especially like responding to reviews that were clearly written with thought and detail.
5. Above all, show you’re listening
My advice (in case you missed it) is to never ask for positive reviews; time your requests strategically; and respond to all reviews, when possible — but especially to the negative ones.
When it comes to employee reviews, your primary goal isn’t simply to convince candidates to apply (though that’s extremely important). Instead, it’s to keep the talent you already have feeling seen and heard. By encouraging honest feedback, listening to it with an open mind, responding to it thoughtfully and learning from it, you’ll make your workplace even better than before.