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Glassdoor Just Gave You A Gift, HR. It's In a Brown Paper Bag and on Fire Just Outside Your Door...

Ah yes, Glassdoor.  As people like to say when they're in relationship of questionable health - it's complicated.

Many of you saw the new tool Glassdoor rolled out last week, but if you didn't, here's your notification since you missed the PR blitzkrieg.  Glassdoor is launching a tool called "Know Your Worth" designed to (in their words) help US Workers find their current market value.  In the interest of balance, here's Glassdoor's description:

For anyone who has ever wondered if they are being paid fairlyGlassdoor, the leading jobs and recruiting marketplace, has launched a new, free tool that uses patent-pending technology to calculate the Know-your-worth-desktop-exampleestimated market value, or earning potential, of an individual, right now, based on characteristics of his or her current job, work experience and the local job market.Know Your Worth by Glassdoor, currently in beta, is designed to not only help people determine if they are being paid fairly, but also whether they should attempt to negotiate their current salary and/or explore better paying jobs.

Know Your Worth uses sophisticated data science and machine learning algorithms that leverage millions of salary reports shared by employees on Glassdoor, while analyzing real-time supply and demand trends in local job markets, and typical career transitions of people doing similar work. Each person’s market value, and pay range, is unique to them and private, and will be recalculated weekly and tracked over time.

To use Know Your Worth, an individual simply needs to enter a few basic details, including their current job title, employer, current salary, location and years of relevant work experience.  When enough relevant data exists, Glassdoor uses its proprietary Know Your Worth algorithm to instantly calculate the individual’s personalized market value, which is the estimated median base pay he or she could earn in their local job market, right now. To make it easy to monitor over time, Glassdoor plots each individual’s 12-month market value on a chart, and compares it to the median pay of similar workers in their local market.

Most of you who read this space are HR or Recruiting pros/leaders. That means a couple of things.  First, you've dealt with plenty of salary issues in your time and generally have a take on which people in your organization might be undervalued or overvalued in their role.  You've also probably been solicited by Glassdoor to become a customer, with the pitch being they can help manage your company reputation or develop candidate flow as Glassdoor seeks to monetize it's business by becoming a new age job board.  Some of you have signed up. Some of you haven't. I get it.

But becoming a new age job board is where the rub is. To monetize, Glassdoor has to have someone pay for the service.  That's you, the HR or Recruiting leader.

And that relationship is becoming increasingly complicated.

First, let's call the new service out for what it is.  Glassdoor needs to keep your employees coming to the site.  The employee eyeballs/attention are really the product.  For a long time that's been employee reviews.  While this post is critical of Glassdoor's latest direction, the company is intelligent and worthy of our scrutiny.  Evidence of that intelligence is the fact that when employees create reviews, they're given the opportunity to provide their salary.  Glassdoor's been aggregating salary data for a long time.

While that salary data is growing in accuracy, it's far from perfect. But that's not going to stop Glassdoor from launching Know Your Worth and showing HR and Recruiting Pros how they really feel about them.

How does Glassdoor really feel about HR and Recruiting leaders?  Let me walk you through a couple of components to the Know Your Worth launch/product specs.  You tell me how they feel about you:

1. Remember when Glassdoor told you - both customers and non-customers - that promoting company reputation/reviews to your employee base was important?  I agree with that notion and have wrote about it before.  You bought into it (rightfully so) and with or without Glassdoor's help began asking employees to consider writing reviews of your company.  Guess what? Glassdoor just sent an invite to all reviewers (aka your employees) telling them you might be underpaying them and they should fact check whether they should trust your company or not.  All of them.

If this movie had subtitles, that scene would say, "Thanks for ramping up our network, suckers."  But I digress. Back to evaluating the Know Your Worth launch/product specs...

2. The Know Your Worth product is incomplete, but that won't stop Glassdoor from telling your employees it gives you a 100% accurate read. True story here - my company's business is recruiting, and our core position has total comp that's 50% base and 50% commission. We have employees that earn a very good living working for us.  So when I got the aforementioned email asking me to Know My Worth, as an HR leader I wanted to know what employees in our core positions would see. Good news!  When I played the role of a recruiter at our company, Know Your Worth gladly accepted my commission target as part of my total compensation potential. Bad News! Know Your Worth ignored that input when it evaluated if that position was compensated fairly, evaluating the base salary only with no mention of the input of commission that I made, or qualifier that they weren't evaluating the information in its full context I'll talk about shortly - total comp or total rewards.

Translation - Thanks for helping us grow our database to a larger degree by putting all those inputs in, kids!  But all we're prepared to give you is an evaluation of your base salary. And we'll tell you your underpaid by 6K on a salary of 50K even though your target total compensation is 85K, and many in the same position in your company exceed that total target compensation. Note - I used a Salesforce Account Executive in San Francisco to test the outputs and analysis again, entering total comp information.  Same result, analysis of base salary only.  

3. But Wait! Glassdoor shows they care about HR and Recruiting Leaders by providing a whitepaper during the Know Your Worth launch campaign called "Glassdoor's Guide to Salary Conversations".  This proves they're here to help you, HR and Recruiting leaders!  They care so much about you they've created the guide to help your line managers navigate the tough conversations the Know Your Worth campaign is sure to generate. You know the conversations -the ones caused when Glassdoor emailed every employee who has created a review on your company to question their compensation - the same reviews that were generated using Glassdoor templates and communication tools you paid Glassdoor to provide when you said yes to being a paid corporate customer of Glassdoor.  Wow.

But I again digress.  Glassdoor is showing they care by creating this guide.  Until you open it and see the following sage advice (email subscribers click through to see image from guide):

Glassdoor Pro Tip

PRO TIP FROM GLASSDOOR! If your employees are in an uproar about their compensation due to the Know Your Worth campaign, you should get your s##t together and get a total rewards and compensation strategy together.  You know, like the one Know Your Worth fails to evaluate, even when an employee gives it their entire picture of total comp.  

Translation - Communication of total comp is your responsibility.  It's only Glassdoor's responsibility when it benefits them - like when it's time to lecture you, not when it's time to drive eyeballs to the site and continue to collect profiles, page view and free data generation from your employees. 

Final Notes: I'm on record for believing in Glassdoor, more specifically the fact that the review economy is a reality and HR/Recruiting leaders have to acknowledge the presence/power of Glassdoor and have a strategy to engage.

But Glassdoor isn't being a partner with launches like Know Your Worth.  They're attempting to drive more eyeballs, build a database and generally reach critical mass to do what's required to maximize their primary objective - get a slice of your recruiting budget.

All Glassdoor had to do in the launch of Know Your Worth is have better information on total compensation and present it to employees using this tool.  That data is available by partnering with a professional compensation firm.  If that wasn't possible, they could provide warnings related to total compensation that help employees understand the limitations of the data being presented.

Put another way - Glassdoor's business on the employer side is to sell you things like reputation management and job postings.

Glassdoor's business on the EMPLOYEE side is EMPLOYEE DISSENT.  And in that regard, business seems to be good.



This is not a new tactic in the cyber age - there are other companies that do this in other spaces (i.e. - Consumer Affairs). Basically drive bad news/messaging about your company until you "partner" with their business. Then all of a sudden - your reviews improve. This strikes me as another variation on that.

Andrea Colantoni

Hi Kris,
I love your posts, but isn't bashing Glassdoor a bit like a restaurant owner bashing Tripadvisor? It's there, so deal withy it.

As you correctly said, the strategy has to be to engage the workforce and acitvate the enthusiastic employees as much as the disgruntled ones. A challenge in business, in politics, in fact wherever you look. Upset people are MORE engaged, and HR need to breed Ambassadors as well. A mighty challenge.


AC - so the model is definitely based on the fact that if you pay, they can help you better than you can help yourself. And I think that's generally true, but there's certainly a hostage mode to how to the model works.

Andrea - not bashing GD here overall, I'm on the record as I mentioned in the post as noting you have to deal with/work on company transparency in the new review economy. But the model for this specific feature (Know your worth) is half baked. It's equivalent of Trip Advisor getting prices at the restaurant wrong, not the fact they're enabling reviews.

Thanks for reading - KD

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Kirsten Davidson

Hi Kris,

I genuinely appreciate you being candid. We recognize that launching Know Your Worth is disruptive. That’s why we created the an Employer Guide - to provide additional support for employers who need to better understand the tool and what it means for salary conversations. The beta version of this product only estimates base pay and we’ve tried to be very transparent about this. We are already working on the next iteration which will capture more.

For anyone looking for more clarity about how we determine market value, have question about rates of accuracy, etc., you can check out the FAQs and Methodology, as well as our other public facing online resources on our blog. It might also be interesting to read a really candid post that our CHRO wrote about how she’s dealt with Know Your Worth.

Salary data is only becoming more transparent. I think that's a good thing. It's how we start close the gender pay gap. It’s how we ensure we’re all being paid fairly. We need to start somewhere, more will follow.


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