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Should mortgage companies push staffers to leave higher ratings on Glassdoor?

WSJ reports on Guaranteed Rate, Roostify efforts to get higher rankings

Anyone who’s looked for a new job in the last five years has probably done some research on any potential new employer. And more often than not, that search leads to Glassdoor, the company ratings site where employees and former employees can write reviews about what it was like to work for said company.

In many ways, a company’s rating on Glassdoor can impact its ability to hire quality employees. If you searched a company on Glassdoor and saw that everyone who worked there hated it, would you want to work there too?

So these days, a company’s Glassdoor rating carries a lot of weight. But are companies cooking the books to boost their ratings by convincing their employees to write positive reviews on the site?

Yes, they are, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

In a wide-ranging investigation, the Wall Street Journal found that a number of companies have seen unusual spikes in high ratings and positive reviews that seem to all happen around the same time. In some of those cases, the companies themselves have encouraged their employees to leave those positive reviews.

And one company that appears to be the poster child of this is Guaranteed Rate, the growing nonbank mortgage lender. In fact, Guaranteed Rate is basically the featured company in the WSJ article, with events that allegedly took place at the lender serving as the jumping off point for the entire article.

This is how the WSJ report begins:

Last summer, employees of Guaranteed Rate Inc. posted a stream of negative reviews about the mortgage broker on Glassdoor, a company-ratings website.

“An American sweatshop,” read a one-star review in June. “Worst company I ever worked for,” read another in July. The company’s rating on Glassdoor, which is determined by employee feedback, fell to 2.6 stars out of 5.

Concerned that negative reviews could hurt recruiting, Guaranteed Rate CEO Victor Ciardelli instructed his team to enlist employees likely to post positive reviews, said a person familiar with his instructions. In September and October these employees flooded Glassdoor with hundreds of five-star ratings. The company rating now sits at 4.1.

Glassdoor has become an important arbiter of employee sentiment in today’s highly competitive job market. A Wall Street Journal investigation shows it can be manipulated by employers trying to sway opinion in their favor.

Those are literally the first four paragraphs of the WSJ report.

According to the WSJ article, Ciardelli felt that Guaranteed Rate’s ratings did not truthfully reflect what it like to work at the lender and sought to improve the company’s ratings.

When asked about the supposed push to boost its Glassdoor rating, Guaranteed Rate told HousingWire that it was simply adhering to Glassdoor’s policy of encouraging employees to rate the company on the site.

“We followed Glassdoor’s policy, reaching out to employees to encourage participation with honest feedback about how they viewed working for Guaranteed Rate,” a spokesperson for the company told HousingWire.

Guaranteed Rate's supposed push for positive reviews came at a time when the company was in the midst of a hiring spree. In March of last year, the company laid off 180 employees but claimed that it planned to hire 1,500 more by the end of 2018. When asked about the company's efforts to hire new employees, the company told HousingWire: "We are on course with our hiring goals."

The article also notes that ratings spikes were seen at SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space exploration company, SAP, the software giant, LinkedIn, and other companies.

According to the article, in some cases, companies solicit their employees to leave positive reviews in order to earn a place on Glassdoor’s coveted Best Places to Work list.

The annual report provides a look at the companies that are supposedly the best ones to work at, as determined by their Glassdoor ratings. But are the ratings built on a faulty foundation?

From the WSJ report:

In some cases, companies have encouraged loyal employees to post reviews as part of a publicity campaign. SpaceX and SAP, for example, galvanized employees to leave reviews to make Glassdoor’s annual ranking of the “Best Places to Work.”

Other companies, including Guaranteed Rate, have pressured employees to write positive reviews in order to raise poor ratings, according to interviews with current and former employees.

Another company in the mortgage business is also mentioned in the article, mortgage tech provider Roostify, which supposedly asked Glassdoor to remove negative reviews left by “disgruntled” former employees. But Glassdoor denied that request, according to the article.

So the question really is, are companies truly manipulating the Glassdoor system or just following the company’s directives by encouraging their employees to leave reviews on the site?

It likely depends on just how strenuously the employees are encouraged to leave those reviews, and what parameters they are given when doing so. According to the article, Guaranteed Rate told employees of their “collective responsibility to provide positive feedback,” and asked them to leave a 5-star rating for the company.

Whether the company deserved those ratings or not is an entirely different question. Only the company’s employees know for sure.

Click here to read the full article from the Wall Street Journal.

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