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Gratitude, Anger, or Fear: Hacking Employer Value Propositions on Glassdoor

Employers are under ever-increasing pressure to find ways to distinguish their employer brand from their competitors to help draw top talent and retain their current employees. While unemployment rates have begun to return to pre-pandemic norms, unemployment was already low in the years leading up to the pandemic, making talent attraction and acquisition as well as employee retention an ongoing concern. A strong and authentic employer brand strategy can be the differentiator that not only attracts top talent but also fosters employee loyalty in the long-term.

In this article, we'll demonstrate a revolutionary approach to employer branding research that utilizes Glassdoor data to uncover employees' specific emotions (excitement, anger, fear, and more) about workplace-related topics.

When employer and employee perceptions diverge

Traditionally, employer branding efforts have been primarily concerned with the benefits employers offer to employees. In recent years, however, employer branding has broadened beyond “superficial perks” like unlimited paid-time-off to stress both internal and external perceptions of an employer or company.

Internal perceptions involve the employer’s identity or what they determine are their core values and characteristics. External perceptions involve the employer’s image and reputation or how the general public views the employer and company. An employer has developed a strong brand when external perceptions match that of their internal perceptions. As a way to bridge the gap between how they view themselves and how others view them, employers can establish an appropriate employer value proposition (EVP).

An EVP refers to the “give and get” between employees and employers. It’s what employers offer their employees in exchange for the work they do. Employer “offerings” typically consist of compensations (e.g., salary, raises) and benefits (e.g., vacation, holidays) but also—and perhaps more importantly—include opportunities for training, education, career progression, and an adaptive work culture that values work-life balance and collaboration.

However, an EVP and an employer brand will differ slightly based on the company and their workforce; that is, the identity or core values of a company as well as what the employees require to produce quality work all help shape an EVP. This is why it is essential for employers to better understand their employees’ experience–because if a company promotes a community and collaboration-focused work culture but, in reality, their employees perceive their culture as less collaborative and more cutthroat and competitive, then there is a gap that must be addressed.

Aligning employer brand with the core values of the company

When it comes to developing a company's employer brand and deciding what to highlight, employers should start with a deep dive into the company's identity as an employer, its strengths, and areas that need improvement. Tapping into employee feedback from internal and external sources is critical. While internal employee surveys can provide useful feedback from current staff, social media and review sites like Glassdoor offer more insights that can help with understanding what makes a company unique and attractive as well as pinpoint what needs to be improved.

To help confirm and validate whether the employer brand indeed aligns with the core values of the company, it is crucial to detect any discrepancies between the ideal employer brand versus actual employer brand. An efficient and effective way to do this is by analyzing reviews written by current and former employees that are posted on Glassdoor.

Unveiling discrete emotions and the workplace topics they relate to using Glassdoor reviews

Glassdoor is a rich source of employer brand information for both employers and prospective employees. While employers can gain valuable insights into how their workforce perceives them, job seekers rely on reviews posted by current and former employees to gauge what it's like to work at a particular organization. In fact, research suggests people tend to perceive accounts of employees’ subjective experiences at a company as more reliable than industry recognition and "top employer" types of awards.

To illustrate how Glassdoor can be used to discern employees' emotions about pertinent topics in relation to an employer brand, we analyzed the Glassdoor reviews of three companies on Fortune’s 2023 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For: Cisco Systems, American Express, and Wegmans Food Markets. We used topic modeling methods to analyze the language within all employee reviews, separately for pros and cons, for each employer. However, simply identifying topics within the pros and cons of employee reviews may not accurately represent the specific emotions employees express about the topics they mention. This necessitates a more nuanced approach to understanding the specific emotions associated with workplace-related topics.

To overcome this challenge, we examined the degree to which the most commonly occurring workplace topics were expressed in reviews as a function of discrete positive emotions like admiration, gratitude, excitement, and negative emotions like anger, fear, sadness. Rather than being limited to traditional sentiment analysis, which focuses solely on aggregate negative and positive sentiment, we used Receptiviti’s SALLEE Emotions Framework to identify specific emotions expressed within employee reviews. SALLEE not only understands emotion but also considers the context: For example, “not bad” would be flagged as a positive emotion rather than a negative emotion. SALLEE's ability to detect specific emotions based on context and grammatical structure is what differentiates it from typical sentiment analysis tools.

While we didn't conduct an exhaustive analysis of the companies, we've provided some examples of the kinds of insights that this approach generates. Check out the analysis of Cisco Systems below, or take a look at the analyses of American Express and Wegmans Food Markets.

Example Glassdoor Analysis #1

Cisco Systems

What topics are associated with gratitude among Cisco employees?

Results showed that employees conveyed gratitude and satisfaction for the benefits that Cisco offers:

Examples of employee comments expressing gratitude about:

What topics are associated with disgust among Cisco employees?

Employees discussed their disgust and disdain for the lack of work/life balance (WLB) and how, depending on the team, work culture can also be problematic:

What topics elicit digust from Cisco employees?

Examples of employee comments expressing disgust about:

What topics are associated with sadness among Cisco employees?

Employees communicated their disappointment over the difficulties associated with mobility as well as the lack of transparency related to role expectations and layoffs. Employees also discussed their sadness concerning perceived discrimination:

What topics elicit sadness from Cisco employees?

Examples of employee comments expressing sadness about:

Again, these are not exhaustive analyses but simply a small set of examples that demonstrate the kinds of detailed findings that help inform how employees feel about their employer.

Receptiviti offers employers the ability to deeply understand the employee experience from Glassdoor reviews, surveys, and social media by quickly uncovering relevant workplace topics and the specific emotions they're associated with. If you’re looking to better understand your employer brand, Receptiviti makes it easy. Click here to learn more or book a demo.


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