business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

The best part of my job is that I get constant reminders of how little I really know and a chance to know better. It’s been said that awareness of ignorance is a step toward knowledge, so here I go stepping again.

I’ve been writing a lot about social networking lately and as a middle-aged boomer I know that I’m constantly in danger of being exposed for all I really don’t know. To quote the eminently unquotable Britney Spears, “whoops, I did it again.”

Last week I learned about, a website that every company leader needs to check out instantly. (Okay, wait to finish reading MNB and then check it.) GlassDoor is a logical step in the altered flow of information in today’s world. Now it can change recruiting beyond recognition. First some background:

At the NGA convention in Las Vegas I moderated a panel on promoting the supermarket industry to the next generation. My panel included five students, all of who are studying for careers in the industry. (Sadly, none said retail is their desired destination, but that’s not the point of this article.) As they detailed their paths so far between part-time industry jobs, internships and studies the discussion moved to how they use modern communication to learn about the companies interviewing them.

In my naiveté I assumed the answer would be a cool review of how networks form these days. My expectation was that they cleverly search sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, finding current employees and other links to learn more about a company. As always happens when I assume, I was wrong.

Instead they told me about, a site where the entire process is made far simpler. It’s a site where current employees can easily spread the word about their companies. In many ways, GlassDoor is the Trip Advisor of job hunting, allowing the recruit to learn far more about a company and its management team than ever was possible in the past.

And that alters the recruiting process. We’ve all had jobs or hired people for jobs knowing full well that the rosy picture of joining company XYZ was always less than completely honest. But once on the job, we - or our recruits - found out about some of the strange issues of company culture be it micro-managing bosses or infighting among top management. It was a reality of any job and it’s a reality that’s not going away.

The difference is with GlassDoor those issues are no longer hidden. Just as reviewers at TripAdvisor will easily dish about noisy hotel rooms, GlassDoor lays a company’s issues wide open. In it, employees can offer reviews of the company, rate their satisfaction, provide information on salaries and vote on their CEO. (Here’s a shock: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Tim Cook of Apple get approval scores in the 90% range. The CEO of troubled Kodak was in the 20s.)

Let’s be fair here. The same transparency that lays companies bare to applicants works both ways. Companies can increasingly using social networking to learn about prospective employees, many of who mistakenly leave a trail of messes in their own electronic wake.

In so many ways, we may actually want to embrace this new transparency. As some of the students on the panel explained, their problem with retail jobs they held weren’t the usual suspects: hard working conditions, tough hours and some really dirty jobs. What bothered them more was the lack of honesty in the hiring process. As one young woman explained about a convenience store job she held, she would have taken the job even if she knew the truth. The difference is the surprises she found wouldn’t have been surprises and bad surprises at that.

It’s the age of transparency whether we like it or not. Whatever we do or whatever we sell, the simple reality is we now live in glass houses and offices where the worst response is to throw stones. Instead, we need to improve.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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