negative-reviews-culture

How to Use Negative Reviews to Improve Your Culture

At HubSpot, we are incredibly fortunate. We published a Culture Code that went viral, obsess over our culture as we scale and grow, and invest an inordinate amount of time and effort creating a remarkable employee experience. So you might think every single one of our Glassdoor reviews is filled with unicorns and rainbows. Alas, that’s not the case.

Like any company, we get reviews on both our candidate and employee experience that are negative in nature. The tone and candor vary widely, and range from a former employee who worked at HubSpot years ago complaining about his manager to a candidate interviewing last week whose interactions with our team were sub-optimal. While I never enjoy seeing a negative review on anything related to HubSpot, I do believe that negative reviews can be a huge opportunity to improve your company’s culture.

Here are three ways to use negative reviews to your advantage as an organization:

1. To make your employment brand more human: Nobody’s job is perfect. Nobody’s company is either. One of the benefits of Glassdoor is that candidates can read real feedback about what your organization is like for employees, past and present. Often, the biggest misfires on hiring are caused by a gap between expectation and reality. Reviews that include negative feedback can help close that gap long before an accepted offer and help prospective employees get a better sense for areas in which your company is unwavering and strong and areas where your company is still working to improve. Your employment brand is human by nature; the occasional reminder to your company and your candidates is a helpful reminder that no place or position is 100% perfect.

2. To provide actionable feedback on ways you can improve: Some negative reviews are vague in nature, but others provide really valuable insights into employee experiences you may not see or hear on a regular basis. For example, humility is a core value at HubSpot, and one thing we saw in a few negative reviews was that it felt that we were getting a bit too self-congratulatory in our overall approach internally. Our team combined that feedback with direct discussions from employees on our engineering team to design a Failure Forum specifically created to focus on mistakes we have made individually and collectively and what we can learn from them. The result? Better clarity on how we can avoid hubris as a force in our company as it grows and a concrete plan of action to help us improve.

3. To start a conversation: Responding to negative reviews with humility and honesty has helped spark some great conversations with employees and candidates on and offline for our team. We’ve received notes from candidates thanking us for taking the time to follow up, held meetings with employees who after a Glassdoor response wanted to meet in person to share their experience, and even had employees raise their hands to say they disagreed with negative views represented in a given post or posts and wanted to talk about how we could share a different perspective.

When someone says something negative about your company and shares it with the world, the natural reaction is to dismiss it or to brush it off as nonsense. But for as many times as I’ve been frustrated at the inaccuracy of a review or a deeply negative write-up after a string of positive ones, less-than-glowing feedback from candidates and employees has helped us improve as a business. Feedback in all its forms helps show your humanity as a business and a brand, presents actionable ideas you can leverage to improve, and ultimately creates opportunities to spark a conversation internally and externally about what is working at your company and what isn’t. So instead of ducking and covering next time a review rolls in, tackle it head on to use it to your advantage.

So next time you get a one star review or see a negative headline, don’t cringe or cry. Instead focus your energy and your company on what constructive feedback can do for your employees, your candidates, your processes, and your business if you listen to the parts that ring true and make real changes to your organization accordingly.