We had the opportunity to interview Tim Besse, co-founder of Glassdoor.com, which is not only based on transparency, but also offers transparency as an online free service.

Transparency is one of our core values at Nearsoft Inc, and it is part of our [email protected] model. This is also a value shared by our our fellow honorees Glassdoor.com and the others in Worldblu’s list of Most Democratic Workplaces 2009.

Nearsoft: What is Glassdoor and how does it make a difference?

Tim Besse: Glassdoor.com is a career and workplace community where anyone can find and anonymously share real-time reviews, ratings and salary details about specific jobs or interview for specific employers—for free.  Think of it as the TripAdvisor or Yelp of jobs and workplaces that uses employee or job candidate-generated content to provide a free inside look at companies from those who know best.

No other online resource provides this level of salary detail at the job and company level for free.  And, Glassdoor offers significantly more qualitative information about what it’s like to work or interview at a company directly from employees.  We include ratings across key factors, including compensation, benefits, company culture, career advancement opportunities, communication from management, employee morale, recognition and feedback, senior leadership competence, CEO approval rating, and work-life balance, among others.

Nearsoft: What motivated the creation of Glassdoor? When did the company start?

TB: Glassdoor launched its beta version in June 2008. The specific idea for Glassdoor emerged from conversation between Rich Barton, CEO of Zillow and Robert Hohman, CEO of Glassdoor, after Rich had a “near miss” by printing the company employee survey to the wrong printer.  He called Robert and they discussed whether this would have been a “bad thing.”  Information about salaries and survey data remains mostly opaque and even talking about compensation in many circles remains taboo.  In today’s world, we wonder why it’s so hard to find this type of information and, quite simply, we want to make it easier.  Glassdoor was born to deliver greater transparency to another critical area of our life–our work–to help people make better choices about their career.  

Nearsoft: What are the benefits that Glassdoor offers to the employees and employers?

TB: Glassdoor is working to bring more transparency to the workplace to help people make critical choices about their career and/or company.

Specifically, employee benefits include:

  • Job-specific salary/compensation information by location.  Glassdoor provides insights into salary, bonuses, commissions and more for actual positions that can be filtered by location. For example, users can see exactly what a software engineer at Google makes in the Bay Area and compare it to a QA engineer at Yahoo!. In addition, users can get a sense of total pay by position, including bonus and other compensation.
  • Detailed company reviews.  See what other employees really think with reviews that hit on the good, the bad, and a lot more in between.  Glassdoor encourages constructive feedback in company reviews and asks respondents to provide “pros,” “cons” along with “advice to senior management.” Once registered, members have the ability to sort reviews by date and helpfulness, as well as the ability to search all reviews based on location, job title, or keyword.
  • Interview questions and reviews.  The newest addition to Glassdoor helps job seekers better prepare for their interviews by giving them an inside look at the process and hiring details for each company – how long did it take, what did it involve, and even what questions were asked.
  • International relevance and reach.  Learn about companies and jobs around the world, including job-specific salary details in the local currency for more than 100 countries.

Nearsoft: What are the benefits for employers?

  • Free, real-time feedback.  Supplement costly annual surveys with Glassdoor’s real-time look at what employees and job candidates really think. This can help quickly identify and exploit areas of strength and address areas in need of improvement. Glassdoor reviews are designed to be constructive, offering actionable advice for senior management and great perspective on the inner workings of a company.
  • Free competitive analysis.  Glassdoor let’s employers and recruiters instantly see how a company’s compensation and ratings stack up against the competition. This provides valuable information to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions and focus on the differentiators that matter most to employees and recruits.
  • Highlight strengths.  Glassdoor introduces more in-depth unedited accounts from employees regarding what the company does well, much like the people’s choice of employer awards. This provides another valuable tool to help companies recruit and retain top talent.

Nearsoft: What are the steps that employers can follow to get feedback from their employees?

TB: Currently, we offer an employer account that gives official company representatives unlimited access to reviews and salary data for their companies. As part of the account, an employer representative will receive a “company representative” badge with the ability to review and comment on employee reviews. However during this initial beta period, we do not have interactive features for employers but expect to add these in the future. We’re working with our Industry Advisory Panel and have also initiated an Employer Advisory Panel to solicit suggestions and feedback from employers so we create the most useful tools.

Nearsoft: Why is Glasdoor a Democratic Workplace? Is it because of the services it offers? To the way it operates? Or both?

TB: In order for us to be successful at creating a positive and constructive career & workplace community, we have to practice what we preach internally. In other words to create a democratic and transparent online work community we strive to maintain the same elements in our own work environment. We find that we can only be useful and beneficial to others, if we take the time to recognize and understand what makes for a favorable work environment based on own experiences as employees and colleagues. We know we are effective when we feel a tremendous bond with our co-workers and our community.

Nearsoft: Is transparency also part of the company values? Can you give me an example?

TB: Absolutely. It’s one of the core building blocks for our company. As an example of an internal practice at Glassdoor, we have quarterly board meetings with our investors – after each one we have a company meeting to review the exact same information we shared with the Board – literally the same board  deck – both to get their input as well as share any feedback we received from the Board.  This typically includes everything from short and long-term roadmap, operational metrics, finances, hiring plans, etc.

Nearsoft: What has been the reaction of the community users towards Glassdoor.com?

TB: There has been a tremendous amount of support and engagement from the Glassdoor community.  We have seen a 75 fold increase in the amount of reviews submitted by employees and job candidates across the world since our beta launch in June 2008. At the time of launch, we had approximately 3,000 reviews for 100 companies primarily in the US, and today we have more than 225, 000 reviews for 26,000 companies in 100 countries. This growth underscores the hunger people have for the information available at Glassdoor.com.

Nearsoft: What kind of impact have you experienced due to democratic practices at work?

TB: I am inspired all the time by the feedback and community engagement within the site. It’s a really exciting time for Glassdoor and feel fortunate to have the opportunity to help other people make more informed decisions that impact the workplace and their careers, and learn about what other tools and resources we can offer. Once we opened up the discussion about what elements make for a democractic workplace environment, we have had the great fortune to not only hear back from colleagues, friends and employees globally, but we have had a chance to interact with students, librarians, corporations, career service professionals and so on.  

Nearsoft: Is there a challenge that you have overcome using a democratic approach?

TB: Whenever we have a challenge or problem we remind ourselves of our mission and our guiding principles. Glassdoor’s mission is to become the world’s most trusted source for helping people make informed decisions about their work. No matter if the problem is big or small, we revisit: what we want to achieve, where we want to go and what principles will guide us on that journey.  It’s a collaborative process – so people have ownership and feel engaged as an individual and as part of a team.

Nearsoft: Is there something in particular that you would like to add to our conversation?

TB: Yes, It shouldn’t be so hard to find out information about one of the most important areas of our lives–our career.

About Glassdoor

To find out more about what’s happening at Glassdoor, visit their Learn More page.