How Glassdoor can be the Xray into which bones of your company are healthy... and which may be broken

X-Rays don’t lie, well at least the ones not doctored in today's world of augmented everything. I’ll admit that it is hard to believe everything you see and read, especially when it promulgates a false narrative about someone, or in this case something, like a company that thinks it’s doing a great job, but may not be.  is like an employee satisfaction X-ray. It helps companies across the globe see how healthy the bones of their organization are. Most employees are, at least in the digital services industry, often invisible to the naked eye, but they are the skeleton and the frame upon which your success and health as a company is built. Shedding an X-ray light into what employees are thinking just under the skin of their Monday morning smiles and pre-covid watercooler banter lets you know how your “bones'' are “feeling.” 

Glassdoor  is the world's leading employer review site for job seekers looking for real “behind the curtain” opinions into the companies where they’re considering work. It provides members free, insightful (and often scathing) ‘Yelp like’ reviews and ratings based on a five star scale written by current and former employees. To ensure the reviews are from legitimate sources, Glassdoor has created a methodology that pairs leading AI, with live person screening of submitted reviews to further verify their source and authenticity. This process is extremely stringent and rejects over 20% of reviews submitted. And when a review is made, employers can’t remove them. These reviews can be pretty powerful  that  keep any HR team or CEO on their toes. 

I am one of those CEO’s. 

Glassdoor was founded in 2008 in Mill Valley, CA during a brainstorm between Expedia founder Rich Barton and one of his star engineers (and renowned World of Warcraft player) Robert Hohman. The idea was the unexpected fruit of a simple and innocent mistake by Holman who had left a confidential Expedia employee survey in the shared office printer. Yes. The printer. I do have to wonder how many great ideas have been relegated to the shredder because only the offense was identified, and not the opportunity. But I digress. 

This innocent enough error revealed to the founders that the information, if it had been leaked to the press, could have had a serious impact on their business. And so with that, Glassdoor was born. Although the results of the Expedia survey were never revealed as to whether or not they were positive or negative, the realisation that an unedited review by employees of their workplace, down to the employee opinion of the CEO, was a powerful collection of information that could be acted on. 

And that’s my point here. You can talk outwardly until you are blue in the face about how great you think your employees view your company, but your opinion really doesn't hold water if the people who matter most in forming that opinion, your employees, disagree. So when Zemoga, a midsize Digital Business Consultancy founded by me in 1992 started getting some flack on Glassdoor back in 2012,my ears perked up to say the least. 

Quick backstory. Zemoga went through a substantial transition around 2012. Business was tough. The office environment was toxic and some senior staff started making moves that just didn't work for the business as a whole.  The way some of that was perceived by staff, and the way I was perceived as a leader, hit hard. I’ll be honest, the negative reviews (still on Glassdoor)  from a few former staff pissed me off. How dare they say we “lost focus!” Well, we did. I did for reasons too numerous and personal to explain here. But they were right and I knew it, and I was pretty sure I knew who wrote the reviews. I’ve never thanked them,but with this musing you’re reading, I think  I finally am.

When something like that happens, a company can either try and weed out the purveyor of the venom, seek to sweep it under the rug, ignore it completely, or take an honest look at themselves and what would have caused it in the first place.

That’s what I decided to do, findit and fix it. 

I poured my attention into making sure the mantra I had from the start, “Build a company I would want to work at. Be the CEO I would want to work for” was still my driving force. I increased investment in HR initiatives, making sure my people knew they came first. Because they do and they should. In the services space, your greatest asset is your people, they are your gold and deserve to be treated as such. I shored up my incredibly dedicated and talented management team who easily could have left for brighter, more lucrative skies when things looked bleak. I carved 20% of the business out for them, provided executive coaching, training and perks unheard of in the industry. 

But the most important lesson I learned from this experience was I let these people down and I owed it to the ones who believed we could pull out of the funk. And there were plenty out there who were convinced we would not survive those dark days. I hope they are reading this. 

You see, 20 years ago Zemoga was the first company to do what now over 4,000 companies in Colombia do.  We service top US brands with digital design and engineering services through a nearshore delivery model we pioneered from Colombia. Zemoga was THE test case that spawned what is now a huge part of the Colombian services economy (almost 60% of 2020’s GDP) and we would not go down without a fight. And fight we did.

The pandemic was the greatest test for me and the decisions I had made post my 2012 Glassdoor thrashing. I had a word with myself, my team had spent the 3 years prior to the start of our modern plague working with me to pivot the business to focus on Full Delivery from Colombia. We went from 70 US based “middlemen” in 2015 to 2 in 2020, moving the responsibility, and most importantly, the “ownership of effort” to Colombia. Today, Zemoga has over 350 “Zemogians” in 5 offices throughout Colombia. The smartest move I ever made in business. You see, by allowing a talented group of Colombians to not be thought of as order takers, but rather the head and heart of the organization, translated into a sense of responsibility and dedication that is second to no other company in our space.

There might be a gringo from New Jersey at the helm of a US C Corp, but Zemoga is a Colombian company at the heart, run by the most talented people in the space, who just all happen to be Colombian. They over deliver and never let our clients, or their co-workers down, because they have a sense of responsibility and loyalty that only comes with ownership. Real ownership. Of project, of business and of self. 

In many regards it was the unfiltered insight from Glassdoor that helped drive my epiphany to change. This enlightenment into what my employees voiced their frustration about motivated me to make real changes to address those concerns. It did not happen overnight. It took a bit of time and investment to turn my little battleship in the bathtub. The management team worked hard with me to  phase out our US staff and their responsibilities, allowing for their full transfer to Colombian staff. No other company had done this before. 

In an outsourced services delivery model there has always traditionally been a US based “middleman” for delivery of creative materials, technology, and client management. This unnecessary layer, more often than not, creates a bottleneck in communications for many reasons. Communication is paramount in the delivery of design and technology, especially creative work, which is so subjective. It also alienates the people who are actually doing the work, but not receiving feedback directly from clients, both good and bad.  It inevitably becomes an expensive game of telephone, and we all know how that story ends.

This is no longer Zemoga’s story.. My team helped drive the messaging to our clients that the results of this pivot would translate into better outcomes for their business. And did it ever. We continued to win business because our focus, no longer lost, was about what I knew would resonate with both my clients AND my team. We’ve grown 300% since those dark days and I could not be more proud of my team. I can’t credit Glassdoor for all the motivation to make change, but as my Inwood, NY bred mother would say when I faltered, was broken, or lost focus,”Honey, all you need is a swift kick in the ass!”

Today, Zemoga is by far the highest rated company in our space on Glassdoor, sporting a 4.9 star rating, a 99% “Recommend to a Friend” approval and, awe shucks, a 100% CEO Approval Rating! 

Needless to say, Glassdoor helps you find what's broken by providing that swift kick. 

It’s up to you to fix it.

About the author

DJ is CEO & Founder of Zemoga. He has worked in the digital design and production space for over 30 years specializing in developing customer engagement strategies & building teams and technologies that provide groundbreaking solutions for F500 Co's.