Dangers and Opportunities of the Crowdsourced Company

A new form of the Groundswell has appeared. What’s the Groundswell? We define it as a movement where individuals get what they need from each other, rather from existing institutions. The following hits home so hard for me, as I cover Social Computing as an Analyst, and I’m a former enterprise intranet manager.

In this case, employees are starting to collaborate, outside of the corporate firewall to connect, share, and learn from each other, here’s a few examples beyond the traditional Yahoo Finance Chat rooms:

Glassdoor: Rate Employers, CEOs, and find out Industry Salaries
This site launched today, although a few of my colleagues were briefed last week. Essentially, to obtain knowledge about company reviews, CEO reviews, and salary information, you have to first submit your information –all anonymously. This stealth startup, which just launched is being discussed on Techcrunch and on Cnet. I just reviewed my former employer to gain access. Essentially, companies are peer reviewed, and you can find out industry averages to see how well you do or don’t measure up to industry peers.

SalaryScout: Global Peer Salary Data
Although it feels a little less polished than Glassdoor, SalaryScout primarily offers the same peer based salary submission and review. Most interestingly is the global data available, it’s not just US focused. Do check out the map mashup of global salaries. The next step would be to standardize salaries to native currencies so we can compare. Since the technology is easy to grasp and build sites like these, the market winner will come down to aggressive marketing and fast iterative development. (submitted by bdthomas)

Criticat: Review, Advise and Discuss your employer
This startup, much in the same vein as Glassdoor offers a collaborative view into your company: “Do you feel you have a great solution to a problem in your company but not sure if everyone else will agree with you?”. Essentially, collaboration around company brainstorms happens outside the firewall. (thanks to Arjun for the tip)

UserVoice: Innovate with your marketplace

I covered this company a few weeks ago when they launched, essentially a public version of SalesForce’s IdeaExchange, it lets companies innovate (embrace) with customers by letting them submit –then vote– for the features, services, and products they want.

Get Satisfaction: Product Support –but not on your corporate domain

Although mainly satisfying startups with limited resources, and the occasional Comcast, this startup provides customers a universal way to support products, on one site, rather than visiting hundreds. A few savvy companies have started to monitor their brand.

F*ucked Company: Former dot com confession booth
Although currently shut down, it was very active in 2001-2003, this site tracked the many miserable failures of dot coms, and even Enron. Many internal memos were published within hours on this site.

Social Networks: LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook
Of course, it goes without mention that many colleagues are assembling on these social networks, before, during, and afterwork. Some frustrated companies block social networks from their firewalls, while the next generation of workers will simply bypass those shallow walls using mobile devices –the Groundswell is difficult to stop. Instead, brands should lead with policy, embrace, and look for the business opportunities of having a connected workforce.

Dangers and Opportunities of the Crowdsourced Company
The previous examples indicate a trend of what’s happening: The conversations that used to take place at the physical watercooler, has now shifted online, organized, and manifests as something greater. But what are the impacts?

Sometimes false, sometimes inflammatory, and sometimes truthful, yet frustrated sounding information will be posted to these sites from employees, former employees, and customers.

Employees get more control, as their voice will be heard to other colleagues, and in some cases, to the entire internet.

Salaries will be puffed, as professionals will seek to demonstrate how much they are valued, I expect salary data to be inaccurate, and inflated.

Candidates will have more bargaining power during hiring process, as they can view not only third party salary.com, but now look at pan-industry salaries –hiring managers and recruiters will refute.

Employees will seek out the hiring paying next step job, and develop career-pathing to lead to the larger pot of gold

Corporations will flinch, and many will setup policies to prevent employees from posting private information outside of the firewall although many of these internal memos will appear within hours on the very sites they seek to stop.

Dissatisfied and passionate customers will assemble on these third party sites to self-support each other, few companies will realize how they need to follow the conversation.

Some savvy brands will get ahead of this Groundswell, and launch their own tools internally and externally, some will successful centralize –then lead –their market conversation.

What other impacts do you see happening from this new pattern of websites that turn power over to employees and customers?

18 Replies to “Dangers and Opportunities of the Crowdsourced Company”

  1. I guess there’s a sting in the tail for employees who rubbish their own employers publicly-they too will pay the price if the reputation is damaged and the stock price dents or the company cannot attract good people. But, employers too need to take notice that there is no such things as control any more, and manage their relationships with employees with care, respect and a willingness to receive feedback, both positive or not.

  2. Annalie

    Good point. I’m hesitant to make recommendations about my current employer in public forums, it makes sense to first do this in private.

    The difference between influencing and complaining is that influencers can get the corporations to actually make a change –willingly.

    Complainers? well that get cast by the way side, or are dealt with.

  3. Re: Salary info. It’s not so anonymous when there are not that many people at your company or not that many of your position. I can see this working relative to large companies, but then others would be reticent to join.

  4. Jeremiah…do these sites require you to disclose your name? Or could you review current and past employers anonymously?

    Our company launched an intranet forum to discuss ideas, gather feedback, etc. Participation was lukewarm at first, now cooler. I’ve since put together a private group on Facebook for our franchisees and HQ employees to share feedback, submit ideas, comment on suggestions, rant, rave, etc. It seems to be gathering steam. It all happens outside of official channels, albeit with the corporate blessing.

    My June 4 post about the New Employee gets to the fear many companies have. I’d love your feedback.

  5. Many incentive programs (particularly contests) can be gamed in a way where employees get the goods but the company loses out on its primary objective. Web 2.0 has always had a perverse gaming attitude: it pervades linking strategies, spam, companies submitting fake reviews about themselves, etc.

    I blogged about the new payola here:
    connectme.typepad.com/news/2006/02/the_new_payola_.html

    Just like TV shows, this kind of gaming will be focused on what some companies affectionately call ‘cash and prizes’, or salaries and benefits. I think it’s going to be particularly important for companies to see how crowdsourcing affects healthcare administration.

    Also…when Forrester talks to CEO bloggers, how have the attitudes of the legal department changed? Specifically, how do the legal beagles think about comments, and the CEO blogger’s response to said comments? (…especially if the comments come from someone who fancies themselves a whistleblower??)

  6. I think you are on the money, as usual, but your focus is just on the potential for people using such facilities purely for salary gain, the blunt edge of recruitment and retention. Career changing decisions are generally taken at a deeper level, just like most conscious consumer decisions, so it’s actually more about e-Employer Brand Management.

    Let’s be honest, $10k here or £10k there (pre tax) doesn’t make any much difference (and remember salary (certainly in UK reserach) is far less important to GenY than it has been to X or Boomers – although lets see how some economic slow time affects that), however bad recruitment / employee experience (as much as bad customer experience) has the potential of spreading like wild fire and affecting your potential candidates’ perceptions of working for you. You’ll still generate candidates, sure, but if you’re not listening and actively telling your side of the story (as well as ensuring that actually you are a good and / or fair organisation to work for with robust, fair and transparent recruitment processes) then you might just start to find it harder than ever to attract that top talent as word gets out, or at least one strain of your employment truth emerges.

    And that’s the point. As you know, the digital world broadcasts individual truths – so corporates’ have to get their heads around this and ensure that as well as their employment house being in order (the starting point!) that they are listening, ready and willing to tell me their truth.

    What we should hopefully see is a realisation by those now properly tracking the correlation of these things that investing in and maintaining a strong Employer Brand is just as important as all other marketing channels. Rather than just stating “people are our greatest asset” companies may realise that their whole recruitment and retention piece actually becomes intrinsically linked with their overall brand. You have a bad work experience / recruitment process with company X – would you buy their brand or switch to company Y? And when you have such an experience how much more p**sed are you than if you just get bad service / the wrong order / cut off? And there the effect begins in earnest.

  7. Hi Jeremiah,

    Great article – thanks! It is really interesting to see how others are leveraging crowds for a wide range of business and personal uses. But, while services like Glassdoor and SalaryScout have valuable information, they don’t feel truly collaborative to me. They are databases of information that individuals can contribute to and use for their own purposes, not crowdsourcing in a meaningful participatory sense.

    True crowdsourcing models allow users to connect in a more meaningful way – think iStockPhoto, Threadless, or even Flickr. These are sites where users learn from one another and benefit from one another’s experience, talents, and insights – not just raw data. If companies allowed their employees to truly share, in the sense that these leaders are about sharing, they could gain great value, knowledge, and loyalty from their workers.

    We posted a few weeks ago about the power of collaborative creativity: http://blog.crowdspring.com/2008/05/14/the-power-of-imagination/.

    Thoughts?

  8. Excellent article. I agree with Alex. These sites have a greater value than simply boosting salaries or bad mouthing employrs. They provide another source of career information for potential candidates researching companies. For confident employers who engage and listen to these innovative communities, it is a chance to boost their candidate experience and further improve the fit and relevance of candidates that apply to them direcly

  9. Jeremiah – great articla and I’ve just clicked through to some really interesting apps from it. We are applying a type of crowdsourcing to recruitment in a really well defined sector – our model is http://prefio.com. Hopefully of interest to you.

  10. Re: Salary info. It's not so anonymous when there are not that many people at your company or not that many of your position. I can see this working relative to large companies, but then others would be reticent to join.

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