Back in the day (and by that I mean, oh, just a few years ago), employers had a tough time finding out exactly how their staff felt about their jobs.  Sure, there were some tried and true sources of info, such as “overheard at the water cooler” and “got a survey back from HR,” but if you wanted real, unfiltered, honest responses — well, there was nowhere to go.

The internet has changed all that, of course. Want to know what your workers really think? Go online. You’ll learn plenty — in some cases, more than you may be comfortable with. The online world is a wild and wooly place, after all.

But it’s also a fascinating place, an invaluable trove of intel and insights for your company. Yes, some people get all “Fury Road” with their employer reviews, but others offer constructive feedback and still others express joy and gratitude.

As employers, we can learn from all of it. And today, third-party review platforms such as Indeed Company Pages even make it possible to drill into this data in precise detail. Want feedback on specific departments and regions? There’s a dashboard for that.

But how often do employee reviews lead to direct response or change?

At Indeed, my team meets regularly with HR leadership to, ahem, review our reviews. We look for patterns and themes in our reputation and share that information back with the business leaders who can affect change.

Recently I chatted with employer brand leaders at Delta Air Lines, HomeAway, Banfield Pet Hospital and the consulting firm Proactive Talent to get their take. Here’s what they shared.

How online reviews led to training for hiring managers

James Ellis, Podcaster and Lead Employer Brand Consultant, Proactive Talent

We had some instances of that happening back when I was at Groupon. The most obvious was that after getting dinged for "bad interviews" we put together a pretty serious three-hour course for hiring managers to learn how to become better interviewers, solving a number of problems:

1. Ensuring that the hiring manager understood the employer brand and pillars/values and that we weren’t saying/promising things that wouldn't align

2. Giving an opportunity to do some unconscious bias training

3. Helping establish a more holistic process perspective for recruiting, emphasizing that hiring is everyone's job but they need to work together

4. Giving recruiters a call to action when talking to hiring managers who are having issues bringing in quality talent

Improved benefits and an upgraded candidate experience

Tiffany Lee, Global Talent Brand Manager at HomeAway

When we launched our new parental leave (16-20 weeks for everyone) we posted it everywhere. We knew that was one thing people were really hungry for. Same with our 401(k) plan. We now match 3% as long as you contribute 3% (for a total of 6%). Way better than it was.

We regularly share review sentiments for interview reviews and company reviews. We have really changed the way we approach candidate experience based on interview review feedback. Most recruiters are really dedicated to an amazing experience, so they will coach their hiring managers and interview panels to make sure everyone is on the same page as far as goals and success metrics are concerned.

When something shows up in a review, they bring it back to the team to celebrate or to talk about ways to improve.

Using reviews to gain real time insight into the candidate and employee experience

Holland McCue, Head of Global Employer Branding at Delta Air Lines

While reviews on sites have not led to a direct change in action at our company since my joining, they are something we monitor. Employee/candidate-generated reviews are an excellent way for employers to gain real-time insight into the employee/candidate experience from an unprompted source.

One way we are considering using reviews in the future is to inform our campaign strategy for specific roles. For example, if we notice a trend in “work-life balance” as a pro, we would produce creative and share stories highlighting how our organization contributes to that theme.

Boosting understanding of benefits and financial literacy

Allison Dunsmore, Senior Specialist Employer Branding at Banfield Pet Hospital

We recently learned that veterinary students know extremely little when it comes to benefits and financial literacy. Like most health care professionals, veterinarians are entering the workforce in a nontraditional sense, and being that we’re a corporate practice as opposed to smaller, private practices, they often lack knowledge regarding insurance plans, 401(k) investments and how to manage their lofty student debt burdens.

Through our university relationships and on-campus student programs, our 2019 strategy capitalizes on the opportunity to partner with extracurricular school clubs with the goal of sponsoring and educating veterinary students. As the largest veterinary care provider in the world, we also have a responsibility to make sure our current associates feel confident selecting benefits that are right for their whole family and feel comfortable utilizing our available tools and resources.

Bryan Chaney is Director of Employer Brand at Indeed.