What Glassdoor taught one CEO

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By Alex Frommeyer, CEO and Co-founder of Beam Benefits

With nearly 50 million reviews and insights for more than 1 million companies, it’s no wonder that people turn to Glassdoor for a proverbial “peek behind the curtain.” Glassdoor sees an average of 67 million unique visitors to its website and mobile applications every month.

With nearly 50 million reviews and insights for more than 1 million companies, it’s no wonder that people turn to Glassdoor for a proverbial “peek behind the curtain.” Glassdoor sees an average of 67 million unique visitors to its website and mobile applications every month. They estimate that 86% of employees and job seekers research company reviews and ratings before submitting applications. These stats are staggering and point to a workforce that desires an inner look at an organization to ensure that it’s the right fit, even prior to application.

As the CEO and co-founder of Beam Benefits, I fully understand that impressions from Glassdoor can’t be ignored. In the summer of 2021, I noticed a dip in our Glassdoor rating trends from our typical ‘4’s and 5’s’ up to that point. Some of the reviews were startling and not the way I viewed Beam and our culture. While I knew it was unreasonable to believe every single person would have an amazing work experience at Beam, there were some serious allegations of sexism, discrimination, and references to leadership being a ‘boys' club’; it was emotionally shocking. My co-founders and I had gone through everything imaginable to get to a place where we could offer career acceleration opportunities in a supportive culture to hundreds of talented people; was the net result just a sexist boys' club?

At Beam, it’s embedded into our cultural DNA to lean into challenging situations, offer solutions, and collaborate cross-functionally to overcome obstacles. So that’s what I did – I used our cultural principles to take the feedback and embed it into our never-ending process of cultural refinement.

Look past symptoms for the disease

First, I leaned into our cultural tenet: address the ‘disease’ rather than the ‘symptoms.’ I had to uncover what the real issues were and how we could address them.

We launched multiple strategies to identify any concerning trends. We responded to our Glassdoor reviews asking for more context or specifics to be able to action; we launched an HR internal investigation to determine whether there were any systematic issues with unfair practices around compensation, performance reviews, and promotions; and we continued to point the team to our existing anonymous hotline for reports on ethical, moral, or business conduct breaches.

As a data-driven company, it’s important to have data show the trends since isolated data rarely captures the full context. After examining our employee data trends at Beam, we found significant improvements were made in recent years—especially when it came to underrepresented hires and promotions at all levels, particularly in leadership. A qualitative analysis of the Glassdoor reviews also highlighted our need to better evangelize the trends, challenges, successes, and progress we were making as a company, and to share that information at all levels.

The golden gift of (quality) feedback

As I continued to incorporate the learnings from the Glassdoor reviews, I leaned into our cultural tenet: the ‘Golden Gift of Feedback’. I put Glassdoor reviews front and center at our monthly All Hands and continued to ask for constructive feedback and additional context. A trend that became apparent was the more we talked about Glassdoor reviews, the more reviews we received (both positive and negative). While Glassdoor can be a means to shine a light on the good and the bad, the majority of the posts had vague comments with fewer specifics to act on.

Rather than hyperfocus on the Glassdoor reviews, we ultimately centered our attention on actionable feedback. We doubled down on encouraging all Beamers to bring constructive solutions for improvement to the business. We went to work on trends around enhancing our culture, inclusion, and diversity. We provided our DEI board with a discretionary fund to accelerate our investment in education and programming. We revamped our job descriptions to encourage more inclusive applicants through improved accessible postings, developed a framework for DEI metrics for all hires, and began tracking the data in real-time.

Beam now shares company DEI stats quarterly and the team is dedicated to engaging in challenging conversations. We continually keep an eye on our data, trends, and employee feedback to ensure that we’re growing as an inclusive, diverse workplace and fostering an environment where all individuals can thrive. Glassdoor illuminated our deficiency in internal evangelization - we had to adapt to the need to over-communicate efforts and learn how to progress in a predominantly remote environment.

Adaptability is a superpower

Our culture at Beam was tested in the move to remote work, and some of the Glassdoor reviews reflected our growing pains. Prior to 2020, while Beam supported a hybrid work environment, the vast majority of our culture was cultivated in-person. The move to fully remote was jarring for some. As if learning how to work and grow in a remote-first environment was not enough of a challenge, employees were dealing with COVID, homeschooling their children, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other life-altering events. Then 2021 brought forth the Great Resignation, where salary inflation and employees choosing to quit, change careers, or go back to school dominated the headlines.

Those situations are challenging enough, but add in a growth environment startup and your work becomes that much more complicated. A growth company can be chaotic and ever-changing. This type of environment is not for everyone, which is why Beam has built its culture around GRITT (Growth, Resilience, Initiative, Tenacity, and Team first). We diligently seek to add Beamers who know and understand that adaptability is a superpower.

As long as Beam seeks to innovate, grow, and transform our industry, we expect to hit turbulence frequently. When a plane hits turbulence, the pilot acts quickly to find smoother air; in this way, the culture of flying allows for deviations to the route and flight plan, but the final outcome stays the same–a safe landing. Whatever “turbulence” may come our way at Beam, we know: stagnant cultures atrophy; healthy cultures adapt and are ever-changing.

Our culture at Beam continues to evolve and grow. We offer a supportive environment with high-impact roles where Beamers bring their authentic selves to work. Together, our team continues to build valuable services and solve problems for customers, all at a company with an ambitious vision for the future - this attracts the very best!

Parting lessons learned

As leaders, it’s critical to articulate your cultural principles often, set proper expectations, listen to all feedback, and ensure everyone in the company is accountable for solving problems together. As CEO, you are responsible for maximizing the chance of survival and opportunity for growth for your business. My biggest learning surrounding Glassdoor was to not take reviews so personally. There are countless emotionally charged topics everyone is exposed to every day. The best way to approach these topics is to collect data and apply first principles thinking - break the issue down to its simplest parts and then reassemble from there. It’s important to be objective and approach the issue egoless, with empathy, and an eye towards improvement–stay adaptable!

For employees, continue to be picky! Find a place where you will thrive and build honest, open communications - especially with your manager. Employees deserve to be seen and heard and should be comfortable sharing how they truly think and feel. In exchange, your company should treat you like an adult and foster a performance culture where your output reflects your passion.

At Beam, every single Beamer is a cultural contributor which is not only about being a problem-seer but also being a problem-solver. We are an imperfect organization, but we’re always making progress because we have employees who demand (and deserve!) the best. When employees are thriving and able to do meaningful work, the company is successful. And that’s what founders really want: to build something that changes their employees' lives for the better and makes an indelible mark on their industry.

- Fro