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#SHRM11: Glassdoor.com’s Robert Hohman on the power of transparency

This week, I attended the Society for Human Resource Management‘s annual conference, where I was able to meet with Robert Hohman, co-founder and CEO of Glassdoor.com. Not surprisingly, for the leader of a company that has its business model staked on sharing the best and worst sides of employers, the conversation frequently turns to transparency. Among the highlights of our chat:

  • Transparency transforms industries. Hohman, who previously served as president of Hotwire and as part of the team that took Expedia public, said many people originally thought the appeal of online travel services was related to the efficiency of e-commerce. Instead, it turned out people were attracted to their transparency. The idea behind Glassdoor is to apply that same openness to information about the workplace, where stakes are much higher for making a poor choice than, say, buying a book or a vacation.
  • Transparency strengthens teams. Salaries should be determined such that if a printout were left out for everyone to see, management would be able to look everyone in the eye and explain the reason people earn what they do, Hohman said. However, that doesn’t mean everyone earns the same — “I don’t believe in salary equality.”
  • The employment space is overdue for dramatic improvement. “There hasn’t been a lot of innovation since Monster took the job board online,” Hohman said. Areas that interest him most: socialization of the job-search process as well as improvement via better information retrieval. Right now, “job searching has bad, bad IR,” he said, contrasting it with the reliability of basic Google searches.