MONTREAL - What's it like to work at struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry, one of Canada's big banks or scandal-ridden engineering firm SNC-Lavalin?
So far in this year, BlackBerry staff have given their CEO Thorsten Heins an 84 per cent approval rating and the company's rating stands at 3.6 out of five on the website Glassdoor, a job and career site where employees anonymously dish on the pros and cons of their companies and bosses.
"It's peeling back all of the layers on a lot of things in the workplace that used to be taboo, and it's all according to the employees," said Glassdoor spokesman Scott Dobroski.
Employees can disclose salaries, how a company conducts job interviews, the company's recreation activities, workplace photos and in some cases even talk about what the bathroom is like, Dobroski said from Sausalito, Calif.
Glassdoor recently came out with the 50 highest rated CEOs for 2013, based on employee reviews, and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg came out on top.
Zuckerberg scored a 99 per cent approval rating from Facebook employees, up 14 percentage points from 2012 despite turbulence surrounding the social media site when it became publicly traded, Dobroski said.
No Canadian CEO made the top 50 list, but the California company has expanded content for its north of the border audience with about 8,000 Canadian companies, government agencies and universities and colleges reviewed by employees.
CEO Steve Williams of Suncor (TSX:SU) scored the highest of any Canadian chief executive with a 96 per cent approval rating from the Calgary company's employees. Suncor got a 3.5 rating out of five.
Glassdoor verifies email addresses and screens content for accuracy, Dobroski said. Workplace and CEO comments can't only be negative, he added.
"About 15 to 20 per cent of the content that is submitted to Glassdoor is actually rejected because it either doesn't meet our community guidelines or it appears suspicious."
McGill University associate professor Lisa Cohen said job review websites provide useful information to prospective employees, especially when it comes to salaries and corporate culture.
The information is also potentially valuable for a company's human resources staff, she said.
"This is a read on how well you're doing," said Cohen, who teaches organizational behaviour at McGill's Desautels Faculty of Management.
"I think another thing this website shows us is that nothing is a secret," she said.
Cohen noted the web is full of sites that rate everyone from teachers to doctors to dentists.
An employee at Waterloo, Ont., based BlackBerry (TSX:BB) recently said the upside of working there was: "Cutting edge technology, rapid learning environment, smart people.
But another employee said the downside was: BlackBerry is "going down, going down, going down, going down..... cellphone market is so cruel to every competitor, be aware of your choice."
BlackBerry launched its new Z10 touchscreen smartphone this year, but has been struggling to hold on to marketshare.
Former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis had an overall approval rating of 36 per cent in 2011 and the company had a 3.1 rating, according to employees.
CEO Gerry McCaughey of CIBC (TSX:CM) scored just a 54 per cent approval rating from the big bank's employees, but CIBC got a three out of five rating.
Meanwhile, an employee at SNC-Lavalin said it's a "great company, revitalized with new management that is desperately trying to pitch itself."
Former SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime was relieved of his duties in March 2012 and is facing fraud charges stemming from a contract involving the building of the multibillion-dollar McGill University Health Centre in Montreal.
But employee advice to senior management was: "Over reaction to the corruption scandal has turned to over-correction."
Dobroski said the average CEO approval rating in Canada is 70 per cent, compared with 69 per cent in the United Kingdom and 66 per cent in the United States.
Dobroski said the Canadian companies with the most content on Glassdoor were Ontario Power Generation, City of Toronto and the University of Toronto.
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