TechRepublic’s Karen Roby spoke with Christian Sutherland-Wong, CEO of Glassdoor, about his company’s acquisition of Fishbowl. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Christian Sutherland-Wong: We’re excited to announce the acquisition of Fishbowl, which is a fast-growing social network for working professionals, where people can come and have real candid and meaningful conversations with other professionals. These are people who could be your colleagues or people in the same industry as you.

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The heart of what Fishbowl does is it creates workplace transparency, get those questions you wanted to answered and what’s going on in your company, or what’s going on in other companies. And this has been the heart and core of what we do at Glassdoor for over a decade now. And so with this acquisition, we’re excited to be writing the next chapter in workplace transparency.

Karen Roby: And how did it come about, Christian? Why Fishbowl? What were the reasons that it just made sense?

Christian Sutherland-Wong: First of all, we’re always on the lookout for really interesting apps that are out there. And so we’re looking across the market and Fishbowl came onto our radar a couple of years ago. And I was really impressed when I got to meet the team and the founders, Matt [Subulli] and Loren [Appin], how aligned our missions were of what we wanted to do in the world, and how aligned our values were on creating candid and constructive opportunities for people to connect together and talk about workplace topics.

And then when we saw with COVID that the whole world changed, and we all started working from home all of a sudden, and there’s this lack of connectivity between people. And we asked people, and more than half of people talk about feeling isolated during COVID.

What Fishbowl saw was they saw a massive increase in users, 3X increase in people coming to Fishbowl. Now more than a million people are using the Fishbowl app, and they’re getting the connectivity through the app. And that’s what excited us and why now felt like the right time.

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Karen Roby: When we look at the bigger picture, Christian, at, let’s say first from the perspective of an employee, just an average employee out there, let’s just say in the United States. When you look at their experience as a whole over the last, let’s call it 18 months. How has it been? I know you mentioned some of them feeling isolated, probably a lot, actually with people at home. But COVID has really changed us. It’s really changed the way we think about things and we approach work, and pretty much everything.

Christian Sutherland-Wong: You’re right. I mean, I think a lot of the changes we’ve seen in COVID are not going to change even after COVID is behind us. In the same survey, we learned that almost half of workers expect to be remote in some form post pandemic. So that could be a hybrid situation, or it could be permanently out of the office. And that’s a massive change for how the world of work worked prior to COVID.

And so again, what we expect is that with this, there’s going to be this whole new need at a whole new level for connectivity with people in your workplace when you’re not physically together. And there’s going to be a need for resources. How do you get your questions answered when you’re not coming in the office, or when you’re not physically in the same location of people in your industry? You’re in these new locations where you may not have a lot of connectivity with people who work in the same types of places.

And so it really just elevates the value of the Glassdoor platform in answering job seekers and employees’ questions. And also the power of bringing Glassdoor and Fishbowl together.

Karen Roby: How has, let’s just say COVID now and again, back, call it 18 months ago. Some days it feels like it was yesterday when the shutdown started, other days I feel like it’s been six years.

Christian Sutherland-Wong: Totally.

Karen Roby: It’s all kind of running together now. But from an employer’s perspective, too, what are you seeing from their end?

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Christian Sutherland-Wong: One of the most powerful things of the way Glassdoor works is not only do we create this great value for job seekers and for employees, but we can then package this information and pass it to employers and to really identify what their employees think.

Christian Sutherland-Wong: Now one thing we learned very early in the pandemic was that employers who put the health and wellbeing of their workers first got great reviews, got great ratings. And every year we create a list of the best places to work. And this year was really dominated by employers who are very forward-thinking in putting the health and wellbeing of their workers first.

Now, the other thing that I think employers are seeing on our platform right now and just seeing across the job market, is this massive desire to hire workers. And yet still, in many industries, workers are slow to come back. But we are seeing on our platform, it is increasing over time, that more and more we’re seeing more activity of people wanting to switch jobs and this great resignation is actually happening as we speak. And we expect this to continue for a little while longer.

And then the last thing is, I think everyone still has no idea really when we’re getting back in the office. Many just thought was kind of over a few months ago and then things changed. And so we’re still in a position where the virus is still very much in the driver’s seat.

Karen Roby: Yeah, it certainly is. Unfortunately, we didn’t think we’d still be in this position. That is for sure, Christian. When you look ahead, let’s say, and again, we don’t have a crystal ball so we don’t know when this is going to be in the rear-view mirror, but things have changed so much and we’re evolving in different ways now than we ever thought that we would in the job market and everything else.

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So when you look down the line and now with Fishbowl being together here, what will an experience for an employee, a worker who’s maybe looking to change jobs or looking for information or connection. I mean, give us a little idea of what this looks like for them, navigating this now that you guys are in this new position here.

Christian Sutherland-Wong: One of the great things we’re announcing, in addition to the announcement of the acquisition and that our companies are coming together, we’ve also launched a set of integrations that start to bring the power of what you can do on Fishbowl and what you can do on Glassdoor into the one place.

One of the core and premier pieces of Glassdoor today, the experience, is that people come to the company pages on Glassdoor to do their research on companies, like what’s that company rated or what’s the reviews of that company. So now they can see not just the ratings and reviews from the Glassdoor platform, but we’re also bringing Fishbowl content into these pages. Where we’re getting, what are employees at that company saying about that company on Fishbowl and bring those conversations on to our platform.

And this is just part this vision of the way people will find information in the future, we think there’s going to be a role for the structured content of what you get on Glassdoor of ratings, reviews and salary information.

There’s also this massive opportunity to create workplace transparency. If we can tap into conversations, or if a person can just go into a community and ask their question and get somebody who’s an expert or somebody who really understands that, whether that be an existing employee or a former employee, and can ask their question. It’s just so powerful for how you can help job seekers and employers alike out in driving workplace transparency.

Karen Roby: And the idea of things being transparent. I mean, years ago that wasn’t an option for people. I mean, companies could hide whatever they wanted to hide. And if you were lucky enough to know somebody who knew someone’s cousin that worked there, you might get some information. But now it’s all out there for people, or it can be.

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Do you think that companies in general are really starting to embrace and understand being transparent and following up on things and making sure you’re watching how you treat your employees and follow up, that that will have such an impact on who you can and can’t hire in the future.

Christian Sutherland-Wong: Absolutely. And that’s been the experience of Glassdoor in the last 13 years. Since we’ve been around. When Glassdoor was first launched, it was bringing new transparency to places that have never been transparent before. And it was a shock for a lot of companies: How do you deal with this? But over the course of time, the best companies have learned that the best strategy is to engage with a platform like Glassdoor. Because you know that end of the day, this is where people are going to get their information.

And the same thing is happening on Fishbowl. And we’re already seeing, even in the Fishbowl community, the best employees are engaging with the Fishbowl community and finding great value out of the conversations that are happening in their private company bowls, where it’s just verified employees. Or even going, tapping into the broader industry conversations, which can be great, not only to learn what perceptions are about you, but also for you to craft your employer brand and recruit great talent.

I think it’s played out pretty well within the Glassdoor platform. We expect it to continue to play out also as Fishbowl grows as well.

Karen Roby: All right, Christian, let me ask you before I let you go here. When you look at the population of people that tend to come into Glassdoor and engage and will with Fishbowl as well, is that audience, those employees, do they tend to be mainly just the younger ones? Or do you think people that have been in the workforce for 20 plus years are they realizing, “No, no, no. I need to be part of this. And this is a place for me as well.”

Christian Sutherland-Wong: We’ve been around a while, and people forget, we’ve been around for 13 years. And so we’ve grown up with many of our users. And so when we look at our demographic audience today, it really represents the entire workforce. So it’s not just young workers that’s here, it’s mature-age workers as well. Similar demographics by gender, by ethnicity, as well.

It is a pretty good mix, and I expect the same to happen on Fishbowl. I think these conversations are relevant for everybody. I think for any worker, they want to know what’s going on in their workplace. If they’re looking for a new job, they want to be able to get the right information on what’s it like to work at another company and get that inside group. So, I think Glassdoor and Fishbowl are relevant for all.

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