In this third year of CFO’s Tech Companies to Watch, we found a notable shift in the applications being offered by vendors. In every functional area of the companies that made our annual list — process management, recruiting, travel expenses, receivables management, and compliance among them — the goal is unearthing the real story behind the data to make more intelligent decisions.
The entirety of the list appears in the April/May 2019 edition of CFO magazine. We are revealing the first 10 companies on CFO.com, one per day. Our first two tech companies to watch were FortressIQ and Behavox. Today, we cover Completed.com and its review site for business professionals.
Reviewing the Boss
Fast-growing startups face enormous challenges in building out their managerial and supervisory ranks. Where can they find useful and reliable feedback on potential candidates to aid their hiring decisions? For that matter, what’s the best way for established companies to evaluate the performance of existing managers and supervisors?
LinkedIn, of course, allows professionals to highlight their work histories. As such, human resources executives and hiring managers find it valuable. What it lacks is reliable information on job performance. The published “recommendations” of individuals can’t be considered reviews because they are uniformly positive.
Completed.com is a brand-new effort to fill that gap. It functions much more like Yelp than LinkedIn. Instead of rating products and services, reviewers rate the performance of business professionals — most often their bosses, but also peers or subordinates.
To be sure, it’s a fledgling effort. The site was beta tested in 2017 and launched in December 2018, and the volume of reviews so far is understandably modest. The focus has been on seeding it with basic profile information on managers and supervisors, which was mostly acquired from marketing databases.
Visitors to the site can search for people by name and, if the profile of the person they’re looking for doesn’t exist, they can create it. The company expected to have about 50 million profiles on the site by the end of March, according to CEO Michael Zammuto.
Completed.com is currently in pre-revenue stage. “Once we have a significant volume of reviews, we’ll be able to add some pay features,” Zammuto says. “I don’t know when that will be, but my guess is probably not this year.”
The first such features likely would be recruiting tools. For example, a company might pay for a list of the top-rated 5% of programmers in its industry or the most highly rated accounting managers in a certain city.
Of course, review sites share a common problem: people can leave reviews that dishonestly or unrealistically trash or praise the review subject. Any number of motivations drive such behavior — revenge, competitive rivalry, financial gain, or merely the urge to prank.
Completed.com battles that problem with a hybrid approach, using both technology and human screeners. Each review generates a “credibility score.” The score isn’t visible to the public, but the company uses it in deciding whether to publish a review.
The credibility score takes into account dozens of factors, no one of which is a “smoking gun” that automatically disqualifies a review. Site visitors can choose to leave a review anonymously, but that counts against its credibility, as it does when the reviewer claims to work in, say, Iowa, but has a Singapore IP address.
Artificial intelligence-driven sentiment analysis is performed to identify reviews that are negative or positive to an unacceptable degree. Word choices and even grammar are analyzed. A user who has previously posted reviews that were accepted is gauged more credible than one who hasn’t.
Reviews with low credibility scores aren’t routinely rejected. Instead, they are sent on for human review. “We want to offer constructive feedback on business professionals that isn’t excessively kind or excessively personal or cruel,” says Zammuto.
The motivations for people to write valid reviews aren’t brilliantly clear, but the same was true early on for business-oriented review sites like Glassdoor.
Zammuto says, “You have to remember how important a boss is to a job. ‘People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses’ is a famous HR saying. And almost everybody who has a job wishes their boss were better at something.”
The hope is that the site can expand into offering ratings of business professionals’ skills in specific areas. As likely will be the case with the overall site, that might be an unsettling prospect to some managers; and to others, a welcome one.