Ghosting: a term for disappearing or going missing in action without any explanation. You’ve probably heard it in the realms of the online dating world, where a romantic interest would cease all communication after a few dates. But it seems like it’s starting to creep into the professional space. As Fast Company previously reported, professional ghosting can mean anything from neglecting emails to not paying an invoice (and avoiding all contact with the contractor).
Workers are supposedly bringing the same etiquette (or lack thereof) they use on dates into the world of work, according to NPR. They don’t bother to give a resignation notice and are opting to skip on jobs without a text or email. The practice is so pervasive that “ghosting” appears in the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Beige Book Report as an employment trend.
Ghosting has also become a routine part of recruiting. According to a survey conducted by market insight firm Clutch, almost half of job seekers feel it’s reasonable to ghost a potential employer. This trend is derailing the hiring process. In an attempt to get things back on track, recruiters are lining up twice as many applicants in anticipation of no-shows and being ghosted partway through the process.
What’s behind the growing popularity of this new practice? Is it a shift in power dynamics due to tight labor markets? Millennial malaise? A generation of digital natives embracing the culture of now? Whatever the reason, rather than focus on why employees ghost, employers should focus on what they can do to keep employees from pulling a disappearing act. Here are a few strategies I’ve learned.
Start things off on the right foot
First impressions count. In most cases, the hiring process is the first experience prospective employees have with your company. And if the process is chaotic, it can turn candidates off (just like a disastrous first date).
A quick call or email to update candidates on where things are at can go a long way to keep them engaged and in the running. It can also protect your company’s reputation, and word spreads fast when a company notoriously leaves potential candidates hanging. Besides, failing to keep applicants in the loop will come back to haunt you. According to the Clutch survey, nearly a quarter of candidates say they ghost when a company goes silent. Clear communication–especially during the early stages–is essential.
Pay attention to your onboarding process
That good first impression should extend beyond recruiting and hiring. SHRM reported that up to 20% of turnover happens within the first 45 days of starting on a new job, and this is often due to a bad onboarding experience. If you want your new hires to stay for the long-haul, you need to have a structured and well thought-out onboarding plan.
A thoughtfully designed onboarding program transforms onboarding from a finite experience into a continuous learning experience. Delivering relevant information promptly to get new hires up and running can mean the difference between employees loving your company or leaving it.
Invest in your employees
When the learning stops, so does the loyalty. An IBM study found that employees are 12 times more likely to quit when they feel like they aren’t developing in a company.
Employee development is one of the smartest investments a company can make. The proof is in the numbers: The average U.S. employer spends about $4,000 and 24 days to hire a new worker. In contrast, companies that invests in employee development spend on average $1,296 and 34.1 hours per employee on learning, according to a research report.
When you keep the learning and development going, you challenge employees, foster engagement and loyalty and, ultimately drive growth (instead of driving employees away).
Think beyond salaries
According to a recent survey, nearly half of millennials would choose meaningful work over a $9,000 pay raise. Increasingly, factors like work-life balance, recognition, and being challenged are trumping pay. They also happen to be some of the most common reasons for quitting. Fortunately, as leaders, most of these factors are within our control.
For example, perks like flex hours or the ability to work from home can help employees strike a better balance, not to mention increase productivity and reduce turnover. You can also make sure to give recognition when it’s due. Small but meaningful gestures–like a shout out at a team meeting or a gift card) let employees know you value their contribution to the company. Gestures like those go a long way to keep them motivated and engaged.
If you build it, they will come (and, more importantly, they will stay)
Over the course of my 20+ year career as a leader, I’ve learned that employees don’t choose companies. Instead, they choose cultures–the combination of your mission, values and work environment. The culture you build, as well as your ability to communicate it frequently and consistently, can be a deciding factor for whether employees stay or go.
Employees are more satisfied when their personal values align with the company’s. And, you know what’s great about happy employees? They don’t ghost. Now, that’s not to say the satisfied employees won’t ever leave. They may find new opportunities that are just too good to pass up. But when those opportunities arise, you won’t be blindsided, because they’ll show you the same respect you’ve shown them throughout their time at your company.
I’m a firm believer that a company’s culture can be its greatest asset. But you can’t be all things to all people, so above all, your culture must be authentic. It doesn’t take employees long to see through a counterfeit culture.
When you get culture wrong, you can get caught up in an endless tornado of turnover. But, when you get it right (and drive it home with the same, consistent message to all employees), you can turn potential phantoms into productive, faithful employees.
Carol Leaman is the president & CEO of Axonify, a micro-learning platform.