It may be October, but there’s a form of employee ghosting taking place that has nothing to do with the popular mascot of Halloween.
The term originated in the dating world, more-so amongst the younger generations, and is used when someone stops responding to messages or phone calls, essentially disappearing. Ghosting is now being applied to the workforce, too. Candidates, and even current employees, have been known to disappear in a similar way by no longer responding to recruiters or even quitting without telling anyone, walking out never to return.
Research suggests that as many as two-thirds of U.S. managers have been slighted by candidates who initially accepted a job offer, only to retract it, or disappear entirely, before their start date.1
With all of the time and energy poured into recruitment and retention, employers are scrambling to find the answers to ‘why is this happening’ and ‘what can we do to fix this’. 2
One contributing factor to this new phenomenon is the tightening labor market. It should be no surprise to anyone that the unemployment rate is historically low and has been for months now. For the first time since the United States Department of Labor started keeping records in 2000, there are more job openings than people actively looking for employment.2 Thus making the market an employee’s market, forcing employers to up their game in order to attract and retain top talent.
Who has applied for a job and received the silent treatment after an interview? Or as a potential candidate, didn’t receive a response until two months down the road when the requisition officially closed. Or started a new job, spent one day with HR and then never saw them again. Employers have been ghosting employees for decades and now that the tables have turned, ghosting is viewed by employees as employers getting a taste of their own medicine.
Another contributing factor is the difference in communication styles across generations. Although not exclusively, ghosting is a lot more prevalent in Millennial and Generation Z age groups. Just under half (43 percent) of Gen Z employees (age 22 and under) say they’ve accepted a job but then bailed on the offer. That compares to 26 percent for both millennials (age 23-38) and Gen X-ers (age 39-54), and 13 percent for baby boomers (age 55-74).1
Younger generations have grown up in an electronic-based world, where difficult and awkward situations are often skirted around or ignored.3 They hesitate to pick up the phone, call a recruiter and say that the job or the company is not the right opportunity for them. They do not want to walk into their boss’ office to let them know that they have found a better opportunity. Disappearing is deemed easier than managing the conflict and having the difficult conversation.
At this point, if this hasn’t impacted your organization, you are part of the minority. So how do you combat this, or prevent it if you are one of the lucky ones?
If this is happening to you, look at your trends. Ghosting at different times, could highlight different issues among the recruitment, onboarding or employee life cycle.
Are you getting ghosted before day one by potential employees?
With the tightening of the labor market, the good candidates are going fast. That means you have to keep up. Streamline your recruiting processes. If you find a good candidate early on in the recruitment process, you no longer have the luxury of interviewing for another month before making a decision without losing candidates. You no longer have the upper hand when negotiating salary and benefits. Be fair and know your limits beforehand. This will cut down on some of the back and forth, both internally about what you can offer and externally with the candidate. If someone is a truly good candidate, chances are your company is not the only one who is interested, and a different company is going to offer the candidate the right compensation and benefits package while you are still negotiating.
Do you have employees that are not returning to work during their first week?
This is often a result of one of two things. One, there is a discrepancy in the expectation for what the job was going to involve and the reality of what it is.4 It is important to remain clear on realistic job previews in order to prevent this. Two, you need to routinely check in with new hires: is there anything they need, any confusion on expectations, any office navigation issues? Just because they are now in the job does not mean they are guaranteed to stay.
Or, do you have employees leaving within the first couple of months?
The Society for Human Resource Management reported that “up to 20 percent of turnover happens within the first 45 days of starting a new job, and this is often due to a bad onboarding experience.” 5 The sink or swim mentality is no longer acceptable. There should be structured training in place with built-in mentoring or check ins. Annual stay interviews and 30/60/90-day formal check ins are great ways for the company to get a pulse on what is working and what isn’t for current employees and new hires.4
Are employees exiting even further in their tenure?
If employees are leaving after a couple of months on the job, factors that need to be considered are relationships built with direct supervisors, employees’ wants and needs, and education and training opportunities. “The average U.S. employer spends about $4,000 and 24 days to hire a new worker. In contrast, companies that invest in employee development spend on average $1,296 and 34.1 hours per employee on learning.”5
So why is it that we are not more focused on the latter? Challenging employees gives them a sense of accomplishment and growth, allowing them to be happier growing within your company rather than searching for growth at other companies. Also, there has been a trend change in employee’s benefit desires. It isn’t all about pay anymore; instead employees want to be home with their families at night and receive recognition for excelling through their daily grinds. Taking the time to learn what your employees are most interested in will help retention and potentially save the company money.
Even with different contributing factors and a multitude of possible solutions, this phenomenon often comes down to one thing: communication.
- Follow up proactively throughout the recruitment process.
- Give an accurate preview to what the job entails.
- Think about changing your traditional communication style to accommodate the different generations.
- Check in with your employees and listen to what they really want.
These are all things that employers claim or strive to do. Now that the tables have turned, employers have to step up or be ghosted.