Even if you haven’t already heard the term employee “ghosting,” odds are you have still experienced the workplace trend. What is ghosting and why is it more relevant to your organization than ever?
From existing employees failing to show up for work and disappearing without a trace…to job seekers reneging on an accepted offer when a better one comes in last minute–ghosting occurs when someone you are counting on fails to appear and doesn’t give you any notice.
Why is this trend emerging now? Contributing factors may include a labor shortage, a tight job market, and younger generations’ popular preference for electronic correspondence over face-to-face conflict resolution. Not surprisingly, ghosting affects industries with a large number of hourly workers, but it’s also impacting the white collar worlds of technology firms, business services and healthcare.
Here are nine strategies to help scare off the ghosting trend in your workplace.
1 – Follow the Golden Rule
This is simple, yet worth restating with some regularity nonetheless. I frequently find myself telling my kids to “treat people the way you’d want to be treated.” And, the same goes for employees and applicants. Keep them informed, treat them with respect and be kind. For a long time, many employers got away with ghosting job seekers and interviewees, failing to respond to the messages of final stage candidates or even completely neglecting to decline them at the end of a hiring process.
Make sure your own recruiting tactics don’t include ghosting tendencies…turnabout is fair play! Recruiters can’t get away with the same bad behavior they may have had when unemployment wasn’t at the low that it is right now.
2 – Strategize the counteroffer
Considering that one of the insidious forms in which ghosting takes shape is that the employee doesn’t show up on his first day, you must anticipate job candidates receiving competitive offers–including a counteroffer from an existing employer.
Plan a strategy session with a newly hired employee at the time he accepts the offer and talk through various scenarios. Encourage him to brainstorm with you how he might fend off a counteroffer. Remind him to consider why he originally looked elsewhere and provide a template the candidate may follow to talk through his resignation with an existing employer.
3 – Leverage text recruiting
Since applicants (like the general population) rely on smartphones to screen their calls, in the age of spam robo-callers it is less likely that they will pick up the phone when you call them for the first time to schedule an interview. In my product research calls over the last year, many employers explained that job seekers they try to contact frequently don’t even have their voice mail box set up–or if they do, it’s full.
Make sure your hiring software includes the ability to text with candidates, and more importantly, ensure that incoming text message notifications to your job seekers adequately identify your organization, related job and recruiter name.
4 – Over-communicate with job candidates
Obsess about the communication piece of your employment brand. Counteract a potential eventual lack of communication on the candidate’s part with meticulous communication from the employer throughout the selection process. Job seekers will feel more informed and more engaged to reciprocate communication if they sense the opportunity may not work for them. Here are some specific communication tactics:
- Set expectations about what the hiring process involves at the very beginning of the process (e.g. number of stages, requirements of each stage, duration of process, etc.).
- Send updates to job seekers when target dates for various stages get delayed.
- Invite candidates to share feedback about your process at different steps along the way–whether they are selected for the position or not.
- Stay connected with silver medal candidates for future consideration. They are a great back-up if the gold medalist ghosts you, and more likely to come through for you in the next position if you keep them engaged in your pipeline through thoughtful messaging.
5 – Be transparent with those who refer candidates
Follow-up with referrers of candidates to thank them for their employee referral, and acknowledge your appreciation for the referral with the job candidate, too. This personal reminder puts pressure on the referred candidate not to let her friend down by ghosting the employer and risk damaging her reputation.
Not only does this practice help mitigate ghosting, but it also increases the likelihood that your existing employees will continue to refer you qualified candidates in the future. Remember–don’t ghost your own employees about referral outcomes when they take time to make a recommendation to you!
6 – Preview the employee onboarding experience
Create content that provides a thorough overview of your employee onboarding process to potential hires. This helps prevent the cognitive dissonance that they may otherwise feel about accepting an offer. If they’re excited about what to expect in their first year, then they’re much more likely to show up on their first day.
Additionally, give final stage interviewees a sneak peak into the employee experience by inviting them to do a job shadow before extending an offer. This simulation illustrates what it’s really like to work for your organization, and encourages candidates to self-select out of the process before you get to the ghosting let-down.
7 – Become a pre-boarding pro
Don’t go radio silent during the all too important pre-boarding process–that time between the accepted employment offer and the start date. This may last from a few hours to a few weeks depending on your organization and job category, but think about how to keep new hires feeling connected during this time.
Reflect on your culture and plan touch points with the new hire that make them feel welcomed to the team. Text a group photo, invite them to lunch before the start date and/or send them a swag bag at home. Ask the new hire to complete a “get to know you” sheet during pre-boarding, and then share info sheets about other employees with the new hire prior to the first day, too. This helps the new hire start to feel like a part of the team before the first day–which will make it harder to abandon the team without explanation.
8 – Flaunt your best attributes
Know your market and then understand which aspects of your compensation and benefits package and/or work schedule are highly attractive. While it is natural to highlight these attributes in detail in an employment offer, it’s a good idea to remind existing employees, too.
To help prevent employees from leaving unexpectedly for greener pastures, create a detailed total rewards summary and discuss it annually with workers to differentiate your unique value proposition from competitors. Make sure the summary highlights any continuous education opportunities, especially, so that employees not only understand their existing assets, but also their potential to improve their knowledge.
9 – Proactively thank candidates
Once upon a time, recruiters gave an edge to the candidates who sent the first thank you message (assuming all else was equal). However, today recruiters who don’t wait around, but rather proactively thank candidates following an interview are less likely to be ghosted. This follow-up is also a trigger for the organization to touch base with job seekers about timing for next steps in the process. And, as we learned in tip #4 above, over communication is a best practice.
It is unlikely that you will completely prevent ghosting despite your attentive efforts; however, the aforementioned tips are a proactive start in dramatically reducing its impact on your company.