With the economy booming and unemployment falling companies are now having to deal with shortages in quality employees. This has spurned a phenomenon called “ghosting” in the workplace.
What is Ghosting?
Broadly speaking ghosting is defined as the abrupt ending of a relationship by ceasing all communications without explanation. The moniker gets its roots from the online dating world, where participants would receive no advance warning but suddenly be cut off by a potential partner.
Similarly, job ghosting in business is when a candidate stops responding to emails, skips an interview, or signs a contract and then backs out. Depending on the degree of ghosting, companies stand to lose a lot. From the minor offense of not showing up on the first day to quitting without notice pose undesirable consequences for businesses.
While job candidates and employees have ghosted in the past, what’s unique now is the practice has now become more prevalent. According to a recent report by Indeed, 83% of employers surveyed reported being ghosted by a job candidate in some way. The report indicates that employers see ghosting as a recent phenomenon, with 69% saying it started in the last two years. Despite it being a recent phenomenon, an alarming 83% of employers, report being ghosted.
Job seekers ghost at different stages in the hiring process from skipping job interviews (50%) to not responding to emails and calls from potential employers (46%).
The vast majority (84%) of employers have had candidates stood them up for interviews. While 65% of employers, report no-shows on their first day of work.
Why is this Behavior Prevalent?
Unemployment is at 3.5% marking a 50-year low since 1969. This is responsible for more job openings being available than there are people to fill them. A strong job market has shifted the balance of power to employees as they now enjoy more power and influence. As a consequence, U.S. businesses are losing $1 trillion every year due to voluntary employee turnover.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 40 million Americans quit their jobs in 2018 — representing 26.9% of the workforce.
This high turnover has dire consequences for small businesses. Meaning they have to increase salaries, benefits and other incentives to bring in qualified applicants. This coupled with job ghosting, businesses will see more cost cycles in terms of running vacancy ads, training and losses from productivity. Companies not only lose money in trying to fill a position but also time. Weeks or months could go by without a particular position being filled. The pain is especially felt if the positions to be filled require specialized roles such as in technology.
Employees today have more options for employment and can move quickly from one job to the next. They could ignore employment offers they choose not to accept or accept multiple offers at once with little perceived negative consequences. Some 40% of candidates ghosted after receiving another offer while others reported unattractive salary (22%) or benefits (15%) as reasons.
The consequences of not following the traditional workplace advice seem to be waning as well. Sage advice such as give two weeks’ notice; never burn your bridges; don’t speak badly of your former employer seem to be on their way out. This is because there seems to be little consequence for employees who drop everything and go. Incredibly, 94% of job seekers experience little to no negative consequences from ghosting.
For employees, job ghosting can have bad implications down the line. Employees might ask for recommendations from previous employers. Worse still, the employee might run into his former employer in a joint project- thus making for an awkward collaboration.
Strong candidates might get multiple offers and use it to bargain for better salaries or benefits. While others opt to leave would-be employers dangling with no response. If your business is a lesser company than a reputed global brand you might be at risk of being ghosted.
On the flip side ghosting also takes place among recruiters. They might get piles of applications from job seekers, especially online when they submit résumés electronically. Many recruiters will opt to not acknowledge receipt of the application or respond to express interest or disinterest in the candidate. Employers might say they are overwhelmed but for candidates, it’s not good.
This points to what some refer to ghosting as a learned behavior. In the past, while employers had the upper hand they would ghost applicants all the time and can fire workers without two weeks’ notice. A check and balance in the recruiting process can go a long way towards a bring us back to the wise old ways.
How to Survive in a Ghosting Era World?
The key to any challenge in business is to be more strategic and flexible. If you can’t match the dollar by dollar bid of the competition perhaps a little ingenuity can help. Building your talent pool can help. This means getting to know the talent landscape and candidates regardless of whether or not they are looking to make a career change immediately. This helps your business proactively look to who you should hire rather than recruit to fill an empty position.
You can look towards past candidates, former employees or even your interns to build your talent community. Reach out to potential candidates through social media and networking events to get the discussion going.
Another possible solution is to communicate effectively. Ghosting for all intents and purposes is a communications barrier. Maintaining a healthy channel of communication with your employees can go a long way towards improving the workplace.
For instance, 26% of who ghosted say they simply weren’t comfortable telling the employer they had a change of heart. While 13% cite general communication problems with the recruiter and 11% just didn’t know what to do, so they bailed.
For new employees, introducing them personally to their coworkers and providing a point of contact for any questions can help. Continuous feedback on performance with support to improve skills shows the employee is not invisible to the business. As time progresses having conversations on career development and prospects too can help.
The Future of Ghosting
No one can tell if ghosting is a temporary trend or it is here to stay? However, as the change in the employer-employee situation changes so should businesses. It may be difficult to pinpoint why candidates or employees will ghost. The onus is now on employers to better position themselves to reduce the likelihood of candidates and employees ghosting them.
Much of the success of your business boils down to how you manage and develop your professional networks, ghosts included.
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