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How Not to Get Spooked by Ghosting Employees

There’s been much written about the rising incidence of ghosting in Corporate America. Learn why.

By: Gal Rimon, Founder & CEO, Centrical

There’s been much written about the rising incidence of ghosting in Corporate America. More job openings than applicants as well as a low unemployment rate have fueled this development. Ghosting is a phenomenon that occurs prior to or after someone has chosen to become an employee. The individual literally disappears; doesn’t report for the new job or is habitually out of the office and unresponsive to inquiries. Interestingly, post-employment ghosting has been common for years, even decades, but  there’s been a rise in its occurence. Changes in workplace behavior, including individuals’ sense of allegiance to an organization, have played a part in ghosting’s increase. 

Interestingly, the demographic group found to ghost most before formally taking a position is the youngest in the workforce, Gen Z. According to research conducted by Randstad, a global recruitment firm, 43% of Gen Z employees accepted a job only to reject the offer. Of the oft-derided millennials, 26% of bailed on a new job. Gen X’ers tallied the same while Baby Boomers came in at 13%. 

So why are tomorrow’s managers opting not to sign on even after signing their employment agreements? In a word, leverage. Young employees know they’re in demand and, to an extent, have the luxury of choices. Further, we are seeing a change in the long-held practice of not accepting a counter offer. As the saying goes, “money talks.”

Aside from the emotional punch in the gut when that highly desired recruit spurns an organization, there are real costs that never get recovered. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) found the average cost to hire an employee is more than $4,000. If the employee joins, is productive and stays on for a while, that cost can be recovered. Not if an offer is rejected.

As to the case of an existing employee ghosting the employer, the hot hiring market is certainly a major contributor. So too is a move away from long-held workplace conventions, like giving two weeks notice when leaving for a position with another firm. Even when notice is given, David Lewis, CEO of OperationsInc., a human resources consulting firm, notes seeing a 20% upswing in employees departing in less than two weeks after they give notice.

The letter of resignation has devolved into a text, if that. Plenty of ghosts simply step away from their current jobs without telling a soul they work with, according to a report from the Chicago Federal Reserve.

Pre-Board Instead of Onboard

Most companies wait until that future all-star shows up for the first day of work before getting them engaged in what the company is and does, and how the new job fits into the scheme of things. That’s way too late.

Rather than wait for the arrival of a new employee to physically onboard them, a company should make a connection with them digitally before they formally start. And that does not mean sending a series of emails that go into detail about matters of little significance to the recipients. It’s an opportunity to explain and encourage an embrace of the company’s culture, and how that manifests itself in the new job the new employee is about to take on. The role and place of culture cannot be understated as it regards advancing the sense a person is (about to be part of a group working together toward a shared objective. 

Realize that any company of size, say one with a headcount of 5,000 or more, is hiring busloads of employees daily. Their new managers have plenty of things to do besides reassuring new hires they made the right decision.

The answer lies in the Centrical platform. It blends real-time employee performance management with personalized microlearning and advanced gamification. Before you think it’s a solution for in-place employees, not those who’ve yet to start…don’t. 

By using a Centrical solution in a pre-boarding situation, employers can engage with individuals in ways that build confidence that the decision to join the company remains the right one. It can also jumpstart and compress the new company/new job training process which, based on work done by the MIT Sloan School of Business, can take 8 to 26 weeks before a new employee is up to full productivity.

Along with aspects of the job, Centrical lets companies instill in the yet-to-report hire a strong sense of their culture and values, which further reinforces the view the correct choice was made. 

Mind you, this isn’t a mechanism that simply spoons out easily digestible portions of information. It permits the setting of learning goals, a forerunner of on-the-job KPIs, a check on how well or poorly a new hire is engaging with, and understanding the new information. After all, if that’s retained it can be applied on day #1.

In part because it can be used from any mobile platform, it’s an approach that resonates with the digital natives that make up the millennial and Gen Z demographic groups. Verizon Cellular Sales, the largest retailer of the wireless service provider, saw, after implementing Centrical with its largely millennial salesforce, 75% higher new service activations, a 53% rise in new handset sales, a doubling of sales of products that needed to move, and a 45% increase in accessory sales, a margin rich product segment. 

That performance relates to a new employees’ use of Centrical in that both deal with engagement, a huge amount of learning of totally new information in a very short period of time, and the need to be able to draw on and apply it properly.

For the current employee who might be prone to become a ghost, Centrical is an unobtrusive way for a manager to see if that person is involved in the job at hand. The solution lets the employee, team leader and manager know instantly if goals are being tackled successfully, if at all. Importantly, with Centrical, the manager becomes a coach able to address matters in the moment, not weeks after the fact, conceivably after the employee has walked out the door.

Lots of training mechanisms tend to key on the top or worst performers. Yet, as Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson, two sales pros, suggest in The Harvard Business Review, to get better performance, “move the middle.” Interestingly, it’s this group, regardless of their function, who may be most susceptible to ghosting. The decision to give up on their current job and take a shot with another organization is often prompted by a feeling of disconnection from the organization. That shouldn’t sound surprising, particularly if attention is lavished on the top and bottom performers.

In this example Centrical avoids that sense of separation. It engages and involves the middling performer on an ongoing basis. It lets the person know how she is doing on her own or in comparison with her team. There’s ample evidence that competition presented in a fun manner, with the aid of advanced gamification, is a powerful motivator.

Used as suggested, Centrical can turn potential employee ghosts into spirited contributors to their employers’ business performance.

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