Ghosting: Are Your People Disappearing?


You’ve interviewed many candidates and selected an ideal person for your position.  Knowledgeable, experienced, communicative…everything you need to fill the role.

On Day 1, your perfect employee doesn’t show.  You’ve been ghosted!  In today’s competitive landscape, and with unemployment rates at all-time lows, ghosting has moved from the dating scene to the workplace.  Ghosting can include a candidate not showing up for an interview, an employee skipping a first day of work, or a sudden resignation (effective immediately).

The Problem for Employers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate hit 4% last month.  Employers must recruit in a competitive job market where many workers stay in their jobs less then 5 years.

To add to the problem, employee turnover is expensive!  The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foundation noted in their 2008 guide (Retaining Talent: A Guide to Analyzing and Managing Employee Turnover) that TOTAL costs associated with turnovers range from 90% to 200% of annual salary.

Because at-will employment goes both ways there may be little recourse if an employee leaves without notice.  Individuals can be terminated for any reason (or without a reason) as long as it’s non-discriminatory, and employees can resign in the same way which makes it easy to simply go silent.

What can be done?

  • Examine your organization’s culture – A company’s culture is the personality of the organization…a combination of its values, beliefs and practices. Assess if your culture could be getting in the way of hiring and retaining employees. Changing culture isn’t easy, but establishing an understanding of the current state and where you want to go is an important first step in change.
  • Focus on engagement early – Connect with employees before they start. Pre-boarding activities prepare the new hire and keep the momentum going.  Once the employee starts, structured onboarding activities in organizations are often limited.  Lengthening the onboarding period shows that learning and development is important.
  • Invest in employee development – Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce according to a Pew Research report, and millennials rank “professional or career growth and development opportunities” higher than other generations. Finding creative ways to enable learning and growth is critical.
  • Implement stay interviews and regular opportunities to communicate – An exit interview is unlikely to happen if you’re ghosted. And if it does, that’s not the ideal time to identify or solve problems.  Scheduling consistent meetings throughout an employee’s tenure is a good way to gauge feelings and improve communications.  Stay interviews allow employers to build trust and identify issues before they become insurmountable.
  • Be prepared, not surprised – Ghosting may be with us during tight job markets and low unemployment. Re-visit hiring practices to make sure existing policies are not harmful to your organization.  Also, document processes and implement training programs. This helps prepare new hires and also helps companies quickly recover from a candidate’s sudden change of heart.

According to Josh Bersin (Deloitte Review Issue 16), “…an irresistible organization is one that employees would never want to leave. What better way to create such a place than to give people lots of opportunities to grow and advance?”  While employers can’t completely eliminate the ghosting phenomenon, there are things that can be done to improve culture, increase communications and make employees want to stick around.

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