How to Prevent Employee Ghosting With Strategic Onboarding

Christina Zurek
Christina Zurek

employee ghosting

“Slip out the back, Jack//Make a new plan, Stan//Don’t need to be coy, Roy//Just listen to me.”

There must be 50 ways to leave your lover, according to Paul Simon.

No matter the terminology, it falls under the same umbrella: ghosting.

The term started its life in the online dating sphere to describe a situation in which one person in a relationship is “dumped” through a sudden cut-off of all communication without explanation from the other. Now, the phenomenon seems to be hitting employment circles.

“There’s no real way of knowing if a person is prone to ghosting,” said Paige Draheim, Generalist, People & Culture at ITA Group. “When we do employment verification and background checks, the person applying provides their employment history. If they don't mention it, we don't have any way of really verifying. We can look for gaps, but that's about it.”

Ghosting is becoming unfortunately common in today’s world and many do not realize just how damaging it can be to their reputation. You risk burning valuable resources that you may need to use in the future and create awkward situations that may come back to haunt you.

From where exactly does this behavior stem? It's a complex question. The truth is, there are multiple contributing factors.

“It might be a little bit of just how the new generation of employees conducts themselves. But, more than that, I believe it has to do with avoiding confrontation,” Draheim said. “I’d say people don't want to have that conversation [quitting a job] and the confrontation, because they know it's not going to be a real fun conversation. They know it's their responsibility to either go to the interview, or put in the notice, and they don't want to deal with that. Or maybe they don't think it matters, or is worth their time. I don't know.”

Another factor may be technology related. Communication styles have changed, with rules of yesteryear often left behind. Social media and messaging apps have helped people establish relationships quicker, but a lack of face-to-face conversation and personal contact often make for relationships that lack depth.

Simply put, many feel no need to have an uncomfortable conversation with a recruiter or manager if they can take the easy way out and ghost them.

Who You Gonna Call? Ghost(ing)busters

You’re allowed to change your mind, but in the professional world, text messages are returned, phone calls are accepted and emails are replied to. A quick response from you means that you will maintain your professional integrity, retain respect from others and create valuable professional connections for the future.

While reasoning behind ghosting might be (more than) a little confusing, there are ways an organization can help to deter that behavior. Specifically, it’s starting the onboarding process early—and thoroughly—to build an emotional connection with your new hires.

And that connection pays off. Seventy-seven percent of employees are willing to accept a salary that is 5% lower than their expected offer if the employer created a great impression through the hiring process. That’s important because it doesn’t take long for employees to decide if their new employer is a good fit. New employees decide to stay or leave within the first three weeks, according to a study by the Wyndhurst Group. In fact, 22% of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment.

But if employees participate in a structured onboarding process, they’re 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years, according to the study.

Different groups of workers require different sets of information and safety training. So, tailor the onboarding process based to a person’s job.

Onboarding Is a Year-Long Process

Despite the fact that it can take a year or longer for a new employee to reach full productivity, only 15% of organizations extend their onboarding past six months. Engaging your team members throughout the employee experience is job that never really ends. If employers want to keep their new hires from seeking out greener pastures, they should consider making their onboarding processes extend through the first year of employment. Here are some tips for how to focus the employee experience and onboarding:

  • Before the first day: Create a helpful and engaging onboarding experience that begins as soon as candidates accept your job offer. According to research from Aberdeen, “Best-in-class companies are 82% more likely to implement a pre-boarding process between talent acquisition and onboarding.” Prior to their first day, reach out with welcoming messages such as videos of current employees, an introduction to some of the social benefits you offer or relocation recommendations for places to live, sites to see or restaurants to frequent. You'll have their personal info, but make sure you find out how they prefer to be addressed. They may be William, but prefer Will or Bill (or loathe Willy)—ask, don’t assume.
  • The first day: When the new hire arrives for their first day, be sure they are personally introduced to their coworkers and designate a point of contact who will be readily available to answer questions. Having people stop, recognize and celebrate each hire reminds everyone that it’s not only business milestones that are important, but gaining a new teammate is an important achievement for the company, too.
  • The first month: This is the time to acquaint new hires with the job duties, policies and procedures entailed in their position. Training is a huge part of getting new employees engaged as soon as possible, so companies should implement training during the first couple of weeks on the job.
  • The first three to six months: Managers, supervisors and team members should be communicating regularly with new employees about performance during this time. They should feel comfortable and understand how to ask for help if necessary. Now that the new hire has learned the ropes, continuous feedback is what is going to help them hone their skills, catch mistakes and take corrective action when needed. This is also a great way to establish rapport and trust with the rest of the team.
  • The first year: When the first year is up, managers can make an honest, well-guided judgment on the employee’s productivity and skills. If they decide the employee is going to fit in long-term, the first year mark is the best time to start having conversations about their future with the company and their individual career development.

Making your people feel like the most valuable asset at the company is a must, and they should feel it even before accepting the position. Continual communication means continual—a recruiter's responsibility does not end when an employee signs the job offer and shows up for work on the first day.

Ghosting Isn't a One-Way Street

While it’s easy to get frustrated by those employees who would ghost at their company, it’s not just employees who are guilty of ghosting. Many applicants experience the silence after interviewing for a job. The phrase, “We'll get back to you,” is uttered without a thought, but applicants take it to heart.

Maybe the applicant isn’t a good fit. Maybe the employer changed their mind about hiring for that specific role. Regardless of the reason, companies need to realize that applicants can (and often do) share their candidate experiences with their networks—ghosting stories, scary interviews or other recruiting nightmares, included. And online employer review sites such as Glassdoor and social media are making this even easier.

These sites extend beyond the acquisition stage into the entire employee journey. A strong onboarding process introduces new employees to all aspects of your culture and at the same time encourages new hires to create cross-functional relationships with each other, which will help them become oriented and grow throughout the employee experience with the company. Not only does this increase the likelihood of positive brand exposure for your organization, it creates a foundation for a relationship between your organization and the employee, decreasing your chances of being left alone with no warning. To keep your organization from becoming a haunted house, learn more about critical touchpoints in the employee experience you don’t want to skip.

Christina Zurek

Christina Zurek

Christina is an experienced leader with a passion for improving the employee experience, employee engagement and workplace culture. Few things excite her as much as an opportunity to try something unfamiliar (be that a project, development opportunity, travel destination, food, drink or otherwise), though digging in to a research project is a close second.