In recent years, the term “ghosting” has been used to describe situations in which a friend or partner stops communicating with you without any notice or explanation. Because there’s no warning, it takes a little time before you even realize that the relationship is over. Unfortunately for employers, ghosting can also occur in the employment context. For instance, after a lot of effort, you make an offer to a job candidate, they accept, and you schedule their first day of work. On the day they’re supposed to start, they fail to show up. Sometimes ghosting can happen even before you make an offer. Or, it can happen when an employee who has been with you for a while simply stops showing up for work.
Here are 10 guidelines to help you avoid workplace ghosting:
#1: Set the tone
If you want applicants and employees to be forthright with you, you need to be honest and straightforward with them. Circle back with each and every candidate to let them know whether they’re moving along in your hiring process. Also, give applicants an accurate picture of the job, so that they know what to expect when considering an offer. Once hired, it’s important to have regular check-ins to help employees transition into their new role.
#2: Emphasize what sets you apart
A strong message (in job ads and during interviews) that clearly communicates why you're an employer of choice can set you apart from your competition and help attract like-minded employees. Even if your company isn’t able to offer the highest wages, consider focusing on other attributes. Think about what makes your workplace unique and what you value. For example, maybe you give employees greater flexibility, promote diversity, foster a culture of social responsibility, encourage creativity and innovation, and/or empower employees to be involved in decisions that affect their jobs.
#3: Train supervisors
There’s an adage that employees don’t quit their job, they quit their boss. Employees often leave a job (with or without notice) because of a poor working relationship with their supervisor. To be effective, supervisors need proper training and guidance on how to set goals, manage performance, communicate and apply workplace rules and policies, and develop their team.
#4: Make sure your hiring process is efficient
If you’re waiting too long to contact candidates to schedule an interview or to offer them a job, it could allow time for another job offer to lure the candidate away. At the very least, a lengthy process may make the applicant apprehensive about accepting a job with you.
#5: Check in with new hires before they start
Don’t forget to check in with your new hire after they accept your job offer and before their first day. Contact new hires before their start date to see if they have any questions or concerns and let them know that you’re looking forward to their arrival.
#6: Introduce and acclimate new hires
An employee’s first few days on the job sets the foundation for the rest of the employment relationship. During this time, clearly communicate what the employee can expect from you and what you expect from them. Review job responsibilities and objectives as well as how their role contributes to the success of the company. Set aside time to discuss key issues, such as work schedules, timekeeping practices, how performance is measured, and dress codes. Introduce the employee to co-workers and give them an opportunity to shadow more tenured employees.
#7: Recognize and reward
Recognition is a simple, low-cost way to improve employee retention. Positive feedback demonstrates that you value an employee’s contributions and it can also motivate co-workers to emulate the rewarded behavior. Effective recognition can come from the employer, the manager, fellow employees, and customers and can be given publicly or privately. When recognizing your employees, think about what motivates each employee so you can provide recognition accordingly.
#8: Set clear notice requirements
It's a best practice to have a written attendance and punctuality policy that requires employees to give the company reasonable notice for unexpected absences where possible. Your policy should outline who the employee should contact (for example, their supervisor), when (before the start of their shift when possible), and how (such as, by phone). When developing your policy, keep in mind notice requirements for any leave laws that may apply to your business.
#9: Draft no call/no show policy language carefully
Some employers adopt what is known as a “no call/no show” policy, disciplining employees who fail to report to work without proper notice. To address repeated violations, employers sometimes state that after a certain number of consecutive missed shifts without notice, the company will consider the employee to have abandoned their job. Employers generally have discretion to determine how many consecutive absences without notice is considered job abandonment, but the most common threshold is three.
If a new hire or employee is absent without notice, don’t just assume you’ve been ghosted. Extenuating circumstances, such as a serious accident, emergency, or illness may prevent employees from giving notice. This is particularly important when the employee's absence is protected under a law where the employee may not be required to provide advance notice. Taking adverse action against an employee for a protected absence or for failing to provide advance notice could violate these laws. For these reasons, establish procedures for attempting to contact the employee and make sure you’re complying with all applicable leave laws before enforcing your no call/no show policy.
#10: Review decisions before acting
If after fully evaluating the circumstances, you determine that the employee has abandoned their job or is subject to discipline for violating your policy, carefully consider next steps. Comply with all applicable laws and act consistently with how you’ve handled similar situations in the past. You may want to work with legal counsel during this review, especially if the decision involves termination. When you determine that the employee has abandoned their job or is subject to discipline for violating your policy, notify them in writing. As with all employment decisions, keep adequate documentation in case the decision is ever challenged or you need it to support future disciplinary decisions.
While ghosting isn’t the norm, it can be disruptive when it does occur. Carefully develop policies and procedures to help your company prevent and respond to these types of situations.