Can we combat employee ghosting with technology?

Globant's Future Organizations lead on how businesses can combat the growing phenomenon of 'ghosting'.
4 September 2019

Recognizing individual value can help to avoid ghosting. Source: Shutterstock

If one of your employees has left the company with zero notice, you have officially been ghosted.

That’s the name given to the rising phenomenon of staff members foregoing the usual, formal process of resignation, in favor of a speedy, unannounced departure. A product of the millennial age, the phrase comes from the world of online dating, where to ‘ghost’ someone is to cut off all communication without any explanation. 

Speaking to TechHQ, Sanja Licina Ph.D., Future of Organizations at IT and Software Development company Globant, said the rise of employee ghosting is symptomatic of a tight labor market and low unemployment rates. 

“Employees are choosing to skip out on awkward conversations with management and instead, going straight to the next opportunity without putting in their two-weeks notice. This is a huge risk for businesses— leaving them with no time to fill vital positions and losing key talent”, said Licina.  

Engagement with a role is crucial for today’s generation of workers, and that can go way beyond salary. A survey by Gartner on Generation Z employees— those between the age of 19 and 23-years-old— revealed that 40 percent regretted their decision to accept their job offer in 2018. Slightly less than half couldn’t imagine a long-term career at their current employer. 

The same study, however, found that these digital natives are keen to leverage as many development opportunities as possible; 23 percent of Gen Z candidates said the chance for skill-building was a top attraction to a role compared to just 17 percent of their millennial predecessors.

Along with flexible working styles, a path to development in a workplace “immersed in innovation” was considered vital to a sense of belonging, loyalty and increased engagement among today’s up-and-coming workforce. 

Essentially, employers and managers must recognize that today’s workers’ ideals are changing, and explore ways to accommodate them in order to enjoy higher rates of retention in order to avoid a precedent of ghosting. 

“Employers that remain comfortable in old-fashioned procedures will lose out on the influx and long-term presence of Gen Z workers to newer, more forward-thinking competitors – a key differentiator among the traditional talent pool,” said Hani Goldstein, CEO of employee engagement tool Snappy. 

Of course, in a large company— within a marketing department of 30 staff, for example— it is not difficult to miss signals from individual workers that suggest they might not be engaging with the company, the role, and their work. 

“Employees who aren’t feeling engaged and connected at work are always going to be looking to the next opportunity,” said Licina. 

“Often employees feel they have expressed their dissatisfaction or frustration and no one listened, so in the end, they decide to leave without having a conversation because they feel there is nothing their employer can say to change their mind to stay.”

According to Licina, while employers should consider ways to satisfy a growing need for development and skills-based learning among their staff, employee recognition software can help workers feel that their individual input is valued by the organization. 

Employee recognition software can help improve company culture by offering tangible rewards and motivation for attributes such as customer service, content creation, and sales performance, to name just a few. 

Programs allow managers to set standards for rewards and monitor employee progress, while some platforms even provide options for peer-to-peer recognition and rewards— the building of bonds between employees this way can help combat the likelihood that workers will leave their employees in the dust. 

Strong relationships create a culture that is difficult for employees to leave for another opportunity,” said Licina. “When employees feel connected to their workplace, they’re more hesitant to “ghost” their employers and if they do feel compelled to leave, they feel more responsible to report a departure appropriately.” 

Using these types of employee recognition software, managers monitor data, looking for signs that their team-members are becoming disengaged, and use that knowledge to have a conversation that looks to understand how their roles can be improved. 

“By knowing where to focus their energy and showing sincere efforts to provide opportunities that employees care about, managers can make an impact that encourages employees to stay and more effectively show that the organization has their best interests at heart,” Licina said. 

Of course, managers and employers shouldn’t rely solely on employee recognition software as an oracle for their teams’ wellbeing.

Successful management in today’s workplace, ensuring employees are continually engaged, relies on a combination of in-person communication and digital interactions. The technology can help highlight emerging challenges, advises Licina, but it shouldn’t replace human interactions. 

The result of striking this balance means employees have ample opportunity to connect with co-workers and upper management, allowing them to feel comfortable to express concerns when needed: “This creates a more open workplace where employees and managers alike feel valued and included.”

For managers and employers who have experienced employee ghosting, or those that simply want to protect against it, there are some early signs they can look out for. 

“If it seems an employee has taken a step back and has lessened interaction with coworkers, they may be unhappy with their work and looking for other opportunities,” said Licina.  

“Interaction is a great sign of employee engagement. Employees who are interacting with their coworkers tend to be engaged at work. 

“On the other hand, employees who are drawing back from interactions and keeping more to themselves will feel less connected to their work and the organization as a whole.

“The key to preventing ghosting is to implement digital recognition and feedback platforms where employees feel valued and heard on an ongoing basis. With the help of AI, the organization can keep a pulse on engagement and identify when there is an opportunity for a team, department, etc. to create a better space where employees can really thrive.”