The historically low unemployment rates and a young workforce that hates to say “no” are transforming a slang term, originally associated with online dating sites, into yet another business buzzword. “Ghosting” has become a serious workplace issue.
In an article in Fast Company, attorney and career coach Wendi Weiner said, “Professional ghosting is far more common these days. It’s about avoiding being the bad guy.” In her view, younger professionals who rely on technologies like text and email to avoid face-to-face contact are more often the perpetrators of professional ghosting.
The term has evolved from dating sites to become an HR headache in virtually every business category, including pediatric medicine. Writing for LinkedIn, Chip Cutter noted that “In fields ranging from food service to finance, recruiters and hiring managers say a tightening job market and a sustained labor shortage have contributed to a surge in professionals abruptly cutting off contact and turning silent — the type of behavior more often associated with online dating than office life. The practice is prolonging hiring, forcing companies to overhaul their processes and tormenting recruiters, who find themselves under constant pressure.”
What Causes Ghosting?
In a strange twist of irony, the process of “ghosting” began with employers and their often poor treatment of employment candidates. At one time or another in a career, almost everyone has applied for a job, taken skills tests associated with the position, sweated through personal interviews and then heard the depressing “sounds of silence” from the company with an opening.
The proverbial “shoe” is now on the other foot and this rude behavior is being reversed. According to Cutter, “Where once it was companies ignoring job applicants or snubbing candidates after interviews, the world has flipped. Candidates agree to job interviews and fail to show up, never saying more. Some accept jobs, only to not appear for the first day of work, no reason given, of course. Instead of formally quitting, enduring a potentially awkward conversation with a manager, some employees leave and never return. Bosses realize they’ve quit only after a series of unsuccessful attempts to reach them. The hiring process begins anew.”
How a Pediatric Practice Can Avoid Being Ghosted
Recruiting, and more importantly retaining great clinical and administrative staff, has always been a challenge for most medical practices. This is partially due to the nature of serving a “customer”- the patient - who is likely not feeling their best and thus has little inclination for common courtesy. Plus, the paperwork associated with medical records keeping can also be daunting for both younger and more mature staff. Finding quality personnel for these jobs is challenging.
When these factors are combined with historically low unemployment rates, which cause increased demand for employees from other medical practices, including urgent care facilities and even non-medical industries, the stage is set for a “perfect ghosting storm.” However, there are ways to reduce this HR nightmare and this starts with an effective hiring process.
#1. Build a list of qualities that the “perfect” candidate will have.
There is seldom a perfect candidate. However, having this wish list allows the physician to focus on these criteria and “score” each candidate accordingly.
#2. Decide on what job skills and experience each candidate has to have for the position.
For example, does a clinical candidate have experience with your electronic health records software? Does the candidate for a front-office position have the people skills to handle parents and (often ill) children? Since every staff member and doctor “touches” the patient health records, general computer skills are necessary for every candidate.
#3. Spread the word about the positions that are open among friends, family, and especially any current staff.
Some practices have successfully used local digital job boards such as Craigslist and the county medical society along with community colleges and trade schools to locate prospective candidates.
#4. Review resumes, rank the candidates and conduct the first meeting via telephone.
By listening to the candidate’s communication skills before actually seeing them, less bias about physical appearance, dress, and ethnicity will be placed on the initial interview. If the phone interview goes well, invite the candidate to the office and set up a role-play scenario around the types of patient issues he/she might be dealing with (e.g., front desk task, collection calls, etc.).
#5. Always check every reference given by the candidate and confirm their employment history.
For more on this topic, watch Chip’s Hart’s webinar, “Do You Work with the Wrong People?“
The Best Defense Against Employee Ghosting
Human resources experts are treating ghosing as the “new normal” and they are formulating tactics to counteract its effect. According to HR Dive, “To save time, some recruiters are starting to act like doctors or airlines, double booking interview slots, particularly for entry-level openings, in anticipation that up to half the candidates will no show. Others recommend hiring managers remain in a continuous recruitment mode to adjust for those who will walk off the job without notice.
“At its core, ghosting is a lack of communication. To minimize the chances of it happening at your company (practice), it’s important to communicate in a way that invites job seekers and employees to be forthright. If a candidate can’t make the interview or won’t accept the offer, a recruiter can let them know he or she understands, but that the company would appreciate the honesty and professionalism of an upfront word. Another tack may be to gently let candidates know they would be eliminated from consideration for any future openings if they failed to make the interview or accept an offer without notification.”
A Pediatric EHR Can Help in Ghost Busting
HR specialists point to the fact that, in many cases, ghosting by newly hired employees may be due to their age and immaturity.
Cutter noted that, “Some of the behavior may stem not from malice, but inexperience. Professionals who entered the workforce a decade ago, during the height of the Great Recession, have never encountered a job market this strong. The unemployment rate is at an 18-year low. More open jobs exist than unemployed workers, the first time that’s happened since the Labor Dept. began keeping such records in 2000. Presented with multiple opportunities, professionals face a task some have rarely practiced: saying no to jobs.”
Younger workers, especially the millennial generation, place a higher value on work/life balance than workers who came before them. They are also more computer-savvy than previous workers and are very comfortable with social media and other online technology. This makes office tools such as electronic health records (EHR) systems extremely important for the recruitment and retention of these employees.
“The PCC EHR platform is designed exclusively for a pediatric practice and the staff that works there,” said Hart. “It is intuitive and includes many labor-saving aspects. Because of this, the workflow is much more fluid, there is less manual input of data required and some of the drudgery of managing a busy practice is reduced.
“Younger physicians, nurses and administrative staff are the biggest fans of this EHR technology because it allows them to focus on the more interesting aspects of the job and not the paperwork. The computer skills that they have grown up learning are maximized, more work gets done in a typical day, and everyone gets to go home on time!”
Having an ongoing, systematic recruitment plan and regular dialogue with all employees can help any pediatric practice reduce the need for “ghost busting.” Plus, it has the added advantage of improving overall productivity.