Usually referring to romantic relationships or friendships, when one partner starts to ignore the other without any explanation, the practice of ‘ghosting’ has now hit the workplace.
It refers to situations when employees walk out of their jobs without so much as a goodbye, or when candidates with a job offer simply disappear, never bothering to respond, or – if they do accept – failing to turn up on day one. Some people have even pretended that they’ve died in order to avoid awkward conversations with their would-be employer.
In the US, where unemployment levels are at an all-time low and there are more vacancies than job-seekers, employees seem to feel little remorse about walking away. The term even made it into the US Federal Reserve Bank Beige Book, which reports on changing economic conditions in the US, suggesting that ghosting is a significant trend and not just a flash in the pan.
The trend is catching on in the UK too. According to CV-Library, a somewhat surprising one in ten working professionals in the UK have ghosted their employer, citing reasons such as mistreatment by management, unrealistic workloads, and/or a lack of flexibility in their schedules.
These reasons might be legitimate, but the underlying driver for ghosting is the lack of employee engagement. Staff can easily become frustrated – and have their heads turned by others – when a working culture becomes dysfunctional, when there is a breakdown of communication or when they spend their days on boring and demotivating tasks because they don’t have access to the rights tools and technology
The effect on call centres
This disappearance of employees is a particularly worrying prospect for call centres, where turnover is consistently high due to the challenging nature of the role. Agents are expected to deal with frustrated customers eager for answers they are not always equipped to support, often with clunky software that is years behind the technology they use in their everyday lives.
Working in a contact centre can be hard. If an agent believes they have better career prospects elsewhere, it’s no surprise that they want to leave, and ghosting removes the need to even explain their motivations.
How to tackle ghosting
By focusing on improving employee engagement, contact centre operators can find a solution to this most modern of problems. In essence, this involves providing employees with more reasons to stay than to leave.
Here are just a few ways to keep agents happy:
Audit & upgrade technology: According to Ultimate Software, 92 percent of workers say that having the right technology directly impacts their job satisfaction. Teams may grow frustrated if their call centre tech is lagging behind the apps and gadgets they use outside of work.
Offer well-defined career paths: Agents want to develop their careers. If they feel valued and recognise the benefits in staying in their role with the chance to advance through the ranks, they are less likely to look elsewhere. Technology can help with this career development. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and smartbots stop agents from having to undertake repetitive tasks, freeing up their time so they can concentrate on complex, more rewarding activities. They could even become robot team leaders, overseeing a team of digital workers; a highly sought-after new skill.
Reward everyday achievements: Recognising and rewarding employees who achieve great results is another simple way for employees to feel appreciated. Gamification by, for example, the visualisation of employee KPIs encourages competition and teamwork. A simple wallboard can do this to great effect.
Offer competitive wages: Of course, pay is a highly motivating factor. If people are offered a competitive salary, they are going to see the value in staying put.
The cumulative benefits of improving employee engagement
Boosting employee engagement has many other advantages too.
The loss of talented agents is never a good thing, especially when it affects overall contact centre performance. If agents are motivated, they are more likely to provide exceptional customer service. More often than not, happy staff also means happy customers. What’s more, lowering staff turnover rates also helps reduce costs associated with recruiting, on-boarding, training and IT provisioning.
Employee engagement programmes also help with the retention of the very best talent. The brightest agents tend to be the most alert to better job offers. It is vital to keep the highest achieving – and usually most profitable and valuable – agents focused on, and motivated by, their current roles.
Ghosting is inconvenient and impolite, but it’s not only the wayward employee who is at fault. It’s a warning sign that staff feel demotivated, unhappy, frustrated and under-valued; and the business must take some share of the blame.
To fix this, contact centres should focus on incorporating labour-saving technology that frees up agent time so they can focus on more inspiring tasks. By creating a more positive employee experience, companies will soon find that there are fewer reasons for staff to pull a disappearing act.