John O'Connor, VP, Associate Publisher, Editorial Director

How tough is the labor market? It’s come to this: More and more employees are simply vanishing.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago put a name on this growing trend in its December’s Beige Book: “A number of [employers] said that they had been ‘ghosted,’ a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact.” 

There are no national numbers on how often ghosting takes place. But there is a good chance this sector is well represented. Why? Because long-term care facilities often feature two characteristics likely to spur the practice: relatively low pay and poor treatment of employees. (I know, not at your facility. But both have been known to occur in this field.)

For this unfortunate turn of events, we can largely thank an increasingly tight labor market. We are seeing some of the lowest unemployment figures in nearly half a century. In other words, your prospects and employees now have the best job options they have ever had.

The result? Applicants are increasingly blowing off job interviews. More are getting hired and never reporting to work. Worst of all, more employees are simply leaving, sometimes heading to lunch and never coming back.

I spoke to one operator who now makes two offers for each available position, as there’s a good chance one or both hires won’t show up.

One easy answer is to offer more money and perks. Really. I realize that labor is already your biggest expense. But if you don’t want someone to leave for a job that pays $11 an hour, you probably shouldn’t be paying $10.

One proven strategy is  to build good relationships throughout the hiring process. Are prospects likely to feel like they are at a cattle call? Or are they more likely to feel they are being courted for something that’s a great opportunity?

Once your new hires show up, put them on a career growth track, mentor and treat them like the important team members they are. 

It also might be a good idea to ask your charges how they like their jobs, and how management might do things better. Just make sure those meetings aren’t scheduled for after lunch.