10 hidden costs of an empty seat

Are you familiar with the butterfly effect; a concept highlighting the possibility that small causes can have momentous effects? Bringing this theory into recruitment, this article outlines the many effects and hidden costs an empty seat can have on your business.

There is no magic formula for calculating the actual cost of an empty vacancy because the factors to consider are largely dependent on the position, industry and other circumstances. But there are hidden costs to consider:

1. The upscale time of a new hire is often forgotten about. The timeline from someone’s first day to them becoming valuable and working independently is generally speaking 3 months. This is obviously dependent on many other variables, but from our own experience that’s when everything seems to just click. As a result, the longer you wait to replace someone, the longer it will take before they start to add value.

2. For the remaining team members, taking over someone else’s responsibilities can impose stress, frustration, demotivation and burnout. You might think it’s sustainable for a short period of time, but ‘short-term’ tends to become ‘medium-term’ and before you know it, another employee has handed in their notice.

3. By not hiring a replacement before someone leaves, there is no time for a handover. For a new starter to only have written documents to refer to is far from ideal – and that is if everything was even written down in the first place! Not being able to ask questions or have a good induction can set someone back weeks, if not months.

4. The quality of work and productivity are likely to drop when a person is taking on responsibilities they are unfamiliar with. Not only do they need to take on someone’s workload, they have a lot less time to execute their own.The decrease in productivity even starts before an individual actually leaves the business. They are typically less invested, take their foot off the gas and might produce a poor handover.

5. Disruption in one department can have a cascading negative impact across other areas of your business. Missed deadlines and targets will ultimately impact the bottom line.

6. If a management role is vacant the team loses guidance and leadership which impacts productivity further. Replacing a key team member is also a much bigger challenge than the average employee.

7. When an employee leaves there are some things that go with them; experience and skills gets lost. Investments in training can’t be transferred, neither can business familiarity.

8. Opportunities are lost each day you have a vacant position, as that could have been someone contributing with new ideas, driving initiatives, or solving problems.

9. If you temporarily fill a gap with an interim or freelance employee, you will end up training someone twice for the same position. There is also a risk that their error rate is higher and productivity lower than for the average employee.

10. Not replacing someone due to hiring freezes or budget cuts can negatively impact team morale and job satisfaction of the rest of the team if they are understaffed and overworked. The team loses hope of things improving and motivation might be lost.

If you are tempted to cut your hiring budget or think a recruiting fee seems too steep, please take these hidden costs into account. It’s not as easy as ‘by not paying this salary for X months I’m saving X’. Not all costs are tangible and there is so much more to consider than the monetary value of someone’s salary.

Are you hiring and keen to avoid these costs? Feel free to contact us or reach me personally on to find out more about our expertise, services and how we can help.