The Real Cost Of Your Empty Seat

Posted On 10 Feb 2021

The Real Cost Of Your Empty Seat

10 Feb 2021
All Managers, Hiring Managers, Business Owners have been in this position. Waiting for that right candidate to come along.

Employer Resource, News & Events

All Managers, Hiring Managers, Business Owners have been in this position. Waiting for that right candidate to come along.

It is worth the wait…until it’s not.

We now enter a world where finding the right candidate, no matter the discipline or role is becoming increasingly difficult. And I am not just talking at a corporate level. Ask your local café, retail shop, even hair salon and see what their answer is. I am also not talking about a ‘seat filler’. That hire, if not a strategic consideration, can cost you more than your empty seat.

A family secret

There is one business that comes to my mind that hasn’t struggled. It is a local dry cleaner, on the North Shore. They are honestly the very best. And according to the dry cleaners in the CBD (10 and counting), I am fussy on these things! This dry cleaner is a family business and has been around for over 50 years.

The children (in their late 50’s) now run the business and their children (in their 30s) are also in the business working, being trained and nurtured.

They employ around 20 plus people, and the business thrives. After all, you do not have to be big to be a winner! They charge at the higher end and deliver exceptional service.

What can we learn?

Obviously, this is not a strategy applicable to most of us. I mean, we cannot all hire our families! In fact, for most of us, that might be a disaster all around. But I hope you can draw some insights and analogies:

  • Succession planning.
  • Employees you can trust and thus, a stronger position for the future.
  • High expertise and knowledge based on employee retention.
  • Business growth.
  • Strong market position, ‘white space’ held.
  • Superior customer experience and service delivery.
  • Price point is strong – competing on service, not price.

A sustainable business with a strong competitive advantage. I am going out on a limb to say their success is largely based on retaining their employees, i.e., no empty seats, regardless of family.

Another way…

No matter the level you are recruiting, the importance of who you hire is critical. And unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as, ‘work on your value proposition’. Important, but not enough for this context – a value proposition will not magically present you with your dream candidates right now.

We need another way – we need to break away from an old (habitual) mindset.

Put yourself in the following scenario: what if that ideal candidate no longer existed? Extinct even? Then what? A forever empty seat?

Facing stark reality is good! It forces us to problem solve and look to creative solutions. Now, for the moment, these ideal dream candidates exist – just! But we are entering a world of scarcity. The ease to which you source, and recruit is slipping through your fingers.

Leave your competitors to wishful think and let us instead approach this subject with fresh eyes.

Alternate strategies

Short term:

  • Engage with a specialised recruitment agency (trusted) exclusively – you knew I was going to say that!!
  • Engage with an agency who will not give up on you and pay them to keep going! Contingent briefs are yesterday’s hero.
  • How old is the existing job description? If older than 12 months, I would suggest a review.
  • Dissect the job you are recruiting – what aspects can you carve out, switch, change out. What is no longer needed?
  • Rewrite the job description – you may be surprised to see what is no longer essential but on the ‘list’.
  • Equally, draw out business – critical aspects.
  • Today’s tasks may not be the same tomorrow, so adopt a ‘diet’ attitude to your job description, i.e., no ‘fries with that’ order.
  • How can you better utilise technology to assist?
  • Can you outsource critical parts of the job description?
  • Can you bring in a contractor short term?
Alternate strategies

Long term:

  • Speak to your HR team – they have this down pat!!!
  • Employee value proposition – it is always important.
  • Retention strategies – so you do not ‘hurt’ as often!
  • Leadership training, so your Managers retain their team!
  • Conduct an employee skills audit. You may be surprised by the hidden or additional skills and education your employees have.
  • Consider the transferable skills of your employees.
  • Can you train your existing staff – even if only for part of the role?
  • Have regular mini-reviews, to capture evolving skills and attitudes.
  • Do not undervalue the ongoing importance of soft skills.
  • Implement the right practices for inclusion and diversity.
  • Relook at your business model for delivery.
The real cost of the empty seat
  • Impact on your existing staff. They may be fine to carry the workload, for now, even rallied to do so. This cannot be your long-term solution. Fatigue and potential resentment are a likely outcome. You may find yourself with more than one empty seat.
  • A decrease in staff morale.
The real cost of the empty seat
  • Loss of motivation and passion; the longer it lasts, the harder it is to return to previous levels of engagement.
  • Impact on your customer base. If your staff are tired, disgruntled, not happy, your customers will know. Your customers will feel and see everything. This will always, always impact your bottom line.

Great employees make great businesses. Do not let your empty seat stunt your business potential and growth. That ‘dream candidate’ may come in a very different shape and form.

Also, for anyone who wants the name of the dry cleaners, message me!

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”  Peter Drucker

About the author
Roxanne Calder
Managing Director

As Founder and Managing Director at EST10, Roxanne has an all-encompassing role that includes building and growing the business, as well as actively recruiting and consulting.

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree at Monash University, Roxanne began her recruitment career with renowned recruiter Julia Ross. From there, Roxanne worked in HR and recruitment with a number of global players and boutique businesses throughout Australia, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong for over 20 years. She has been responsible for managing large teams and projects, implementing RPO models, managing and assisting businesses to an IPO and assisting companies in setting up their recruitment teams and processes.

Following completion of her MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management, Roxanne launched EST10 in July 2010. In doing so, she hoped to combine the flexibility and high touch service levels of boutique agencies with the structure and strategy afforded to larger firms. Roxanne believes in high-touch, high-care consulting and is always on the lookout for consultants that share this vision of recruitment.