Hoarding Employees

“They did not give me the promotion! I just got hoarded.”

“Employee hoarding” is a term used to describe situations where employers (supervisors, managers, VPs, HR, and entire companies) resist promoting qualified employees because they fear the consequences of leaving a crucial position vacant.

Throughout my career, I have seen many claims and underwriting departments hoard skilled employees because there were no apparent replacements and because the employee being hoarded was so exceptional in performing the job that the supervisor did not want to lose that productivity and talent. My discussions with hoarded employees always exposed their anger at their supervisor and the company. I believe employee hoarding does not foster long-term employee satisfaction, loyalty, or retention.

Given today’s strong labor market and longer hiring times, it makes sense that managers with a good team would want to hold on to their employees for as long as possible. According to a 2020 research paper from management consulting firm Gartner, more than half of all supervisors admit to hoarding talent, or preventing subordinates from pursuing jobs that would allow them to work with another manager.

Supervisors who hoard talent are hurting their company by stunting internal mobility and their employees by not offering them the best opportunity for advancement.

According to Gartner, managers who promoted their team members at a higher rate the year before posting a job opening received an 8.91% increase in total internal applications, and an 11.58% increase in applications from high-performing employees.

Employee hoarding can occur for various reasons:

  • Employers may hesitate to promote employees because they possess valuable institutional knowledge and experience that would be lost if they moved to a different role.
  • Some employers prioritize short-term operational stability over long-term strategic growth. They may fear disruptions arising from promoting an employee and having to fill their previous position.
  • In organizations with inadequate succession planning, there may be a reluctance to promote employees due to concerns about finding suitable replacements for their current roles.
  • Change can be unsettling for organizations, and some employers may resist promoting employees out of fear of the unknown or concerns about potential negative consequences.
  • Managers who are insecure in their positions may be reluctant to promote talented subordinates for fear of being overshadowed or replaced.
  • The HR department needs to be more focused on promoting the best candidates.

To address the issue of employee hoarding and foster a culture of talent development and mobility within an organization, several steps can be taken:

  • Establish a culture where supervisors and employees can openly discuss career goals, aspirations, and opportunities for advancement.
  • Encourage supervisors to regularly discuss their career aspirations with their team members and how the organization can support their growth.
  • Develop a comprehensive succession planning strategy that identifies high-potential employees and prepares them for future leadership roles within the organization. This involves identifying key roles and the skills needed to fill them and providing training and development opportunities to groom potential successors.
  • Create pathways for internal mobility by actively promoting job vacancies within the organization and encouraging employees to apply for positions that align with their skills and career goals. Highlight the benefits of internal mobility, such as gaining new experiences, developing new skills, and advancing within the organization.
  • Invest in training and development programs that help employees acquire new skills and competencies for future organizational roles. This can include leadership development programs, technical training, mentorship opportunities, and educational assistance programs.
  • Recognize and reward supervisors and employees who actively support talent development and internal mobility within the organization. This includes incorporating talent development goals into performance evaluations, providing incentives for promoting internal candidates, and celebrating successful internal promotions.
  • Provide support and resources to managers who may feel insecure about promoting talented subordinates. Offer coaching, mentoring, and leadership development opportunities to help managers build confidence in their abilities and trust in their team members.
  • Ensure that HR policies and procedures support talent development and internal mobility initiatives. Recruitment, promotion, and compensation policies should be designed to incentivize internal promotions and career progression.
  • Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of talent development and internal mobility initiatives regularly to identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments. Solicit feedback from supervisors and employees to gauge their satisfaction with career development opportunities and address any concerns or challenges.

Addressing employee hoarding requires a shift in organizational culture and priorities. It involves recognizing the importance of talent development and succession planning and creating a supportive environment where employees are encouraged to grow and advance in their careers. Implementing clear succession planning policies and procedures can help alleviate concerns about promoting employees and leaving positions vacant.