Intro to Retention: ‘Labor Hoarding’ – What is it and can your company use it?

If anyone remembers, in the early 2010s, there was a television show called Hoarders.  It was the one that would make people go through and try to convince people to throw out everything they didn’t need?  Almost like Marie Kondo-ing before Marie Kondo became famous?  Or was that just this author?  Mmmm…  Hoarders, of course, led to a round of similar shows, but the gist of them all was the same:  People holding on to way too many things way longer than necessary.  The hoarder believed they “needed” that item, therefore, they refused to be parted with it.  What happens, though, when this term is applied to human resources and the workplace? 

Like “love bombing” and “breadcrumbing,” the term “labor hoarding” has its contemporary roots in pop culture.  While the concept has been around for decades, it only recently was given a name and place in the myriad of labels and strategies being formed in the recruitment and retention industries.  Today, this post is tackling what labor hoarding is and how some companies are using it to hedge their bets against an uncertain future.

So, What is Labor Hoarding?

Labor hoarding is defined as the “trend in which employers decided to ride out the [economic] uncertainty with higher payrolls – in order to avoid the long-term costs of hiring and training new people when the economy rebounds.”  Put simply, instead of laying employees off at the first sign of economic trouble, employers are risking financial losses by keeping their workers, ensuring that when things improve, they are in the right place to put their full teams back to work.  Business software firm, Skynova, did a survey of small businesses, and their study showed that as many as nine in ten small companies are currently hoarding their labor pool, not releasing any of them, even if they are tempted to for financial purposes. 

As stated above, even though labor hoarding is seeing a resurgence in popularity, the term has been around for many decades.  For those of us who remember the Romney family, Mitt Romney’s father, George, was recorded as saying at a Senate hearing in 1945: “I think that this term ‘labor hoarding’ is a widely used term that few people know what it means.”  Things have changed a great deal since then, but, even if employers don’t say they are hoarding their employees, the dip in the number of layoffs, as seen on the federal job reports, over the past few months shows that the concept is still being used.

Why is this becoming popular again now?  Every company knows that, these days, the time it takes to hire someone, recruiting costs, and even hiring and training costs have exploded exponentially.  As every recruiter and HR manager has heard since spring of 2020 and the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the labor market has not only gotten more expensive, but it has also become extremely unpredictable.  In order to combat this, employers are finding that maintaining staff numbers could be the key to success.

The Pros and Cons of Hoarding Labor in 2024

There are so many reasons employers are labor hoarding now.  A study by HR consultancy, Red Clover, found that 15% of employers have come to the conclusion that layoffs are bad for morale.  Meanwhile employers who struggle and fight to keep their employees find that they have a more dedicated workforce.  A dedicated and happy staff is one that can get a company through many dark and unsure times!  For more on how positive employees foster a positive work environment, please see our blog post from last year (August 16, 2023).  Every manager understands that a happy and cohesive workplace is the most productive; once that camaraderie is built, it can take years to rebuild it after a layoff, taking production down with it.  Even in the darkest of economic times, once an effective team is built, it only makes sense to hoard that labor pool. 

Of course, the most quoted reason to keep workers is the financial burden of having to recruit and train new workers.  According to the study by Red Clover, more than 40% of the companies they surveyed are labor hoarding for that very reason.  Therefore, across the country, some companies are coming up with more creative solutions to financial woes, including pulling back product launches, focusing on strategic growth, and training workers in multiple areas to be able to shift them where needed, instead of laying them off.  In short, while layoffs may have seemed like the best option in past bouts of financial downturns, today’s work environment calls for more choices, more ways to combat potential losses. 


After this brief look at labor hoarding, there are many things to be considered.  While the dream of every manager may be to keep the best possible version of their staff, that isn’t always possible.  Sometimes, tough choices must be made.  In the end, Red Clover advises, after their study, “to assess their current workforce, identify immediate and long-term needs, and hire to support current staff while also determining which gaps they need to fill by either hiring from outside or promoting from within.”  Lionzone recommends following us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram to stay looped in on all news in trucking and recruitment!


Meaghan Goldberg covers recruitment and digital marketing for Lionzone.  A Patterson, GA native, after graduating from both Valdosta State University and Middle Tennessee State University, Meaghan joined Lionzone in 2018 as a digital recruitment strategist before becoming the social media manager.



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