The Cost of Vacancy: Definition, Process, Formula & Example

By hrlineup | 17.06.2024

In the field of Human Resources (HR), the concept of the “cost of vacancy” (COV) is crucial for understanding the financial impact of unfilled positions within an organization. This article explores the definition, process, formula, and provides an example of calculating the cost of vacancy, offering HR professionals a comprehensive guide to managing and mitigating these costs effectively.

What is the Cost of Vacancy?

The cost of vacancy refers to the financial impact an organization experiences when a position remains unfilled. This cost encompasses a range of direct and indirect expenses, including lost productivity, increased workload for remaining employees, potential revenue loss, and additional recruitment and training expenses. Essentially, the longer a position stays vacant, the more significant the financial burden on the organization.

Key Components of Cost of Vacancy

  • Lost Productivity: When a position is vacant, the tasks and responsibilities associated with that role are either left undone or redistributed among existing employees, leading to a decline in overall productivity.
  • Increased Workload: Other employees may need to take on additional duties, which can lead to burnout, decreased morale, and further productivity losses.
  • Revenue Loss: For revenue-generating positions, each day the role remains unfilled can directly impact the company’s bottom line.
  • Recruitment Costs: This includes the expenses associated with advertising the position, conducting interviews, and onboarding a new hire.
  • Training Costs: Time and resources spent on training the new employee to bring them up to speed.

Understanding these components helps HR professionals quantify the true impact of vacancies and make informed decisions about recruitment and staffing strategies.

How to Calculate the Cost of Vacancy?

The process of calculating the cost of vacancy involves several steps. HR professionals must systematically gather data, analyze it, and apply a specific formula to determine the financial impact. Here’s a detailed outline of the process:

Step 1: Identify Key Metrics

To calculate the cost of vacancy, it’s essential to identify and gather data on several key metrics:

  • Annual Salary of the Position: The total compensation package, including base salary, bonuses, and benefits.
  • Daily Productivity Value: The revenue or value the position contributes to the organization daily.
  • Time to Fill: The average number of days it takes to fill the position.
  • Recruitment Costs: All costs associated with advertising, interviewing, and hiring.
  • Training Costs: Costs incurred to train the new employee, including both direct and indirect expenses.

Step 2: Gather Data

Collect data from various departments, including finance, operations, and HR. This might involve:

  • Salary Information: Obtain detailed compensation packages for the vacant position.
  • Revenue Contribution: Collaborate with the finance department to determine the daily revenue or value generated by the role.
  • Recruitment Expenses: Track all recruitment-related costs, from job postings to travel expenses for candidates.
  • Training Expenses: Estimate the resources required to train the new hire, including training materials, time spent by trainers, and productivity losses during the training period.

Step 3: Calculate the Cost

Once the data is gathered, apply the following formula to calculate the cost of vacancy:

COV = (Daily Productivity Value×Time to Fill)+Recruitment Costs+Training Costs

Step 4: Analyze and Interpret

Analyze the results to understand the financial impact. This analysis can help HR professionals make informed decisions about staffing priorities, resource allocation, and recruitment strategies.

The Formula for Calculating the Cost of Vacancy:

The formula for calculating the cost of vacancy combines several elements to provide a comprehensive view of the financial impact:

COV=(Annual Salary/260)×Time to Fill+Recruitment Costs+Training Costs

Here, 260 represents the average number of working days in a year, assuming a five-day workweek and excluding holidays.

Breakdown of the Formula:

  • Annual Salary / 260: This component calculates the daily cost of the vacant position based on the annual salary.
  • Time to Fill: The number of days the position remains vacant.
  • Recruitment Costs: The total expenses incurred during the recruitment process.
  • Training Costs: The expenses associated with bringing the new hire up to speed.

By plugging in the appropriate values, HR professionals can quantify the financial impact of vacancies accurately.


Let’s illustrate the cost of vacancy with a practical example. Suppose we have the following scenario:

  • Annual Salary: $80,000
  • Time to Fill: 45 days
  • Recruitment Costs: $5,000
  • Training Costs: $3,000

Using the formula, we can calculate the COV as follows:

1. Daily Cost of Vacancy:

Daily Cost = 80,000/260 = $307.69

2. Lost Productivity:

Lost Productivity = 307.69×45 = $13,846.05

3. Total Cost of Vacancy:


In this example, the cost of leaving the position vacant for 45 days amounts to $21,846.05. This figure highlights the significant financial impact of unfilled positions and underscores the importance of efficient recruitment processes.

Implications for HR Strategy

Understanding the cost of vacancy has several strategic implications for HR professionals:

1. Optimizing Recruitment Processes:

By quantifying the financial impact of vacancies, HR can justify investments in more efficient recruitment processes. This might include leveraging technology, such as applicant tracking systems (ATS), to streamline hiring, reduce time-to-fill, and improve candidate experience.

2. Improving Workforce Planning:

Accurate COV calculations aid in workforce planning by highlighting critical roles that need immediate attention. This allows HR to prioritize filling positions that have the highest financial impact when vacant.

3. Enhancing Retention Strategies:

High COV values may indicate underlying issues such as high turnover rates. HR can use this data to develop retention strategies, including employee engagement programs, career development opportunities, and competitive compensation packages.

4. Budget Allocation:

COV insights help HR allocate budgets more effectively. By understanding the costs associated with vacancies, HR can advocate for resources to enhance recruitment and training initiatives, ultimately reducing the financial burden on the organization.

5. Performance Metrics:

Incorporating COV into HR performance metrics provides a more comprehensive view of the department’s effectiveness. It shifts the focus from traditional metrics, such as time-to-fill, to a broader understanding of the financial impact of HR activities.

Challenges and Considerations

While calculating the cost of vacancy offers valuable insights, HR professionals must be aware of potential challenges and considerations:

  • Data Accuracy: Accurate data is crucial for reliable COV calculations. Inconsistent or incomplete data can lead to incorrect estimates, undermining the effectiveness of the analysis.
  • Role Variability: The financial impact of vacancies can vary significantly between roles. High-level positions or revenue-generating roles typically have higher COVs compared to entry-level or support positions. HR must account for this variability in their analysis.
  • Dynamic Business Environment: The business environment is constantly changing, and factors such as economic conditions, market trends, and organizational priorities can influence the cost of vacancy. HR must regularly update their calculations to reflect these changes accurately.
  • Holistic Approach: COV is just one aspect of the broader HR strategy. HR professionals should use it in conjunction with other metrics and insights to develop a holistic approach to talent management and workforce planning.


The cost of vacancy is a critical concept in the HR field, providing valuable insights into the financial impact of unfilled positions. By understanding the definition, process, formula, and practical application of COV, HR professionals can make informed decisions to optimize recruitment processes, improve workforce planning, enhance retention strategies, and allocate budgets more effectively. While there are challenges and considerations to keep in mind, the benefits of accurately calculating and analyzing the cost of vacancy are significant, leading to a more efficient and financially sustainable organization.

In an increasingly competitive job market, the ability to quickly and effectively fill vacancies is a key differentiator for organizations. By leveraging the cost of vacancy metric, HR professionals can play a pivotal role in driving organizational success through strategic talent management and efficient resource allocation.