Over the last year, employee-driven buzzwords like “quiet quitting,” “quiet firing” and “rage applying” have dominated the headlines. With over 47 million Americans voluntarily quitting their jobs in 2021, the U.S. experienced one of the hottest job markets on record. An astonishing 517,000 jobs were added in January alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, leaving highly-skilled candidates in an ongoing position of power. But, as economic uncertainty looms and layoffs have already impacted thousands of U.S. workers, many employers are turning to the latest workplace trend to solve their talent challenges: quiet hiring.
While the term “quiet hiring” might seem unfamiliar, it’s a business practice that has existed for years – and has surged in popularity over the last several months. Done right, quiet hiring can benefit both employers and employees, but it’s important to understand how to implement the practice correctly.
In this article, we’ll explain the potential benefits of quiet hiring as well as discuss important considerations to ensure both organizations and employees reap the rewards.
What is quiet hiring?
Quiet hiring is an age-old practice that describes companies’ reliance on existing internal talent to fill roles or supplement skills gaps in the organization instead of hiring new employees. Quiet hiring can mean hiring a contractor or part-time worker into a full-time role, moving a full-time employee into a new role or having existing employees take on new responsibilities while technically remaining in the same role. The shift can be short-term or permanent, depending on the organization, but the goal is the same: quiet hiring involves getting the most out of existing staff – ensuring business priorities are met – without increasing headcount.
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What employers and employees need to know about quiet hiring
As companies are forced to do more with fewer resources, quiet hiring continues to gain popularity – and notoriety – on social media. Done correctly, many organizations see the practice of quiet hiring as a great way to upskill existing employees and even identify hidden skill sets within the organization, which can both boost retention and reduce the need to hire new employees. But the practice of quiet hiring also comes with significant risk, as some organizations choose to task existing employees with extra work on top of their current job descriptions – or push them into new roles without their input – which can lead to frustration, job dissatisfaction and burnout.
Quiet hiring should not be used as a way to avoid the cost and effort associated with hiring new staff. Overloading employees with work, regardless of additional compensation or benefits, is not a solution to the hiring puzzle.
In fact, research shows that overburdening your employees with a heavy workload is a key contributor to burnout – and can result in reduced productivity, lower confidence and increased turnover. Plus, burnout has a heavy organizational cost, with some studies estimating that workplace stress costs the U.S. economy over $500 billion each year, meaning pushing employees to take on additional work can actually cost organizations more money than it saves them.
Can quiet hiring be beneficial?
While quiet hiring most certainly comes with risk, it also offers potential benefits to both employers and employees. For organizations, quiet hiring can help meet immediate business needs. Whether it’s moving an employee to a new role or creating a plan to utilize an employee’s existing but unused skills, quiet hiring is seen as less time consuming and inexpensive when compared to hiring new employees or contractors.
This can be a great benefit during times of economic uncertainty or if an organization is on a hiring freeze as it also allows companies to fill essential roles quickly, with minimal disruption to current operations. It can also help companies identify candidates who may not be actively looking for a new job but who have the skills and experience needed to fill a particular position or gap.
Plus, a thoughtful approach to quiet hiring can be a great way to utilize existing talent and boost retention. LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report concluded that skill sets for jobs have changed as much as 25% since 2015 – with that number expected to double by 2027 – and a lack of opportunity to learn and develop new skills was reported as one of the top five reasons why people leave their organizations for a new job. The same report also found that, when done right, being promoted internally made people far more likely to stay at their current organization.
How to quiet hire the right way
If your company decides to implement quiet hiring, it’s important to approach the practice thoughtfully. Do not push people into new roles or give them additional responsibilities that they aren’t interested in. Take steps to ensure the process is fair, transparent and effective.
Before jumping into the quiet hiring process, it’s important to develop a clear understanding of where your organization is now. This should involve assessing your current talent pool, so you know what skills and competencies are available to you, as well as understanding different employees’ interests and goals for their careers.
From there, identify what needs exist within your organization. This step should address more than just open roles; you should identify both the biggest skills gaps as well as the highest priorities for your organization’s overall success. Once you know which needs are the highest priority – and which employees can best meet those needs – you can begin to develop a plan to address those gaps.
Be sure to consider additional factors like:
Instead of pushing employees to take on new or additional roles without explanation, organizations should be transparent about quiet hiring plans. Explain why it’s necessary for company success and how the transition will happen. It’s also important to provide a timeline for the process. Encourage open communication, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on the process. Some employees might be eager for the opportunity to step into new and different roles, but the only way to determine that is to ask.
With careful planning, quiet hiring can be a fantastic opportunity for employees who want to expand their professional skills and grow within the organization – so don’t be afraid to position the change accordingly. But, it’s important to make sure employees understand what’s being asked of them, as research shows role clarity is linked to increased work satisfaction and reduced turnover.
Remember, quiet hiring shouldn’t be about getting more out of your existing workforce simply to avoid investing in new talent. It can be a great long-term strategy for both employers and employees when it is executed thoughtfully.