Employers have turned to quiet hiring to acquire new skills and talent using their existing workforce. We explain what quiet hiring is, how it benefits employers and workers, and how you can implement it in your company.
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Over the last few years, the US labor market has experienced all sorts of challenges—mass resignations, talent shortages, low employee engagement, and more. Add an economic downturn to this, and you’re in a tough spot.
You need to find new talent and retain your existing workers while cutting costs and sticking to low staffing budgets. Sounds impossible, right?
Well, it’s not. A growing number of companies have been adopting a creative approach to recruiting. It’s called quiet hiring, sometimes known as silent hiring.
This strategy lets employers obtain new talent in their workforce without hiring new full-time employees. They save money on recruiting costs and they’re cross-skilling and upskilling employees.
But companies need to be careful about how they’re implementing this strategy. Otherwise, they could be left with a frustrated and resentful team.
- In periods of uncertainty, employers often turn to quiet hiring. This is when they deploy their existing employees’ skills to new roles without hiring externally.
- This practice can be a cost-effective way to hire while also helping employees to grow their careers.
- However, if you do this unethically, it can lead to turnover, disengagement, and legal risks.
- I’ve provided some practical tips to quiet hire effectively. These include open communication, training employees, offering promotions, and more.
In this article, I explain what quiet hiring is and how it benefits both employers and employees. I also provide tips and best practices for using this strategy ethically and effectively.
What Is Quiet Hiring and How Does It Work?
Emily Rose McRae, Director of Research at Gartner, explains that “quiet hiring is when an organization acquires new skills without actually hiring new full-time employees.”
Common methods include extending employees’ responsibilities or moving them to other internal roles. In some cases, it may also include hiring short-term contractors instead of permanent employees.
Quiet hiring works in two ways. In the first case, an employer identifies workers who are already going above and beyond their job description. Instead of hiring for roles that employees are already doing, they offer them a raise or promotion and make it official.
Shirley Borg, Head of Human Resources at Energy Casino, offers a great explanation of the second scenario. Shirley notes that one of the ideas behind this form of hiring is “to identify talented employees who are not performing up to their full potential in their current roles and to find ways to utilize their skills more effectively within the company.”
In this way, quiet hiring maximizes productivity, avoids recruitment costs, increases employee engagement, and saves everyone time.
Why Has It Become Popular?
The last few years have seen the rise of several workplace trends, including quiet quitting, quiet firing, and Bare Minimum Monday. This has largely been a result of shifting employer and employee priorities in a post-COVID landscape.
Now, with mass layoffs, a tight labor market, and a looming recession, quiet hiring has emerged as the latest trend. IT research and consulting firm Gartner even listed it in its top workplace predictions for 2023. Gartner’s Future of Work Research Team expects more companies to quiet hire as the economy slows down and cost-cutting becomes a priority.
Though it’s been around for decades, social media has helped to popularize this buzzword. Users are sharing their quiet hiring experiences on platforms such as Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn.
Moreover, the quiet hiring trend also received a ton of retaliation from quiet quitters. These are employees who don’t work beyond their stated duties and believe that silent hiring exploits workers. Although negative, their responses have further increased the trend’s mainstream popularity.
What Benefits Does It Have For Employers?
When companies quiet hire, they can expect to see a number of benefits. Using this strategy can help you:
Save time and money
By tapping into your existing talent pool, you can save yourself the hassle of going through a lengthy recruitment process.
You’ll avoid the expensive recruiting costs that come with external hires. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) studied costs-per-hire for industries such as construction, hospitality, healthcare, and more. The association estimated that it costs companies a whopping $4,700 to hire a new employee.
Finally, while a quiet-hired employee should still be trained in their new role, they won’t need to go through onboarding and induction training again. They’ll already be familiar with the company’s culture and working practices and can start contributing to business success more quickly.
Improve employee engagement and maximize productivity
Gallup reports that only a third of US employees are engaged in their jobs. Among others, low professional development opportunities were a leading cause for disengagement. Companies that support workers to step up in their jobs, move to other roles, or work on different projects can expect to re-engage top talent.
Also, some employees underperform because they’re in the wrong role. Redeploying them to other areas of the business can bring them to their full potential and maximize productivity across your company.
Pew studied the underlying causes for the Great Resignation—the mass quitting of US workers starting in 2021. It found that 63% of employees quit due to a lack of opportunities for advancement. An equal 63% also reported low pay as their reason for quitting.
Silent hiring provides workers with advancement opportunities. It also lets workers progress in their careers. In some cases, it leads to a pay rise. In this way, it can help you increase retention in your company.
Provides flexibility and closes skills gaps
When your workers are cross-skilled, you can deploy them flexibly into different roles as required. This means when you have a high-priority or urgent role to fill, you can immediately offer it to an internal employee. This saves time, closes skills gaps, and ensures that work isn’t hampered.
My advice: Use a team management app like Connecteam to provide your workers with proper skills training for their new role. You can use its training features to roll out customized courses that will help them upskill and cross-skill. Sign up for a free trial to test these features and more.
How Can Employees Take Advantage of It?
Although quiet quitters detest it, not all workers are opposed to being quiet hired. A poll conducted by Monster revealed that 63% of workers viewed it as an opportunity to learn new skills.
Quiet-hired employees can use the strategies below to make it work for them.
Get rewarded for performing beyond expectations
It’s fair to expect or ask for a pay increase if you’re working above and beyond your responsibilities.
Similarly, sometimes you may take on additional work usually performed by more senior employees. This should ideally come with a promotion to that position. If not, express your interest in it and negotiate a future promotion.
In this way, you’re broadening your horizons but also getting appropriately rewarded for it.
Negotiate other benefits
You can negotiate for other benefits if a pay raise or promotion isn’t in the cards. For example, ask for more paid time off (PTO) or flexible shift scheduling. Depending on the situation, your company may even agree to offer a cash bonus or other monetary rewards. Or, you can use this opportunity to ask them to pay for a training course you’ve been interested in.
Upskill and cross-skill
Good employers will offer adequate training when you’re given responsibilities beyond your role. They’ll also provide career development support such as a peer buddy or job shadowing when you’re moving to a new part of the business.
Also, don’t underestimate the skills you’ll acquire from doing a new job. Statistics show that 82% of employees believe on-the-job training is the most effective way to learn.
By upskilling and cross-skilling, you’re more well-rounded and valuable in your company and the external job market.
Build and maintain better working relationships across the company
The opportunity to take up work in another team can help you expand your network within the company. Build and nurture the relationships you make along the way. There’s a good chance they’ll lead you to your next big opportunity.
Test the waters in another department
Speak with your manager if you’re interested in a role in a different department at the company. Companies that quiet hire will likely approach you with an offer to move when a spot opens up in that department. This way, you can try out a role you’re interested in and assess if it’s a good fit for you.
How Can It Go Wrong?
Companies need to be careful when using this strategy to hire. Some employers aren’t open about how and why they’re increasing workers’ responsibilities. Plus, they don’t reward workers appropriately. This can lead to several problems.
I’ve outlined some below.
Workers may question the company and its financial health
Employees can become suspicious when their employers aren’t transparent about why they’re filling roles internally. In a Monster poll, 28% of employees said they believe silent hiring suggests the company is going out of business. 41% believe that companies that quiet hire are disorganized and confused about their vision. When workers lose confidence in their company and leadership, it can lead to disengagement and attrition.
It can lead to a negative work environment
In some cases, workers are transitioned to roles they’re not interested in. This can not only frustrate the employee but also create resentment among other team members who wanted that role.
In fact, the term “quiet hiring” can be problematic in itself. It can make it seem like workers are being tricked into taking up undesirable roles. This can further increase the negativity surrounding the practice.
It’s also important not to give quiet-hired employees an unreasonable amount of work to do in their new roles. Overworking and burnout can damage productivity in the long run.
It can damage your reputation
Many people believe that companies use this strategy to exploit workers. It can come off as especially unethical if you don’t reward your employees for the extra work they’re taking on.
Quiet quitters who refuse to work beyond the parameters of their job are also very vocal about their disagreement with quiet hiring. With the power of social media and internet reviews, your company’s reputation may be at risk.
Workers could end up leaving the company
Companies often quiet hire without providing workers with training and support to succeed in their new role. Employees are thrown into the deep end and can feel that they’re being set up for failure. This may lead to the employee quitting.
It could have legal implications
Fran Haasch, Founding Attorney at Fran Haasch Law Group, outlines some legal risks that you may face when you quiet hire.
The hiring policies at some companies state that jobs need to be advertised before being filled. If this policy holds, employers “could be legally liable for any reasonable complaint, such as one made by an employee who feels they have been overlooked.”
Fran also warns that “if an employee has been quiet hired, but feels that this has been unethical, discriminatory, or that they haven’t been appropriately recompensed, they may have grounds for a legal claim.”
Quiet Hiring: Do’s and Dont’s For Employers
When done right, quiet hiring can benefit employers and employees in many ways. But if you get it wrong, you can experience long-term consequences that are hard to come back from.
Below, I’ve provided some practical do’s and don’ts to help you implement this strategy in an effective way.
- Provide adequate training to help employees succeed in their new roles.
- Reward them with a pay increase, promotion, or other benefits when they take on additional work.
- Be transparent and honest about why you’re transitioning them to a new role. Help them see this as a growth opportunity.
- Check in with them to ensure that they’re happy to take on the additional responsibilities.
- Provide them with regular feedback on their performance and help them grow.
- Check that you’re staying compliant with your hiring policies and labor laws.
- Throw them in the deep end to work through new tasks without any support.
- Overwork them to the extent that their health and well-being are affected.
- Take advantage of them by making them do more work without any recognition or reward.
- Use this as a long-term solution to hiring. Otherwise, you’ll end up overburdening your resources.
- Forcefully use it if it’s not appropriate. For example, it’s unethical to ask a nurse to do the job of a doctor even if you’re struggling to hire a doctor.
Quiet or silent hiring is a way for companies to close their skills gaps without hiring externally. They can promote or transition their existing workers into new roles instead.
When done correctly, quiet hiring can help you save money, increase engagement, and maximize productivity in your company. It can also allow workers to progress in their careers and build deeper relationships across departments.
When done covertly or unethically, it can lead to a negative work environment, high turnover, and in some cases, legal repercussions.
In this article, I’ve provided some practical tips on how to use this strategy most effectively. Adopting these insights can create a win-win situation for you and your employees.