After dominating workplace conversations in the latter half of 2022, “quiet quitting” is being replaced by another “quiet” trend: “quiet hiring.” In fact, “quiet hiring” is at the top of Gartner’s list of the nine future work trends for 2023.
With quiet hiring, employers leverage the skillset of existing employees by shifting people to new teams and responsibilities. Although it may initially sound like a trendy phrase for an internal career pivot, the key difference is that quiet hiring is a top-down decision rather than one driven by the employee. Quiet hiring allows orgs to use talent where it’s needed most and when it’s needed most without pouring energy into a time-intensive talent search.
But without the right strategy and approach, not everything comes up roses. In fact, quiet hiring can easily get thorny, especially for employees who enjoy their current roles or who shift to a different role only to be overwhelmed and underprepared.
If you’re a leader navigating layoffs or a pinched budget, quiet hiring probably feels like the only route forward. Nonetheless, it’s important to find a balance between business success and employee well-being (or else the former crumbles). Asking current employees to assume different or increased responsibilities is only ethical and beneficial if both employers and employees see it as a positive.
Quiet Hiring from the Employee Perspective
So who really wins when it comes to quiet hiring? According to a survey from Real Research Media, the majority of employees believe businesses benefit the most. The survey also found that a significant portion of respondents believe that quiet hiring would have no benefits at all for employees.
There’s a reason Forbes calls quiet hiring a risky trend for employees. A poll from Monster.com reveals that while 63% of workers say they view quiet hiring as an opportunity to learn new skills, half of those who were quietly hired say it hasn’t been a good fit, largely because they didn’t receive the proper training and support.
Quiet hiring might also lead to outright quitting. 27% of employees would consider quitting if management wanted to shift them to new roles, and 4% would turn in their resignations on the spot.
That being said, most employees recognize that quiet hiring is an appealing opportunity to test out different roles in the company and tack on new skills, which was the top-rated benefit in Real Research Media’s survey. Additionally, as employees gain new skills, they become an even greater asset to the company, which offers benefits on both sides of the table.
How to Make Quiet Hiring Work for Everyone
If quiet hiring seems like a mixed bag of benefits and downsides, how can companies ensure positive outcomes? It all comes down to taking the right approach.
Take into account the employees’ existing passions, including anyone who is already interested in changing roles and would appreciate a change. While quiet hires often go to employees known for going above and beyond, you should be realistic and compassionate about how much work you can expect one person to shoulder, and whether or not that work aligns with their strengths, especially if a new role will come with a learning curve.
This involves thinking through a DEI lens, as well. For instance, ensure that employees are selected because they bring the right skills, rather than the right degree, and that biases don’t detract from providing equitable opportunities across the organization. Quiet hiring could be an opportunity to advance DEI…or yet another moment where long-standing biases problematize career growth for underrepresented groups.
Make quiet hiring a choice.
In an article for Success, Jenn Lim, CEO and co-founder of Delivering Happiness and bestselling author of Beyond Happiness, notes that there’s “a difference between a request for a role/responsibility change versus a demand for it. We all crave autonomy and want a sense of control in the work that we do, so there should still be space for employee voice in this discussion.”
If employees feel like they are being pushed into doing more work (especially work they don’t enjoy or that doesn’t align with their career goals), they may experience anxiety and lowered job satisfaction, putting them at risk for burnout and declining performance.
Remember what’s at stake at the end of the day…. If an employee elects not to change their role, businesses can always turn to part-time or contract work to cover high-priority areas. That expense will cost much less in the long run than losing top talent.
Use the right messaging.
Emily Rose McRae, Senior Director of Research at Gartner, told SHRM that communication matters when explaining decisions around quiet hiring. According to McRae, “The message should not be ‘You’re interchangeable.’ It should be ‘You are valued, and we want to place you where you can have the biggest impact on the business.’”
Communicating how and why decisions are being made should go hand-in-hand with a commitment to listening to the concerns and requests of employees. Don’t assume an employee will be enthusiastic about a role change or see it in the same light as you. Instead, listen to their perspective and ensure that the employee is on board with being “hired.”
Provide training and support.
If employees buy into the why behind quiet hiring, they also need to be supported in the how. As Rashim Mogha, general manager of leadership and business at Skillsoft, told US News & World Report,
“How organizations go about this can make all the difference between it being mutually beneficial for employer and employee growth or leading to increased burnout, exacerbated skills gaps, and a frustrated workforce.”
One of the primary reasons quiet hiring can fail is that employees are shifted into new positions but without the training, support, and time to gain confidence in meeting new expectations. Proper training should be provided along every step.
Offer the right compensation.
If you’re asking people to take on more responsibilities, make sure they are compensated for the work. It’s fitting — and fair — that employees ask for a promotion and/or a raise. If the position is temporary, consider offering the employee a bonus.
McRae stresses that “If you’re asking people to do more or do something that is not particularly desirable, compensate them for that. Compensation could be money — either a bonus or a raise — or it might be more PTO [paid time off] or more flexibility.”
This is another moment where messaging matters. Clarify that the compensation, in whatever form it takes, is intended as recognition and appreciation. That, too, is a form of compensation.
Bottom line: when executed correctly, quiet hiring can be a mutually beneficial option for both employers and employees to fill skills gaps and develop new skills and interests.
If you found this resource helpful, The Forem has other articles on how businesses can proactively create a positive and thriving workplace. Add these articles to your reading list: