Quiet hiring: how can it help your business?

You've probably heard about 'quiet quitting'. Now comes 'quiet hiring'. But what is this new workplace trend and how can it help you keep your top talent?

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT | 8-MINUTE READ

For anyone who runs a business, the need to control costs while at the same time boosting performance is an all too common conundrum.

One solution could be quiet hiring – the latest phenomenon sweeping workplaces. Here's how you can make the most of this industry trend while avoiding its potential pitfalls.

What is quiet hiring?

What is quiet hiring?

Quiet hiring is when an organisation fills skills gaps without hiring new full-time employees. The idea is to maximise the potential of existing staff by offering them the chance to upskill, retrain or move to other areas of the business.

Crucially, it's a way to redistribute the skills and resources you already have at your disposal to where they're going to have the most strategic value.

Quiet hiring can involve:

  • Giving employees additional responsibilities

  • Moving workers to another department to capitalise on their expertise

  • Placing employees in new and different roles

  • Rebalancing workloads

  • Taking on different projects

  • Bringing in temporary contractors or interim hires

The concept of quiet hiring has come to the forefront after a Gartner report predicted it would be the top workforce trend for 2023. It's seen as a counter-response to another current workplace trend – 'quiet quitting' – where an employee refuses to go above and beyond their contractual duties.

Quiet hirers are fighting back to give employees a reason to go the extra mile. Given the chance, there may be staff members who would relish the opportunity to learn new skills or advance their career prospects by taking on a slightly different role.

What quiet hiring doesn't mean is overloading employees with more work. It may be a case of breaking down one role into smaller parts or filling a talent shortfall with an interim hire rather than loading too much on to one person.

Although the phrase quiet hiring may be new, the concept of mobilising internal talent certainly isn't. Employers and HR leaders have been using this tactic for years to help bridge skills gaps quickly. It's just that chronic labour shortages after the pandemic are making the issue all the more critical.

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Why are employers quiet hiring?

Why are employers quiet hiring?

With businesses struggling to attract and retain talent, employers are having to get creative to find the skills they need in house. Since the pandemic, the pool of available talent remains low – so much so that, for example, 78% of small businesses in England have struggled to recruit.

The shortage of talent means that it can take months for a company to recruit for a new full-time position. For many organisations, this is simply too long. At the same time, ongoing economic uncertainty means companies are under pressure to keep costs down. This is why we're seeing employers increasingly looking internally to find the skills they need.

The idea isn't to exploit employees but to make the most of the talent an organisation already has. You strategically assess the skills available and prioritise where talent is most needed and where you can afford to reduce headcount.

Quiet hiring can benefit employers in a variety of ways, including:

Reducing costs

An obvious upside of quiet hiring is that it saves the company money. You can bypass the costs associated with recruiting by using existing talent instead. This could be a prudent move when you consider that it typically costs between six and nine months' salary to recruit and train a new employee.

What's more, as you won't be hiring another full-time member of staff, you won't have to pay out another full salary and staff benefits, such as pensions and healthcare, on top of that.

Saving time

If you need to plug an urgent skills gap, hiring an employee through the traditional recruitment channels may take too long. Similarly, if you rush into taking on a new hire, you could end up with the wrong person and have to start all over again. Quiet hiring someone you know you can rely on can save you a lot of time and effort.

Identifying and rewarding star performers

Quiet hiring is a good way to find the people in your workforce who stand apart from the rest – those who are quick learners, enthusiastic, always deliver quality work and don't need to be asked to go above and beyond. Identify the employees you might want to reward with a promotion or bear in mind for a future leadership role.

Creating an agile workforce to meet economic challenges

Upskilling existing team members also allows you to respond and adapt quickly to any market instability or changes to the business. You can swiftly deploy resources to where they're most needed to meet different demands. When you have flexibility and agility in your workforce, your organisation is better equipped to make it through challenging economic times.

What are the potential pitfalls of quiet hiring?

What are the potential pitfalls of quiet hiring?

For quiet hiring to work, you need to be careful that you don't ask too much of your employees when they may already be feeling overworked or burnt out. Piling more responsibilities onto an already stressed workforce is a recipe for disaster as it's likely to harm productivity and cause resentment.

Quiet hiring should never be about taking advantage of employees. The objective is to strike the right balance between building employees' skills and safeguarding their well-being.

Here's how to avoid mismanaging quiet hiring:

Communicate with employees

It's important to be as open and transparent as possible with employees as this builds trust and support for your ideas. Explain your organisation's priorities and why you're making a change to your hiring strategy. Make it clear whether the arrangement could be long-term or if it's just a temporary fix to get the company through a sticky patch.

Have a strategic plan

Avoid taking a scattergun approach to delegating roles. Think about whose skills are the best match for a new assignment and which team members could excel. If staff are given new responsibilities, make sure that they understand what's being asked of them and how these fit into the company's overall objectives.

Provide good support

Be realistic about what's possible for your current team. If you assign them more tasks, give them the support they need while they get used to their new role to avoid unnecessary anxiety and confusion. Invest in the relevant training programmes and resources if you need to.

If there's too much for them to handle, think about taking on an interim professional, freelancer or contractor who's ready to hit the ground running. They can share some of the workload for as long as necessary.

How can quiet hiring benefit employees?

How can quiet hiring benefit employees?

On the surface, quiet hiring might seem like it only benefits employers. But employees can get a lot out of it too, so leaders need to frame it in a way that appeals to workforces. Benefits for employees include:

The chance to learn new skills

Training and upskilling gives employees the chance to add more strings to their bow. Everything from instructor-led sessions and interactive workshops to on-the-job training can be hugely valuable in developing different skillsets.

One survey found that 63% of workers see quiet hiring as a chance to learn new skills. Younger and less experienced employees in particular may be keen to prove themselves and work harder to impress.

Opportunities for career growth

Acquiring new skills and responsibilities can help with an employee's professional development, no matter how long they've been with the company. Internal mobility is also a way for employees to network with colleagues in other areas of the business or try a department they may be interested in working in.

Feeling more valued

Being trusted with more responsibility and autonomy can give employees a much-needed lift. When you make it known that you value and appreciate their efforts, employees will be more inclined to put themselves forward for new roles or tasks.

Opportunity for rewards

If an employee is taking on additional responsibilities, it's only fair to give them something in return. You can present new duties as learning opportunities with the potential to earn a pay rise. If that isn't an option, you could offer other benefits such as a bonus, flexible hours or time off in lieu.

Improved engagement

Some employees will start to lose interest if they're just going through the motions and feel like their career isn't going anywhere. Creating a culture of opportunity can improve engagement and morale. If people are enjoying their work, they're more likely to want to stay with the business and go the extra mile.

Unlocking full potential

Gaining additional experience not only strengthens an employee's skillset but also makes them a more well-rounded employee. With the right tools and resources to support their career growth, they can flourish and achieve their full potential – and maybe even lead at the top level one day too.

All things considered, quiet hiring can be a win-win for both employers and employees. But it's important to do it in a way that benefits people's career growth, rather than simply overwhelming them with more work. Cultivating home-grown skills can boost employee retention and keep payroll costs down. In return, you'll need to offer targeted learning and sustained support to keep your quiet hiring efforts on course – and empower your employees to be their best selves.

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