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What is Quiet Hiring & Why Employers Shouldn’t Be Quiet About it?

Leave aside quiet quitting and firing; quiet hiring is the new not-so-quiet trend to shake up HR circles. Like other quiet trends, quiet hiring was bolstered by volatile labor economic trends — inflation, high attrition costs, and hiring freezes.

With 69% of Asia-Pacific CEOs predicting a decline in global economic growth, it’s no wonder that employers are using quiet hiring to optimize their workforces. In 2023, businesses clearly cannot afford to make knee-jerk reactions like over-hiring and subsequently letting go of employees to balance their extravagant hiring to tackle talent shortages.

Like its other ‘quiet’ predecessors, you’d probably have heard this coming. But for employers new to the practice, we dissect what the term means and how to navigate this trend properly.

Quiet Hiring Explained

Quiet hiring is when employers reassign roles and responsibilities to other employees to fulfill acute and immediate business needs. For instance, if an employee suddenly quits, another employee from another division who knows the task is “quietly transferred internally” to fill the position.

Let’s take the case of the Australian airline Qantas. In 2022, Qantas rotated its senior executives amid baggage handling roles to tackle labor shortage, BBC reported. The rotated employees were asked to work shifts of four or six hours three to five days a week.

Speaking to CNBC, Gartner analyst Emily Rose McRae observed that the executives could gain a profound understanding of how the baggage handling operations worked.

However, she also warns of an “inherent tension” in practicing quiet hiring. When employees are rotated among job functions without proper clarity on why they’ve been reassigned, how long they’d be performing these commitments, and performance measures/KPIs, it may lead to employees feeling less valued.

Four Ways Quiet Hiring Will Affect the Labor Market

  • Lesser job eliminations – Quiet hiring, in a gist, is doing more (work) with fewer (employees). As this trend increases, employers will increasingly focus on retention strategies, eventually reducing layoffs or mass firing. Quiet hiring will also help employees refrain from over-hiring for immediate business needs.
  • Employers can counter the negative side of hiring – With quiet hiring, employers can offset the opportunity costs arising from long interview processes, lengthy hiring time, etc.
  • Hiring gig workers will become more common – To fulfill immediate business needs, employers may leverage alum networks and employee referrals to bring in gig workers with specific skills.
  • Employees will acquire cross-functional skills – Monster.com reported that 63% of employees believe quiet hiring helps them learn new skills. When employees are reassigned job roles, not only do they get hands-on with new roles, but they also benefit from cross-functional collaboration. This boosts employee morale, particularly during a recession when employees are concerned about becoming redundant.

How Should Employers Work Through this Trend?

When framing a quiet hiring strategy, employers must remember that communication and transparency are vital. Moreover, there should also be a structured and straightforward onboarding process for the employee to quickly get up to speed in the new role.

Communication is key

This phenomenon is doing rounds in many HR stories and news headlines. Employees, already aware of this trend, can sense a bad moon rising. They can foresee the repercussions, one being additional duties allotted to them.

In companies where this trend was observed,  employees immediately assumed that the company’s financials were tanking. They concluded this from the freeze on hiring that usually precedes quiet hiring and reassigning duties and job functions to existing employees. Monster.com reported that 41% of the surveyed employees would view the company as unorganized if employers quietly hired them.

Despite the survey reporting that 39% of employees would view quiet hiring as an opportunity to grow or “spread their wings,” the rest do not think so. Quiet hiring isn’t always viewed in a positive light. Given the economic uncertainties, it’s understandable why employees would err on the side of caution – 16% of the respondents feel they would continue working with the same employer if the move were temporary, and 27% feel they’d leave their employer.

In light of all this, communication and transparency are key when employers quietly hire. At the core of quiet hiring is taking care of employee compensation and work-life balance. Employers need to offer clarity on how long these commitments will last. Will your employees be given promotions and salary raises? Will they be trained to take on these additional roles? How will their performance be measured?

Employers should explain why the shift in responsibilities is necessary while reassuring people that their old jobs will still be waiting for them after the shift is complete.

Increase learning and development budgets

In a survey by Monster.com, 50% of the respondents reported needing to be adequately skilled for new roles when quietly hired. According to Garner, 63% of employees believed that quiet hiring was an opportunity to learn a new skill.

Given this, employers will have to invest seriously in learning and development, reverse mentoring, and similar L&D tactics. They must provide specific upskilling opportunities to help employees meet evolving organizational needs.

Prepare for increased demand for internal mobility

Quiet hiring may seem similar to internal mobility. However, that is not the case. Companies proceed with quiet hiring and deploying employees in business functions where the need is critical and time-sensitive. In the case of internal mobility, employers design their recruitment activities for employees to move within the organization. The former is more of an afterthought, while the latter packs more strategic planning.

However, quiet hiring encourages employees to demand more flexibility around internal mobility. According to Cornerstone People Research Lab and Lighthouse Research & Advisory’s new report, 73% of employees today want to learn about career opportunities within their organizations.

An interesting takeaway from the report is how a company’s transparency and communication with internal mobility programs can impact quiet hiring tactics. The report found that employees who lack visibility to internal career opportunities are three times more likely to say they would not be interested in other job roles within the organization. Employers who don’t provide adequate support for internal transfers will likely deal with lower engagement levels when they quiet hiring employees.

Conclusion: Why Employers Cannot Be Quiet About Hiring

According to industry experts, Quiet hiring is not new. In an interview with Moneycontrol, Girish Rowjee, Co-Founder and CEO of Greytip Software, an HRMS company, says, “In terms of statistics, functions such as Product Management and Consulting have internal mobility rates of over 20 percent in India, indicating that domestic companies are adept at quiet hiring based on functional needs,”.

However, what is concerning is the context in which employers are using quiet hiring. Until now, 2023 hasn’t painted a rosy picture –  layoff news and an impending recession dominate headlines daily. Despite this uncertainty, many labor markets remain hot –  talent shortages and attrition rates persist.

In these tumultuous times, the role of managers in properly implementing quiet hiring becomes paramount. They have to balance an employee’s added workload and C-suite expectations carefully. Managers must also ensure quiet hiring doesn’t affect their company employee retention levels. Communicating expectations and transparency are crucial to driving quiet hiring to your advantage.

Will Smith
Will Smith

Content Writer

Will is a content writer at Multiplier. With a background in technology journalism, he is passionate about busting jargon, getting to the heart of complex topics, and (hopefully) writing pieces you'll enjoy reading.

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