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What is quiet hiring? The newest recruiting trend

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6 min read
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The term “quiet hiring” has caught a lot of attention lately. Many are even calling it the most up-and-coming employment trend of 2023. But despite all of the attention, it’s really anything new?

According to experts, quiet hiring is not a new concept per se. It is about employers getting more from their workforce without expanding their full-time workforce, which is a well-known practice. However, it is emerging as a strong workplace trend that many companies are practicing now more than ever before.

In this article, we’ll dive in and explore the topic in depth. We’ll discuss the exact definition of quiet hiring, the elements of good quiet hiring practices, benefits for employers, and more. 

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What is quiet hiring?

Quiet hiring is essentially the opposite of “quiet quitting” or when workers do just the bare minimum to get by. It is when companies increase their productivity and fill skill gaps without hiring more full-time employees. To do this, they either give existing employees more work, hire contractors, or even boomerang employees temporarily to cover some of the extra responsibilities. 

Instead of engaging staff who have “quietly quit”, companies who practice “quiet hiring” simply outsource their tasks and resist promoting employees who do not put forth the extra effort.

Elements of quiet hiring

Quiet hiring involves businesses expanding their skill sets without investing in more full-time employees. For employees, this can feel like an exciting new opportunity or a sneaky way of piling on more responsibilities. Much of it depends on the way that employers communicate their strategies to employees and whether or not their practices are ethical

Here’s what to consider when developing your recruitment strategy:

  • A hiring plan that determines how internal or external candidates will be chosen, which recruitment analytics will be considered, and the skillsets that the company is looking for. Additionally, employers must decide who will take on the responsibility of finding and acting as a hiring committee. In most cases, managers take on recruitment tasks based on their departmental needs.
  • Communication with existing employees about the plan to implement quiet hiring practices. This should be transparent and explain the reasons why the company is assigning more tasks or contracting new labor. Otherwise, your team might start to question their job security. They might even feel that they are being taken advantage of, and look for a position elsewhere.
  • Reassurance. Current employees need to know that this does not mean that their position is at risk and that they are considered to be valuable members of the team. Additionally, if you are giving existing employees extra responsibilities, you will want to provide them with adequate support. This means investing in training programs and tools to help them with their new endeavors.
  • Career pathing. Aside from considering the company’s immediate need to fill in certain skills gaps, individual career goals should be factored into hiring decisions.

Communicating effectively, supporting your workforce, and considering your employee’s career goals will help your quiet hiring strategy take off. But what’s the ideal outcome for employers?

Employer benefits of quiet hiring

When quiet hiring is practiced ethically, employers can benefit immediately and in the long term. Here are just a few of the top advantages: 

  • Reduce expenses– By comparison to the recruitment process, quiet hiring can be an extremely effective solution for companies looking to reduce employee costs.
  • Target skill gaps- Employers can find contractors who are more uniquely qualified to fill particular skill gaps that are in need.  A great way to find skill gaps and get a feel for employee stress levels is by conducting stay interviews regularly.
  • Decrease burnout- By contracting external temporary staff to take on some of the extra projects, employers can reduce burdens and burnout for existing employees.
  • Stay ahead of the curve- Bringing in specialists and experts on a part-time basis means new perspectives and innovation. Which means fresh ideas that will take you a step further than the competition.
  • Recognize your top performers- Internal quiet hiring not only boosts productivity levels and fills in missing skills gaps, but it also serves as a tool to recognize employees who have gone above and beyond. If you trust employees with new projects, it’s a way of saying that you see their progress in performance reviews and know they are capable of handling a new challenge.

What employees should know

Although it may sound like quiet hiring is primarily beneficial for employers, there can be advantages for employees as well. It’s fair for employees who are asked to take on extra responsibilities or additional projects that fall outside of their job description to ask for something in return. Be sure to inform employees about the following:

  • Salary increments. If employees are taking on extra work, it’s completely understandable that they would expect to be remunerated for the extra time and effort.
  • Clear expectations. Employees need to know what their new responsibilities will look like and how they should prepare.
  • Extra training. If it’s necessary for employees to learn new skills for their new work expectations, they should be provided with the learning and development tools that they need. Whether it be through mentorship programs or company-sponsored courses, employees should be aware of the resources at hand.
  • The duration of the project. Is the company looking for employees to take on these new responsibilities over the long term? Or is this more of a short-term, one-time assignment? This should be communicated to staff beforehand so that they know exactly what to expect.
  • How it relates to long-term career goals. Training and extra experience can be a big plus for employees looking to grow and work towards certain career paths. They should know if the experience helps them prepare for a different role or qualify for a promotion.

Google’s quiet hiring

Tech giants like Google have caught recent attention for their use of quiet hiring practices to find top-tier talent.

As a part of their quiet hiring strategy, Google relies on their own staff to find and interview new external additions to their team. For each position offered, five or six existing Google employees form a hiring committee that is in charge of screening and evaluating candidates.

From there, the hiring committees consider either internal and/or external candidates for positions that possess five key aspects. For each of these aspects, members of the committee rank candidates with a score of 1-4. Then, the committee makes comparisons between candidates based on their total sums.

It’s important to note that two out of the five aspects that Google uses to choose candidates are internal references and employee testimonials. Meaning that it would be very difficult for employees without any internal connection to Google to receive a job offer.

Although these practices are not necessarily right for every company, Google’s method of quiet hiring has some notable qualities. Specifically in the way that they separate and weed out the best possible candidates.

Related trends

To understand why the idea of “quiet hiring” has gained so much recent popularity, it’s important to understand related terms. Here’s a quick explanation of  some recent trends that go hand-in-hand,”quiet firing” and “quiet quitting”.

Quiet firing

Quiet firing is when an employer takes actions to purposefully drive underperforming employees away from the company. For example, withholding promotions or pay raises, not offering learning and development opportunities, or taking away responsibilities that employees previously held. 

Rather than firing employees outright, companies that practice quiet firing make it more difficult for employees to climb up the career ladder.

Quiet quitting

As mentioned before, quiet quitting can be thought of as the opposite of quiet hiring. It’s when employees fulfill the minimum requirements of their position to stay on the company payroll. Much of this phenomenon is largely due to the aftermath of the coronavirus. After months of months of remote work, for many, there was an unwilling return to the office. 

Rather than receiving recognition for their dedication during unprecedented times, many felt that they were being forced back into “normalcy”. And they once again needed to rearrange their lives with little consideration or flexibility from employers. 

However, returning to the office is not necessarily “a new normal” for everyone. According to a recent McKinsey study, 58% of surveyed full-time workers reported having the option to work from home for at least one workday every week. That’s roughly equivalent to 92 million working individuals from the United States. And while remote work gives employees flexibility, it also can come at a price. 

For many employees, remote work is a tradeoff. It means longer hours, less separation between work and life, and in many cases, mental health problems. In fact, according to a recent study, 81% of Gen Z and Millenial workers experience feelings of loneliness and disconnection as a result of remote work.

Whether it be due to inflexible working conditions or the problems that accompany remote work,  employees are battling burnout and dissatisfaction like never before. This has led many to resign, or “quietly quit” until finding a better alternative.

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