There’s been no shortage of workplace buzzwords hitting the headlines in recent memory. While some of these terms refer to trends such as the “Great Resignation”, “quiet quitting”, and “quiet firing”, there’s another recruitment-related event taking place: “quiet hiring”.

It’s set to be one of the top workforce trends of 2023 according to Gartner, but what exactly is it, and how might it shake things up?


What is Quiet Hiring?

Quiet hiring isn’t exactly what you might think it is.

According to Emily McRae, a Senior Director of Research at Gartner, quiet hiring is “when an organization acquires new skills without actually hiring new full-time employees.”

In other words, it means giving current employees new responsibilities, such as by moving them to new positions.


Why is Quiet Hiring Growing?

Organizations are currently facing an ultra-competitive, candidate-led recruitment landscape. This, alongside the global economic downturn and mounting pressures to cut and keep costs low, there’s something of a struggle going on for companies that want to find new talent while simultaneously trying to retain their existing talent with in-demand skills.

The fact that recruitment budgets are staying the same or decreasing in many organizations is making the situation all the more challenging. As a result, organizations are being forced to think outside of the box to fill vacancies. And in some situations, this means turning to quiet hiring.

“As we enter a phase where a potential economic slowdown means organizations face hiring slowdowns and freezes—but still have to contend with the talent shortage in their existing workforce—organizations are going to have to rethink their approach to talent,” says Emily McRae.

Despite the economic slowdown and whether or not a recession hits, organizations still have goals to meet. These are often ambitious and necessitate the hiring of talent. At the same time, the talent shortage of 2022 hasn’t gone away yet. So, many organizations will find themselves in a position where it’s harder to hire talent that they’re in desperate need of.

This is exactly the type of situation where quiet hiring becomes an attractive proposition. Even if quiet hiring doesn’t technically involve hiring any new people, the idea is to prioritize the most crucial business functions, which could mean temporarily mixing up the roles of current employees.


What Does Quiet Hiring Look Like?

True to its name, quiet hiring can be difficult to spot. It’s something that can manifest in a few ways, some of which might not be immediately noticeable, including:

(1) An organizational push on internal talent mobility that sees existing employees taking on new roles and responsibilities with or without any additional compensation or benefits.

(2) Increased reliance on outsourcing certain tasks and responsibilities, particularly those that will exist only in the short term, to independent contractors.

(3) A sudden emphasis on upskilling opportunities for existing employees, which helps organizations to meet their growing needs while also supporting the career aspirations of employees.


How to Get Quiet Hiring Right

For employees, quiet hiring can feel like an exciting new opportunity. It can also feel like a sneaky way of piling on more responsibilities. How employees view quiet hiring largely depends on the way that employers communicate their strategies to employees and whether or not quiet hiring practices are fair and ethical. 

Here are some things to think about when integrating quiet hiring into your recruitment strategy.

Do you have a hiring plan? You need to determine how internal or external candidates will be chosen, what skillsets the company is looking for, and whether a particular role or responsibility is suitable for quiet hiring. All of this and more can be covered by a thorough hiring plan.

Have you communicated with employees? You can’t leave people in the dark. You should communicate your plan to implement quiet hiring practices and be transparent about it. Explain the reasons why you are assigning more tasks and upskilling employees rather than upping the organizational headcount. If you don’t, then people may begin to worry about their job security or develop feelings of resentment.

Have you reassured the workforce? Employees need to know that just because you’re engaging in quiet hiring, that doesn’t mean that their jobs are at risk or that their inputs are not valued. A little reassurance can go a long way toward staving off the aforementioned job security fears and resentment. Additionally, if you’re upskilling employees, you should be providing them with adequate support such as training programs.

Planning, communicating, and supporting your workforce, can help you get your quiet hiring strategy off to the best start. But what’s the end goal?


Quiet Hiring Benefits

When quiet hiring is done properly, both employees and employers can benefit immediately and in the long term. Some of the benefits of quiet hiring for employers include:

Reduced expenses because quiet hiring is much cheaper than hiring new staff, making it an effective solution for organizations trying to reduce staff costs.

Fewer skills gaps because employers can either upskill their employees or find contractors who are uniquely qualified to fill particular gaps that exist within the organization.

A decrease in burnout because quiet hiring makes it possible to outsource specific responsibilities and tasks to contractors on a temporary basis.

Easier recognition of top performers because quiet hiring forces organizations to upskill employees and assign them to tasks and responsibilities that would otherwise be outside of their remit. This naturally creates an opportunity for employers to see those who are capable of handling new challenges.

Although it might sound as if quiet hiring only benefits employers, there are also advantages for employees. These include:

Salary increases for employees who are taking on additional work or who have been upskilled through training.

More training opportunities because it’s usually necessary for employees to learn new skills if they are taking on new roles and responsibilities.

More potential for career progression for employees who are engaged in quiet hiring practices, particularly for those who are able to perform well with the weight of additional responsibilities on their shoulders.

Overall, when done properly, quiet hiring can be a valuable way of meeting both short and long-term organizational goals and bridging skills gaps without having to increase organizational headcount, while simultaneously making employees feel valued through enhanced training and progression opportunities.