What Is Quiet Hiring, and How Can Businesses Get It Right?

We break down quiet hiring, the next major employment trend. (Spoiler alert, it doesn't always involve hiring).

From “quiet quitting” to “quiet promotions”, 2022 blessed us with an assortment of novel employment concepts.

And according to employment specialists at Gartner, the hushed workplace saga isn’t slowing down just yet, with “quiet hiring” pegged to be the next major employment trend of 2023.

The concept, which describes employers filling in employment gaps without hiring full-time workers, draws many parallels with quiet promotions. However, if executed right, experts believe it could be beneficial to businesses and their workers.

Like its other ‘quiet’ predecessors, we probably should have heard this one coming. But for employers new to the practice, we dissect what the term means, and how it can be used to their advantage.

What is Quiet Hiring?

While we may have entered a new year, businesses are still plagued with many issues that dominated 2022.

Subsequently, as employers contend with skill shortages and increasing financial stresses, a new term has been coined to describe a common emerging response — quiet hiring.

In simple terms, quiet hiring occurs when employers address acute talent shortages by requiring employees to do more than what’s in their job description.

This might sound familiar to quiet promotions, the term which describes workers being lumped with extra responsibilities without receiving financial or professional recognition.

“The talent shortage that we talked about throughout 2022 hasn’t gone away… Every employer still has financial goals to meet — often, ambitious ones.” – Emily Rose McRae, Gartner research expert

However, according to Emily Rose McRae, the head of Gartner’s future of work research team and creator of the phrase, quiet hiring typically responds to temporary needs and can work out positively for both employers and employees when executed well.

As McRae tells CNBC, the phenomenon typically takes two forms; we break these down below.

Internal vs external quiet hiring

While both types of quiet hiring substitute the need to recruit full-time employees, internal quiet hiring takes place when employers juggle roles in-house by asking current workers to take on different assignments or responsibilities, according to McRae.

In contrast, external quiet hiring involves temporarily hiring short-term contractors to tackle skill shortages.

Is Quiet Hiring Quiet Exploitation?

While quiet hiring can present some valid solutions to businesses in a pinch, the trend is quickly gaining a reputation for being a new way to exploit workers.

This is because while burdening workers with extra responsibilities is nothing new, blindsiding workers by temporarily reassigning their job titles can lead them to feel like their needs aren’t prioritized, and that their former role isn’t important.

Quiet hiring can also result in unfair treatment if a worker is assigned tasks that far exceed their former title or don’t align with their current pay grade.

And this doesn’t even take into account the impact the trend could have on worthy candidates that are being snubbed from receiving new opportunities or moving up in their careers.

This being said, while the quiet hiring landscape may be a minefield for employers, it does allow struggling businesses to get by without resorting to brutal survival tactics such as Musk’s infamous “voluntary separation agreements”.

What’s more, there are ways the practice can work out to be mutually beneficial for both parties.

How Employers Can Get Quiet Hiring Right

According to Gartner’s in-house employment expert McRae, in order to execute quite hiring successfully, employers will need to be completely transparent with their workers.

By communicating exactly what this change will mean for them, in addition to explaining why it’s taking place, the potential fallout that could arise from workers being kept in the dark can be avoided.

Business leaders also need to take a proactive approach to upskilling their teams, to make sure they’re equipped with all the skills they need to carry out these new tasks.

“If you’re asking a bunch of people to make this move, you should be able to articulate: What does this mean for them?” Emily Rose McRae, Future of Work lead at Gartner  

Employers should also think about how this move can favor their worker’s professional progress. By leveraging the practice as a way to advance careers and lead to promotions, quiet hiring can act as a win-win.

Finally, it’s important to keep an open mind. Not every member of staff will be up for upheaving their job title. So, to make sure quiet hiring works for your team and not just your bottom line, employers need to respect these workers and meet their needs as much as possible.

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Written by:
Isobel O'Sullivan (BSc) is a senior writer at Tech.co with over four years of experience covering business and technology news. Since studying Digital Anthropology at University College London (UCL), she’s been a regular contributor to Market Finance’s blog and has also worked as a freelance tech researcher. Isobel’s always up to date with the topics in employment and data security and has a specialist focus on POS and VoIP systems.
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