Remember quiet quitting? That’s the term used to describe workers not going above and beyond at work and doing the bare minimum because they are not engaged or have poor work-life balance.
Then came quiet firing, which is when leaders intentionally create a hostile work environment by poorly managing workers and forcing them to quit.
Now there’s a new buzzword making rounds: quiet hiring.
Quiet Hiring Explained
Quiet hiring is when companies redeploy employees to meet priorities without adding headcount or hire contract workers to fill gaps. As the slowing economy reduces hiring budgets, companies look for ways to keep and acquire in-demand talent. Gartner predicts that quiet hiring will be one of the big trends of 2023.
Rue Dooley, HR Knowledge Advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management, has been in the workforce for over 40 years and has seen it all. He says what’s old is new again and quiet hiring is a buzz-worthy name for something employers have done for decades.
“It’s more about repurposing existing employees, restructuring, maybe even changing the way we’ve traditionally done things in our organization to get the same things done better with who we have,” he says. “There are some gaps in operations that can be filled by the people we have. People have talents and gifts that are often underutilized.”
When done the right way, Gartner says quiet hiring can elevate the employee experience and assist in retention while helping companies keep payroll costs under control. How can employers and employees navigate quiet hiring to ensure the proposition is a win-win for both parties?
Deliver the Right Message
Social media posts are filled with arguments that quiet hiring sounds like extra work being unloaded on an employee’s plate without the rewards of a salary increase or a title change.
Lisa Brezonik, CEO of Salo, a Korn Ferry company, is not suggesting that employers manipulate workers, but says leaders need to be aware of how they frame discussions with employees. While some companies will manage quiet hiring well, others will manage it poorly.
“’I have an opportunity, we have a project, we have some work that needs to get done and I think this is something you’d be good at. Do you have the ability to take it on?’ That’s the right way to do this,” she says. “The wrong way to do this is to say there’s extra work I need you to do. Go take care of it.”
Mark Villalovos experienced quiet hiring six years ago, well before it had its catchy name.
At the time, he worked as a program management director for Sears. When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, the company tasked him to travel to the island to help with rebuilding efforts. Villalovos vividly remembers how he was approached for the stretch assignment.
“In a battlefield situation, a full bird colonel is shipped as close to the enemy lines as possible because that colonel has the experience to assess and understand how to most effectively attack a particular situation,” Villalovos was told by one of the company’s leaders. “I want you to be that colonel for me.”
Villalovos reflects on the life-changing experience and says leadership communication is critical.
“There’s this implied amount of trust they are stating,” he says. “It wouldn’t be a bad thing to overstate that and say, ‘we trust you to do this. You’ve done this in your career. You’ve done this with our organization, or you’ve done this in the past. This is what we are hoping you will do for us.’ I was a stronger leader because of that experience. Eight months later, I looked back on that experience and thought this was one of the most important things I’ve ever done.”
What if quiet hiring presents you with a work opportunity you’re excited to take on? Brezonik advises workers to slow down and be curious before accepting new responsibilities.
“You have to make sure that even if that’s the case, you don’t end up working 60, 70 or 80 hours a week because that’s not healthy for anybody,” she says.
Gartner says competitive companies will balance meeting business needs and protecting employees’ well-being. Make sure you understand what is expected and that you feel like you can succeed. Brezonik says that includes asking specific questions about how the additional duties will affect your day-to-day work.
“’Can we talk about what success looks like for you so we can make sure we’re on the same page?’ If you don’t want to do it, you’ve got to have the guts to say it,” she says.
Workers should feel empowered to discuss adjustments to their schedule, like the number of days they are required to come into the office. Most companies realize they are asking employees to do extra work and will be reasonable if workers are professional in their responses.
“If somebody says, ‘I need you to take on an extra 20 hours of work’ and you’re already working 40 hours, that’s not terribly reasonable,” says Brezonik. “To say — ‘is there something I could reprioritize in what I already am doing’ is a great start to the conversation. There may not be an assumption that you take everything you have and continue doing it.”
While there may be risks to speaking up, Dooley says the odds are usually in the employee’s favor.
“Your employer might say, ‘you don’t want to be a team player,’” he says. “’You don’t want to do what we’re reassigning you to. Here’s the punishment, whatever the penalties might be, up to and including termination.’ That’s the difficulty. The odds are that it wouldn’t happen under the circumstances. If they already have gaps that they’re filling, why would they worsen their situation?”
Focus on Growth
Does quiet hiring come with a promotion or a bump in pay? Maybe not, but as employers look to fill their gaps, workers can use the opportunity to gain knowledge and increase their market value.
“This is a great way to learn about something else you’ve never done before that might get you excited about doing something different in your career,” says Brezonik.
She advises employees to examine where their talents can be used within the company even before they are quietly hired.
“They don’t have enough people over here, here and here and that’s an area that I’m interested in,” says Brezonik. “I could proactively say, ‘do you need any help with anything right now?’ You have to be realistic. You’ve got to get your day job done. But that’s a great way to get new skills.”
For quiet hiring to be successful, Dooley says employers should show employees how the workplace strategy can be synergistic.
“Show employees that you care about what they care about,” he says. “This quiet hiring, repurposing, transferring or promoting employees to put them where they fit best is for the benefit of the organization. But don’t leave it there. Tell them what you’re doing for them and how it benefits you, the employee, so it helps the company, it helps you and it helps society in general. This is magic.”