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Quiet Hiring: Risks and Rewards

As we enter 2023, employers face historic challenges. The economic slowdown and a competitive hiring landscape have significantly impacted staffing budgets. More than ever, creativity and ingenuity are needed to meet organizational needs while also retaining talent. For many employers, this will involve a practice known as “quiet hiring.” 

According to Emily Rose McRae, Senior Director of Research at Gartner, a research and consulting firm, “Quiet hiring is when an organization acquires new skills without actually hiring new full-time employees.” In other words, it’s the efficient use of existing staff to get work done without an increase in employee headcount. For example, if an employee departs from an organization, instead of hiring a replacement, the employer might reassign the position’s tasks and projects to other employees.

The term has been used in many different contexts over the past few years. In September 2022, Inc. Magazine used it in an article about Google’s hiring strategy, in which high-achieving employees are fast-tracked into open positions. As Gartner’s work trend report points out, quiet hiring can look different depending on an organization’s needs. Instead of focusing solely on moving internal employees into new roles, it might also mean hiring contractors or gig workers as needed.

Quiet hiring is an attractive proposition for many employers. In addition to being cost-effective, it allows for the efficient redistribution of resources across an organization, bringing talent to where it’s needed most. 

Quiet hiring also has the potential to benefit employees who seek to advance their careers by creating pathways to the jobs they want. For those who accept and are motivated by the challenge of a new role, it can also increase engagement.

However, suppose the strategy is not communicated effectively. In that case, there’s a risk that employees might feel their employer is trying to “do more with less” and overload them to the point of burnout. Employers should communicate clearly to the employee about the details of the new assignment, including compensation changes, duration, and performance expectations. It should also be apparent to the employee why they were chosen. What specific skills or abilities of theirs will apply to the new role or project? What makes it a good match? Being prepared with answers to these questions will ensure employees feel confident in their ability to succeed, especially if they are taking on a role that represents a significant step up in terms of authority and responsibility.

Communication is also vital when quiet hiring involves a decision to bring on contractors. Employers should communicate the value of these new additions, clearly stating how their knowledge and skills will benefit the team. After all, if the contractor works well, they could become an excellent candidate for open positions in the future. 

In quiet hiring, savvy employers have the opportunity to energize their workforce and create efficiencies, all while continuing to grow and expand. With strategic thinking and clear employee communication, quiet hiring can be a win-win situation for all involved. 

Picture of Tess Griswold, M.Ed.

Tess Griswold, M.Ed.

Tess Griswold is a Training Specialist with Archbright. Her perspective on education and leadership is informed by her experiences working in community colleges and the nonprofit sector, where she taught Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language. She earned a B.A. in English Literature from Western Washington University and a M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Loyola University Chicago.