What is Quiet Hiring?
Quiet hiring is the newest workplace phenomenon that has the headlines buzzing. Quiet hiring is when executives decide that employees must work in other roles or departments that may or may not be associated with their current job description to meet a current critical need in the organization. Or, a business may choose to hire contractors to outsource essential tasks to costs of onboarding, training, and benefits associated with full-time employees. Unlike what the term depicts, when organizations choose to quiet hire for new skills or increased performance, they are not actually hiring employees. They are simply reassigning them. Examples of quiet hiring include mandating that a customer service manager devotes a portion of their day to answering or making customer service calls or mandating that an employee who works in the admissions office at a university work in the financial aid office during peak periods.
Why is Quiet Hiring trending now?
Quiet hiring is all the rage now because it is a critical response to the radical changes that have taken place in workplaces all around the world these last three years, namely the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and the Talent Gap. With employees leaving in droves and those who stayed setting workload boundaries, organizations are struggling immensely to execute daily operations at any level, let alone a high one. Additionally, for those businesses who have already implemented major layoffs or hiring freezes to stop their capital hemorrhage and have a fighting chance, quiet hiring is the only feasible answer within their workforce.
However, it is important to know that quiet hiring is not a new trend or practice, it is only a new term to describe what well-experienced executives and HR personnel have executed for a long time to establish stable and recession-proof organizations. Before quiet hiring, this practice has been known as cross-training and multiskilling employees. The only difference between quiet hiring and cross-training or multi-skilling employees is how the practice is communicated by the executive leadership and then perceived by their employees.
Leaders and employees alike are already under a lot of pressure to perform without the highly skilled team or ample resources they once had. As such, it is vital that the current workforce focuses on the opportunities of quiet hiring rather than the obvious challenges and consider how quiet hiring will help both the organization and its members in the long run.
How to Handle Quiet Hiring
Leaders, understand that you must not make this initiative only about the survival of the company; employees must feel that their employment security and development is a priority too. Therefore, how you communicate and frame the most evocative objectives of quiet hiring is key: (1) to develop employee skills and enhance performance, (2) to increase flexibility in the organization, (3) to provide everyone with greater understanding of organizational infrastructure and operations, and (4) and to establish a more stable and recession-proof organization.
Here's My Advice to Executive Leaders
First, please don’t use the term “quiet hiring” when speaking to employees about what HR influencers have coined quiet hiring that alludes to the organization’s advantage only, not the employee’s gain. Rather, use more constructive terms such “cross-training” and “multiskilling” to turn the focus to how this initiative helps them to become more effective, highly valued, and promotion-ready employees.
Second, frame “quiet hiring” as a long-term and strategic organizational development initiative that focuses on leader and employee skills enhancement and increased exposure to business operations.
Third, communicate why cross-training and multi-skilling are necessary to the organization’s operations and their individual career growth. All employees should understand that this initiative is crucial to the sustainability of the organization and their future at the company. Twenty-first century businesses can no longer afford to hire one-dimensional and narrow-minded employees. Flexible and multiskilled employees are imperative for the vitality and sustainability of companies. If employees embrace this, they will position themselves to be highly competitive talent in this turbulent environment.
Advantages of Quiet Hiring for Executives
1. “Quiet hiring” (or cross-training and multiskilling is an opportunity for you to model humility and your willingness to be reassigned, to learn new skills in a department that you do not lead, or to do a role that everyone knows you are obviously overqualified, but not too proud, to do for the good of the company. As such, modeling and positive consequential rewards is a powerful social learning tool.
2. Learning how the company operates at all levels makes you a more effective leader and project manager. You will better understand the infrastructure required to get things done.
3. Understanding what a task or job requires of a person physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually will make you a more empathetic leader.
4. Quiet hiring is a wonderful way to promote your organization’s DIEB (diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging) initiatives, whereby project teams and departments are enhanced with purposeful and positive disruptions to any homogeneous, exclusive, inequitable, and off-putting cultures.
5. Utilize this initiative to identify rising stars in your organization that demonstrate their ability to flow with leadership objectives, who welcome opportunities to develop, inspire and motivate their team members to embrace change, and exemplify extraordinary personal leadership.
Advantages of Quiet Hiring for Employees
Employees, embrace the fact that “quiet hiring” (or rather cross-training and multiskilling) is the opportunity you have been waiting for to improve and increase your skillset.
1. Quiet hiring is your chance to exercise newly acquired skills and take courses during your regular work hours without having to dedicate your personal time and resources to personal or leadership development.
2. Because there may be many areas of need in organization, be proactive and identify places in your organization where you would like to cross-train before new roles or tasks are mandated.
3. Quiet hiring is a great opportunity for you to get exposure to different jobs without having to move permanently in some cases. Be courageous and tell your leader/supervisor about the roles you want exposure to and the skills you want to acquire to explore options and prepare you for your career aspirations.
4. What skills have you been hiding? Now, is your opportunity to whip out those certifications, degrees, or other unique experience you have and make a case for that job you have been eying or why a new position should be created with your name on it.
5. Utilize this initiative to demonstrate your ability to flow with leadership objectives, to pursue personal development, to inspire and motivate your team members to embrace change, and to exemplify extraordinary personal leadership.
Every problem is simply an opportunity to learn or do something new that has the potential to challenge and development you. Seize the opportunity of quiet hiring!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Wanita Mercer, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of Lead My Heart, an executive coaching and consulting company specializing in spiritual leadership, change, and communication strategies. She has a Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in organizational leadership from University of the Incarnate Word, and she is a certified change management specialist and management executive. She has over 15 years of experience as an international educator, motivational speaker, and author. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.