Why Quiet Hiring is a Win-Win for Employers and Employees

January 25, 2023

Contributor: Jordan Turner

When done correctly, that is.

No doubt you’ve heard all about “quiet hiring.” Here’s the thing you probably haven’t heard: It could be good for you as an employee — and your employer. 

Emily Rose McRae, Senior Director in the Gartner HR Practice, broke it all down, tackling everything from combatting “quiet quitting” to why it’s not a bid to exploit current employees.

What led us to “quiet hiring”?

Organizations are struggling to keep and acquire in-demand talent, especially as the economic downturn reduces staff budgets. But even when resources are less constrained, organizations will face talent mismatches as skill needs shift with the digitalization of our economies. HR leaders will have to get creative about securing those in-demand skills. 

It’s not as simple as just going out and paying to attract full-time employees with the right skills.  Smart organizations will increasingly look internally to find those skills — not to exploit employees, but to make sure the organization is using the limited talent it has where it can have the biggest impact. This means strategically assessing the talent you have available within an organization and making trade-offs on where talent is most needed, and where the organization can afford to slow down work or reduce headcount. 

These are trade-offs, so leadership is making a strategic decision about where talent is most needed and where sacrifices can be made, not just asking employees to do more. In many cases, there won’t be an obvious pool of talent that can instantly be redeployed to particularly hard-to-fill roles, but employers can redesign roles to make them easier for employees to redeploy to. 

For instance, if an organization is facing a six-month timeline to hire data scientists, they could choose to redeploy data analysts from marketing and HR to their IT and digital workplace teams. Rather than expect the marketing and HR analysts to be able to perform the same complex statistical programming as data scientists, the organization may focus the data science talent they do have on the complex programming tasks, and focus the redeployed marketing and HR analysts on communicating the results of the analysis to stakeholders, helping them make decisions off of the data.

How does quiet hiring also benefit employees?

Quiet hiring isn’t just a win for the organization. It provides employees with the opportunity to work stretch assignments, grow their current skills, learn new skills, extend their careers — and ultimately become invaluable to their current organization and more marketable to others. There are also more immediate benefits to employees — quiet hiring doesn’t mean employees who volunteer for these kinds of assignments shouldn’t be compensated or rewarded in some way. To capture the benefits of quiet hiring without risking attrition, organizations should expect to offer incentives, such as additional compensation, one-time bonuses, extra personal time off, flexible hours and working conditions.

What does quiet hiring look like in action?

At Gartner, we have warned organizations for years that it is short-sighted to limit your talent searches to people in certain jobs. You need to focus less on credentials and more on skills. For example, you can find people with skills “adjacent” to those you need and develop them from there. Tapping nontraditional talent pools is all part of “quiet hiring.”  

For organizations, quiet hiring will manifest in a few key ways:

  • A focus on internal talent mobility to ensure employees are deployed against the priorities that matter most without changes in headcount. This includes offering additional compensation or other benefits for new roles and responsibilities.

  • A renewed emphasis on stretch assignments and upskilling opportunities for existing employees. This provides growth opportunities while meeting both evolving organizational needs and supporting employees’ career aspirations.

  • Alternate approaches to sourcing, such as leveraging alumni networks and gig workers, to bring in talent only as needed.

Employees should be looking for ways to participate in these programs — and even urge their organization to provide them with opportunities if they see high-priority roles that they could perform some or all of.

Can quiet hiring be a long-term strategy?

Yes. When done correctly, quiet hiring can be a critical workforce development strategy: Boosting employee retention and experience, cultivating home-grown skills and helping to keep payroll costs under control. 

For many organizations, fighting for new, full-time external talent will be a challenge going forward, so quiet hiring can be key to filling skills gaps. For employees, it’s a good opportunity to modernize their skills and retain their market value.

What are some pitfalls to avoid?

Be cautious of asking too much from employees at a time when many already feel overworked or burnt out. Organizations must strike a balance between building employees’ skills and protecting their well-being. Business leaders who find a way to do this successfully give their organizations a distinct competitive advantage.

In short:

  • There’s been a viral wave of news headlines about “quiet hiring” — a way for organizations to fill the need for new skills and capabilities without adding additional full-time employees. 

  • Skeptics may see this as a bid to exploit employees, but don’t believe all you hear, it could be good for you as an employee — and for your employer.

  • We set the record straight on quiet hiring, and discuss how both employers and employees can benefit from this practice.

Emily Rose McRae leads the Future of Work research team in Gartner's HR Practice. While Ms. McRae works across all issues that can lead to the future of work, her core areas of focus include emerging technologies and their impact on work and the workforce, new employment models, market and demographic shifts, and workforce planning to anticipate and prepare for these changes.

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