Why ‘quiet hiring’ is the secret to boosting productivity and retaining staff

'Quiet hiring' offers the best of both worlds, argues to Paula Brown. It gives employees the chance to broaden their skills and try news things, while employers benefit from better retention. Win-wi...

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Apr 5, 2023

Organizational structures have traditionally focused on empowering employees to work exclusively in their specialist role – but this may no longer be the smartest approach for organizations that want to maximize their capacity and boost productivity.

Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, and with many organizations shedding headcount, upskilling and cross-skilling look set to be key strategic imperatives this year.

It’s why I believe a new phenomenon, dubbed ‘quiet hiring,’ (where organizations redeploy new skills from their existing workforce rather than recruiting new hires), is gathering momentum.

Not only does Gartner predict that it will be one of the top workforce predictions for 2023, there’s also a very good likelihood quiet hiring be the answer to boosting productivity this year.

Here why.

For starters, it’s the antithesis to ‘quiet quitting’

The trend of ‘quiet quitting’ emerged late in 2022, when a significant number of employees (particularly those amongst younger demographics, such as Gen Z), actively professed to be doing the bare minimum required to retain their jobs. In essence, they eschewed all tasks beyond their assigned duties.

At the end of last year one-in-three employees considered themselves to be quiet quitters. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report found the level of employee engagement to be even more alarming.

But in this current economic climate, quiet hiring makes a lot of sense.

It allows business leaders to eliminate costly recruitment and additional salary costs through filling roles with existing talent from within the organization.

Moreover, quiet hiring isn’t just a money-saving exercise. When done well, it can enhance the prospects of existing staff by offering them some key advantages.

It provides employees with the opportunity to increase their portfolio of skills through training and to try out working on new areas of the business without losing the stability of their existing role.

It also opens doors to promotions and roles that might normally be filled through external recruitment.

Organizations that embrace quiet hiring, by flexing resources to offer a more varied range of tasks and responsibilities, can boost employee morale, provide a more stimulating and rewarding workplace environment, and reduce attrition rates.

People are actually ‘open’ to quiet hiring

There will, of course, be some people who are quite happy to continue in their usual roles. They might even be skeptical of their managers requiring them to take on additional tasks.

But, a survey carried out in the US by job-search platform Monster found that there were more people open to quiet hiring than against it.

The survey showed that 63% of workers are amenable to the idea, believing it a good opportunity to expand their skill sets.

This is great news for HRDs. A more engaged and fulfilled workforce will have a positive effect on customer experience, operational efficiency, and productivity.

And there has never been a more pressing time for American enterprises to focus on improving their scores against these priorities. The United States managed to avoid succumbing to a recession at the end of last year by the narrowest of margins, but stagnation in productivity is one of the biggest challenges facing the US economy today.

The capacity conundrum

It’s worth remember that the most common drain on productivity is capacity being squandered. In simple terms, businesses are not getting the most out of their current workforce.

The problem stems from teams working in traditional structures and in silos focused on specific functional areas of a business. Since they do not have the flexibility or the team capabilities to move workloads between teams, businesses struggle to cope with fluctuations and are unable to balance the load. One survey finds almost two-thirds of organizations (63%) believe they need to cross-skill or upskill to weather the current economic turmoil.

So, it’s unsurprising that quiet hiring will be a key trend this year.

But how do organizations go about implementing it?

How can they be sure they are upskilling in the areas that offer most value to both workers and the organization?

The first step is to identify the roadblocks and capacity issues across the business.

Only by collating and analyzing data on current capacity can leaders truly tackle workload imbalances at the root and ensure they invest in training the right people and making changes that will have a lasting impact on the success of the organization.

Will quiet hiring become the norm in the workplace of the future?

If organizations embrace this latest ‘quiet’ trend and move to operational structures where teams share a broader range of skills, they will make themselves more agile and better placed not just to survive but to thrive. And this is despite the current economic challenges.

Faced with the economic downturn, pressures to reduce costs while retaining and attracting talent, quiet hiring provides organizations with a winning tactic.

And, like other trends that have proved to be fruitful – such as remote working – there is no reason why quiet hiring shouldn’t continue to become the new ‘quiet keeping’ in the workplace of the future.