From Quiet Quitting to Quiet Hiring - 11 Things To Know About These Trends As a Small Business Owner

August 16, 2023

In the aftermath of the pandemic, you probably heard a lot about quiet quitting — the tendency for some workers to do as little as possible to avoid getting fired. Now that time has marched on, a new buzzword with a similar name is making the rounds in business circles: quiet hiring.

This phrase refers to a relatively old concept in HR. It means using the talent and experience of your current workers (maybe augmented with some part-time and contract contributors) to avoid expanding your full-time staff. Rather than hiring more permanent employees, your existing team members add responsibilities or change roles when necessary to keep your startup moving forward.

This strategy has become more common recently, as companies respond to a changing economic landscape. A survey from early 2023 showed that 80% of workers have been quiet hired. Should your small business or startup turn to this process as well? Find out in this article.

[Quiet hiring] has become more common recently, as companies respond to a changing economic landscape. A survey from early 2023 showed that 80% of workers have been quiet hired.

What is quiet hiring?

No, quiet hiring doesn't mean a person suddenly finds themselves working for a strange company. It's not an episode of Severance or Black Mirror. Rather, the term "quiet hiring" refers to an expansion or change of responsibilities within the same organization. Instead of bringing in a new full-time employee to take over a role, a company will tap its existing talent to fill the gap.

The idea can be flexible. In some cases, the concept also involves reaching out to part-time or contract workers. However, the underlying goal remains the same: to complete necessary tasks without the commitment that comes from growing the full-time staff.

The buzz around this concept has been growing lately. This comes as inflation remains elevated and higher interest rates have constrained borrowing options. Bottom line: the cost of labor is up and it's harder than it's been in years to find additional cash.

As a result, companies are looking to get as much as they can from their current teams. This is especially true for small businesses, which often operate on shoestring budgets under even the best of circumstances. These financial pressures have convinced many startups to get creative about how they use the talent they already have on staff.

What are the benefits of quiet hiring (for both employees and employers)?

Before adding quiet hiring to your bag of HR tricks, it's important to understand the implications. That starts with clear knowledge of the potential benefits. Here are some of the pros you'll receive by turning to this strategy:

Avoid the time and expense related to hiring

Hiring can be a difficult process. You need to devote time and resources to finding ideal candidates, with more investment necessary in onboarding and training. Quiet hiring lets you skip much of that hassle.

Adds organizational flexibility

As a small business, you need to be able to jump on any market opportunity and react quickly to any major market adjustment. Quiet hiring helps you stay nimble. You can make alterations on the fly, granting you valuable flexibility.

Make the most of your available talent

You need to maximize every resource you have if you want to reach your full potential. That includes the people on your team. Take advantage of talent and experience you already have within your organization before you look for potential outside help.

Employees get a chance to learn

Quiet hiring doesn't just help you as a small business owner. It also provides significant upside for your employees. With this strategy, they routinely get opportunities to learn new roles and add fresh experiences. This lets them drive their careers forward.

Quiet hiring doesn't just help you as a small business owner. It also provides significant upside for your employees. With this strategy, they routinely get opportunities to learn new roles and add fresh experiences.

Can improve retention

When your employees see they can grow within your organization, they will be more likely to stick with you over the long haul. A quiet-hiring policy signals that advancement is a priority for your company. In this way, they can envision themselves building an enduring, dynamic career with you.

Keeps employees engaged

Along with improved retention, the promise of potential advancement acts as a spur to performance. Knowing they can add responsibilities and enhance their roles over time, your team members will seek out chances to excel. This will encourage productivity and lead to improved engagement.

What are the downsides of quiet hiring?

While quiet hiring brings a long list of potential benefits, those advantages also come at a cost. There are downsides to consider as well. With that in mind, here are some of the difficulties to watch for:

Stretches your existing resources

There's only so much you can expect from an individual team member. At a certain point, you risk overwork or even burnout. Even ambitious, hard-driving employees reach their limit.

Quiet hiring lets you maximize the talent you have on staff. But push the strategy too far and you won't have the framework you need for longer-term growth.

Less influx of fresh talent

New blood can be important to an organization. You benefit from fresh eyes and a different perspective. Quiet hiring minimizes the influx of fresh talent, which can limit long-term innovation and contribute to groupthink.

Poor planning can lead to tension

How you handle the quiet-hiring process matters. If you don't communicate properly or put your employees in situations they aren't prepared for, you limit the likelihood of success. Meanwhile, you can foster unnecessary stress and undermine morale.

Tips for quiet hiring

As we noted, the process of quiet hiring is crucial. To leverage this strategy, you need more than good intentions. You need a clear program, with specific and detailed procedures, to maximize the chance of success.

To get the most out of the endeavor, here are some tips for quiet hiring:

  • Identify quiet hiring opportunities: Be on the lookout for chances to quiet hire. That means a flexible approach to divvying out tasks and a strong understanding of each team member's strengths and weaknesses.

  • Don't overwhelm anyone: As you add or modify tasks within your team, make sure no single person ends up doing too much.

  • Rebalance workloads as you go: Keeping assignments fair sometimes involves an intricate reshuffling. Quiet hiring in one area might involve a cascading process of redefining roles throughout the team.

  • Make a plan: Don't hand out new responsibilities on a whim. Instead, develop a clear plan before you move ahead.

  • Optimize your best employees: Your top performers will seem like nominees for every role that comes available. While they might succeed in almost every task, make sure you are utilizing your best employees in the areas where they will have the most impact.

  • Budget for proper compensation: More responsibility should come with added pay. Part of the planning process should involve budgeting the appropriate salary boost.

  • Build a partnership with impacted employees: Your quiet hires should feel ownership for the changes that involve them. Encourage feedback and nurture a collaboration as you develop the new roles.

  • Allow for a comfortable transition: Try to avoid jarring changes. As much as possible, let people ramp up into their new assignments, creating a reasonable timeline for any transition.

  • Offer adequate training: Your employees will need guidance and upskilling to take on their new roles. Set aside resources to ensure they can succeed when they add new responsibilities.

  • Create a robust tracking process: See how well your employees are doing. This will help you spot opportunities for quiet hiring, as well as let you make necessary tweaks to improve performance.

  • Maintain strong communication with your team: Create a two-way dialog with your staff. This should include discussions of their current role in the company and their ambitions for the future.

Should your small business turn to quiet hiring?

First there was quiet quitting, now there is quiet hiring. However, the impact of these similar-sounding trends on your business should be very different. You can take advantage of quiet hiring techniques to maximize the value of your current staff and push your startup forward in the most cost-effective way possible.

Use the information provided here to get started. Determine whether this strategy is right for your small business or startup. Then, you can begin creating a process to effectively implement the strategy.