The term “quiet quitting” has been trending mightily over the past year or so. This is essentially when employees show up for work, do just enough to keep their jobs, but don’t do much else. Of course, many other workers have actually quit — particularly since the pandemic. So many, in fact, that this phenomenon has a name: “the Great Resignation.”
To adjust to these historic changes in the labor market, many employers have been engaging in what’s being called “quiet hiring.” A new buzzword unto itself, quiet hiring refers to all the less-visible, alternate ways employers fill open positions rather than the traditional method of posting ads, interviewing candidates and hiring employees. Quiet Hiring: A New Workplace Trend For Companies (forbes.com)
Perhaps the most widespread approach to quiet hiring is workforce redeployment. This is when an employer reconfigures its existing workforce to cover job duties left unattended or unfulfilled because of insufficient staffing. For instance, let’s say a regional sales manager leaves a company. Rather than hire a new one, leadership asks another sales manager to absorb the open territory. Workforce Redeployment: What to Consider (careerminds.com)
In the short term, it’s a fiscally effective approach for the employer because no hiring or training costs are incurred. But over time, employees asked to take on more work without a promotion or commensurate adjustment in compensation can grow increasingly unhappy and productivity can suffer.
Sometimes the organization will eventually hire someone to fill the open position, but the employee who handled the work in the meantime may still feel exploited. In the worst cases, a new hire joins the organization at a higher level than the employee who was covering the work — further exacerbating resentment and lowering morale.
The lesson is clear: Be careful about asking employees to take on additional job duties because of staff shortages. To the extent possible, set a clear time frame for how long the bigger workload will last and provide incentives such as bonuses or supplementary time off. Ideally, align the added work with a career growth path.
There are other ways to quietly hire internally as well. For example, you can offer part-time workers full-time employment. Or you could outsource certain basic job functions and then retrain/upskill employees to perform more highly skilled roles. Granted, the training/upskilling will entail costs and you’ll likely have to raise compensation levels.
Workforce redeployment isn’t the only manifestation of quiet hiring. There’s also engaging independent contractors. One could say that the “gig economy” expanded at the perfect time to ease employers’ hiring struggles.
But there are notorious risks to using independent contractors — particularly when they’re merely a click of an app away. Vet every provider carefully to ensure a good return on investment. Beware of potential culture clashes between contractors and employees. And, as always, ensure you don’t inadvertently treat independent contractors like employees. If you do, penalties and liability for back taxes could come into play.
Some employers are exploring more creative concepts, such as bringing back recent retirees in part-time or project-based roles. Others are looking into “second chance” hiring programs, which help recently incarcerated individuals re-enter the workforce in a structured, training-intensive manner.
Mind your step
Quiet hiring is a natural response to a tumultuous labor market. And the good news is there are indeed potentially fruitful alternatives to traditional hiring. However, minding your step is critical when veering away from any well-worn path. Stapley Accounting can help you identify and analyze your hiring, training and ongoing employment costs.