Quiet hiring is gaining momentum, however there are upsides and downsides to the emerging work trend.
Quiet hiring has become a trending topic this year with Gartner’s “Future of Work Trends for 2023” research forecasting that it will gain even more momentum in the coming months.
By definition, quiet hiring is the practice of an organisation acquiring new skills without hiring new full-time employees. According to the Gartner research, this trend will manifest itself in organisations in a few ways such as providing upskilling opportunities for existing employees, while simultaneously meeting evolving organisational needs. It will also focus on internal talent mobility, stated the research piece, ensuring that employees address the priorities that matter most without changes in headcount.
Neridha Moodley, head of People and Culture at SNG Grant Thornton, explains that there is more to the idea than just having a finite amount of talent in the organisation: “As the South African business climate progresses through the current economic crisis and costly results of loadshedding, more companies are seeking to find ways of curbing costs but still keeping their people engaged.
“Quiet hiring strategies help employers to address essential and immediate needs without taking on the additional risks associated with the recruitment process, such as a new hire not working out. It also eliminates the costs in terms of the time, money, and resources required to fill full-time positions.”
She notes that when employees leave an organisation, it can cost up to a year’s salary to replace them. “The financial business case for quiet hiring (which occurs at a fraction of the cost), is therefore sound.”
Neridha adds that the concept also strengthens employee retention efforts and helps employees to remain engaged and productive, which also helps to reduce quiet quitting.
She gives an example of an instance where it may have been previously difficult for personnel to advance in their careers especially in instances where the incumbent in the position that the candidate is aspiring to, is entrenched in the position and the likelihood of him/her exiting that position is very low. Naturally, she explained, this would create a blockage in the candidate’s advancement to this position.
“However, through strategic decisions taken by leadership to deploy talent in areas where best results could be produced by that talent, the candidate may have been groomed for succession planning purposes to that position. In this instance, when the current incumbent leaves the organisation for better opportunities or other reasons, it creates an opportunity for the existing candidate to take up the responsibilities of the position, of course at a higher remuneration – the incumbent takes on the responsibilities over and above his/her existing responsibilities.”
The other side of the coin
As with anything else, there is always the down side to quiet hiring. Burnout prevention and rehabilitation activist Judy Klipin comments that this could easily lead to overworked and/or burnt out employees. “My observation is that staff are feeling resentful about having to carry an even heavier load. Just paying more isn’t enough – the remaining staff need more time, more understanding and more flexible deadlines. There is an urgent need to address this!”
Neridha echoes the sentiment, adding that it is important that organisations track the extra workload taken on by employees and ensure that it does not end up creating a situation where they feel burnt out or demotivated. “This will also help avoid creating an inefficient workplace,” she says.
Similarly, she notes, employees who have been temporarily reassigned to a new position may give their new role priority over their older one, as the organisation might not necessarily have hired anyone to backfill their older responsibilities, causing unnecessary confusion.
“As there continues to be a shift in the working world and the new way of work, quiet hiring will feature as a more prominent initiative in the talent strategy of the organisation. For me, it is also a form of contingency planning and could stand one’s business in good stead in the instances where the business loses critical talent.”