At times, it seems like our job is to keep up with trending topics and buzzwords. Every time we turn around, some new idea is umbrellaing over the employment world, harboring the attention of every news outlet and staffing agency alike. As a national staffing agency, we at Tier2Tek have to work to keep up with every single one of them. So, when we turned on our computers and saw the term quiet hiring flying across feeds, we knew what we had to do.
What in the world is quiet hiring? Should I care as an employer? It seems like it’s just another trendy topic like quiet quitting or rage applying.
In a way, you would be entirely correct. Quiet quitting is just a trending topic that will cool off shortly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something that will stay in the employment industry. The term may fall out of the lexicon when the hashtag fades away, but the idea will still stand. Therefore, you may want to know about the idea and how it will affect your industry.
So, buckle up. Here we go again. It’s quiet quitting!
What Exactly Is Quiet Hiring?
When the economy is tough, weird things begin to bubble in offices. And we don’t mean that lunch that was left in the fridge for 2 weeks.
Currently, we are facing a labor shortage in some industries, tech companies have been dropping employees like flies due to overhiring during the pandemic, and there’s a recession waving its hand for an invitation into the economy. Times are strange. Not unprecedented, but less comfortable than we have been for quite some time. With that comes a multitude of staffing differences.
At its core, quiet hiring is the act of moving an already-employed worker into a hybrid role that takes up more responsibilities than the employee’s initial title. For example, an employee may begin picking up tasks for an entirely different role, and before they know it, their daily responsibilities involve their normal role and the bonus activities of the other they’ve morphed into.
And when a business can’t afford to bring in an entirely new worker or create an entirely new position, they let the hybrid roles take place, filling the holes that could be filled by pricey hires.
If everything goes as it should, the employer should offer a raise and/or financial compensation for the new work the employee has picked up. It’s not exactly a promotion, but the stretching of multiple employees to cover a staffing hole.
For example, a business needs a photographer but can’t afford to hire one. Instead, they ask their 2 staffed reporters to start taking photos along with writing articles. Now, the journalist has become both the journalist and the photographer. Without picking up an entirely new role, they have filled the responsibilities of a new role. The 2 journalists take enough pictures together to cover the 1 photographer need.
According to a Monster survey conducted in January 2023, 80% of workers polled have been quiet hired, and half of them say their new role wasn’t aligned with their skill set.
What Are Quiet Promotions?
You may also see the term quiet promotions flying around. While they sound similar, ‘quiet promotions’ has a significantly negative connotation as opposed to hiring.
Quiet promotions are seen as an employer asking the worker to help with a role outside of their normal position with the promise of ‘cool points’ in the company. “If you help this other department with a project outside of your skill set, it will look great for your future at this company.“
Then, after completing the project, the employee sees nothing of the labor. No fruit to enjoy. Things go back to the same. The promises of promotion were only a facade to get them to help out without spending any more money.
This, of course, is not good and is a quick way to lower employee morale. Don’t do this (more on that later).
How Does This Correlate to Quiet Quitting?
Hiring and quitting are the inverse of each other. Therefore, it’s easy to assume they have some correlation in the working world.
Firstly, let’s break down quiet quitting. We will pull the definition from our article, What Is Quiet Quitting and How to Prevent It.
When a concept is forced upon someone, effort depends entirely upon human emotion toward said concept. If a worker hates their job but has to work to survive, expect the bare minimum. Expect the amount of effort necessary to continue working, not to continue thriving in the work environment. If a promotion is out of reach or unwanted, the worker does not need to provide more effort than necessary to maintain the current job.
Amelia Nagoski, co-author of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, told The Atlantic regarding quiet quitting, “Basically, when we have unmeetable goals, our brains can’t handle it. Our frustration grows into rage until eventually we are dropped into a pit of despair. Then we oscillate between frustrated rage and hopeless despair, where we get stuck in a cycle of I hate this job, they can shove it! Oh, no, I have bills to pay and children to raise, and I can’t just quit—but holy moly, I want to set that building on fire!!!“
In a way, it’s the inverse.
If an employee is quiet quitting because they know there’s no promotion in sight, the company may quit hire them to take on new tasks and pay them a bit more. It’s not a promotion, but it’s still a boost in responsibility and pay to keep the employee engaged.
On the other hand, if a job quiet hires an employee and gets them to do more tasks without correct compensation or communication, it may make the employee believe an actual, salary-increasing promotion is out of the question, causing them to quiet quit.
The 2 don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, but they can cause each other. If an employee is already on the outs, asking them to pick up unwanted responsibilities is a quick way to turn quiet quitting to full-fledge quitting.
In the point we will push throughout the entirety of this article: quiet hiring is only okay when the employee is happy to pick up the new tasks and is paid accordingly.
Haven’t Good Companies Been Doing This Forever?
The idea of an in-house promotion is nothing new. In fact, the idea of promotions has been around since work started as a human concept. So, does this buzz world truly mean something new, or is it just a trend that’s sellable to both companies and news outlets?
Firstly, we are writing about it. So if the overall intention was for companies to gain attention for applying this ‘new’ idea, it’s certainly worked. But, is it really something that should be discussed as an outstandingly-fresh concept? Yes and no.
The idea of bringing workers up the corporate ladder is nothing new, but the way quiet hiring works is a bit different. If the stereotypical promotion is an upward trajectory (a diagonal line, if you will), the quiet hiring is a strange spiral sparking and appearing in different parts of the graph. By its nature, it doesn’t follow the normal path of a verticle promotion. It’s an addition of new and higher-responsibility tasks from all over the board, not just the job level above the candidate.
For example, if an employee is currently a developer, the next evolutionary step in their career would be to become the lead developer. This would involve the same developing tasks but also include management and team leading. But, due to company needs, the developer is now being paid more to add in skills from another role entirely (say, quality and assurance). Now, the developer is doing their normal job and helping with tasks in the troubleshooting and quality department.
It’s a promotion that doesn’t abide by the normal rules of trajectory. It isn’t assistant manager to manager. It’s more like an assistant manager to an assistant manager in half of two departments. Make sense?
Do Employees Like It?
According to the aforementioned Monster poll, 63% of workers surveyed viewed quiet hiring as an opportunity to try out a new role and gain new skills. 27% said they would consider quitting if they were quiet hired, and 4% would quit immediately.
And though the applicable statistics aren’t available yet, the idea is clear: younger workers are more likely to enjoy the prospect of quiet hiring. In fact, Generation Z has often noted that they prefer unparalleled career paths rather than corporate ladders.
Let’s look at a section from our former article:
Excerpt from How to Manage Gen Z Employees – Reach Your Workforce
[Gen Z] has seen people get rich off of social media, make a living off of Uber, and sell their art on applications like Etsy. Therefore, their vision of what modern employment looks like is very skewed from what you may see.
Gen Z employees want the ability to grow in their place of employment (as do all ages and generations), but they do not see the employment ladder as vertically as those before them. Moving up to a managerial role with the opportunity to lead, but still be led from above, is not as much of a win as it used to be. Younger workers want the opportunity to be creative, be a leader, and collaborate on something that matters.
For example, give the employee a chance to learn multiple roles as promotion, not just growing responsibility in one role. Instead of going from associate designer to senior designer, allow the employee’s role to expand, picking up other responsibilities from other sectors. They want to be role-hoppers and work with the company, not for the company. They aren’t cogs in a machine.
Jumping back to the NSHSS study, it found that 67% of Gen Zers want to work at companies where they can learn skills to advance their careers. They are willing to job-hop with the intention of learning new skills, helping them amalgamate a large tree of attributes and abilities for future roles.
Furthermore, give them the room to express their ideas, be heard, and see projects from start to finish. You will greatly increase production and effort if you let the employee take on a project as their own, not just do one part and pass it on. Allow them to own a project.
Simply put, younger workers love the opportunity to grow their resumes and expand their skills, not just grow in one particular path. As long as the money works out (and raises correlate to more responsibility), the majority of Gen Z employees would be for the idea of quiet hiring.
And seeing as how the younger generation is set to take up 27% of the workforce by 2025, quiet quitting may become a mainstay in corporate culture.
Is the Pay Right?
Note in our last section we noted ‘as long as the money works out.’ And, as with anything in the employment world, that’s the biggest aspect behind the longevity of this new concept.
Without a specific change in title or obvious hiring from outside, in-house promotions can often overlook the financials. A lot of quiet hiring is the company attempting to scrape up extra responsibilities from their workers in times of company need, making it a quick loophole to avoid paying someone else. If that’s the case, employees will not be onboard.
While an increase in responsibilities doesn’t necessarily need to lead to a significant pay raise (as if the employee moved up to a senior position) but it should, by all means, lead to a pay raise of some degree.
Rashim Mogha, general manager of leadership and business at Skillsoft, told US News, “Quiet hiring may or may not come with an immediate raise or promotion, as it’s primarily viewed by employers as a way to quickly address priority needs in a cost-effective manner,” Mogha says. However, she stressed that it can – and should – lead to opportunities for employees to negotiate.
She continued, noting that if money is not at play, the employee should use it as a chance to negotiate. They can use their newly-acquired skills and higher tasks to pull more power into the negotiation room, asking for some sort of compensation.
Mogha noted, “because if someone’s being asked to take on additional responsibilities, in particular at higher levels, then they’re adding more value to the organization. Employers definitely don’t want to lose top talent.”
If a company refuses to provide any sort of raise and won’t negotiate after quiet hiring, they can expect to see some (if not all) workers involved to walk. 4%, if going off the Monster poll.
The Point Being
Only some employees want to pick up new skills and roles that they didn’t sign up for. And some certainly do. There needs to be communication and compensation around it, though. You must speak to the employee and see if they are up to the changes. You cannot just pile new and strange work on top of an employee and expect them to be happy.
Those that decide they don’t want to be quiet hired are not lazy or bad employees. If a designer was brought on to design, and you are now trying to get them to help out with accounting (for a broad example), they have the utmost right to turn that down. That was not the agreement.
“I stopped reading [the Inc. article] when it said [they] promote internal employees who take on extra tasks. Then I knew it was absolute rubbish,” a Redditor wrote in a thread on the concept. “No one is getting promoted for doing multiple jobs. They will keep you there, as their obedient workhorse, with minimal raises and zero support until something breaks. There is no reward for taking on extra tasks—except more tasks.”
Finding people to do different tasks in-house is only morally correct when they want to do it or are being offered the correct compensation for it. If you are just using the need to be a good worker to get an employee to do unwanted tasks, you are the problem.
On the other hand, if you ask them to pick up more responsibility in their own position (designing), then that is considered a promotion. Turning that down is a different story. But forcing someone to cross-train because you don’t want to shell out the funds for a different skillset employee is not normal and should not be forced.
Some employees may be excited about the opportunity. Some may be against it. Both are fine and respectable.
Will Quiet Hiring Continue?
Oftentimes we refer to these trends in a way that seems impermanent. There’s no way these drastic ideas will continue on, becoming a mainstay in the fabric of employment. Right?
Well, I’m sure someone thought that about the 40-hour workweek in the 1930s.
If the newer generation wants the opportunity to increase skills all over the office, they can have it. If businesses think in-house spreading of responsibilities is best, they can do it. As long as the company is willing to pay correctly, it can continue as a concept.
It’s in the nature of the idea. If Gen Z likes gaining outside tasks and businesses like giving them to save from hiring, why not? Why would it change?
Though quiet hiring sounds like some buzzword created to pinpoint some post-covid perspective, an idea forged out of the panic of a pandemic, it seems anything but. The idea makes sense with the lay of the current labor market, the technology we all have, and the crunching of finances. It’s like quiet quitting; upset employees looking for other jobs aren’t going to go away because so many other jobs are equally noticeable.
Therefore, we can’t really picture a world where quiet hiring and quitting are no longer a thing. Will it cool down in a more lush labor market? Certainly. Will it go away forever? Not in the modern world, no.
Should Your Company Start Quiet Hiring?
If you are willing and able to compensate accordingly, quiet hiring can be beneficial for your business.
Overall, it’s obvious why companies do it. Hiring new positions is both expensive and time-wasting. Vetting candidates, interviewing everyone, onboarding, and offering signing bonuses is a lot. If it was easy, we wouldn’t exist as a staffing agency. Spreading responsibilities throughout the house gives you an opportunity to squash some positions overall. Furthermore, it allows you to save time and money. Finally, it allows you to keep employees engaged by offering interesting new experiences and responsibilities.
Emily Rose McRae, senior research director at Gartner, told ABC News, “With quiet hiring, we’re talking about an organization strategically, at a leadership level, looking at the talent they have across the organization and where the critical gaps are and finding ways to fill those. It’s trying to acquire new skills and capabilities without acquiring new people.”
Henceforth, if you think that you have candidates in-house that can bring your team up with new responsibilities, it’s worth a look. You can always do in-house promotions, too, interviewing existing workers for full roles, not just inklings of new duties.
The important thing to remember is empathy. Is the worker going to be overloaded with the new responsibilities? Do they even want to do them? Are you paying them accordingly for the workload you are supplying?
Here’s the thing: it’s easy to focus on numbers and forget your workers are people. Communicate with them. See how they feel and see if you can accommodate a quiet hire correctly. If not, bite the bullet and hire outside. It may cost more resources, sure, but it will keep your current team motivated and happy, instead of bogging them with roles they don’t want.