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What is quiet hiring, and why should we be doing it?

After quiet quitting, “quiet hiring” is the new workplace buzzword to be aware of.  Quiet hiring has been around for a long time, traditionally referred to as Internal Talent Mobility.  But that phrase conjures up an old model of planning career moves which was slow, opaque, subjective and out of date.  In this blog, I’ll explain What is quiet hiring and why should we be doing it if you want to retain talented people and quickly rebalance workloads from areas that see decreased demand to others with an increased need.


What is Quiet Hiring?

At its simplest, quiet hiring is upskilling current employees and moving them to new roles or focus areas, either on a temporary or permanent basis.  Notice this isn’t only new roles in different departments or teams within the organisation.  This also includes temporary project opportunities, job shadowing, job rotations and even experimentation.


Quiet Hiring has become more prominent as organisations need to increasingly respond to new or evolving business needs quickly and easily, and it was ranked among the “top nine work trends for 2023” by Gartner.  


Being able to quickly adapt has become more important to organisations as they’re rapidly moving from a period of growth and expansion following the global pandemic, to a “re-balance” with talks about potential recession and stagnation.  Organisations are nervous about the future, and headcount budgets are being constrained so organisations turn to quiet hiring to fill skill gaps and save resources.


A win-lose result?

Some headlines talk about people being made to take on extra responsibilities without additional rewards as their colleagues leave.  Frankly, if that’s your approach to quiet hiring you’re on a path to poor performance, attrition and reduced business results just when you need all three to compete and grow.


Forward-looking organisations are identifying where talent is most needed and redeploying in-house talent towards the organisation’s new goals, offering employees a boost to their career aspirations by either growing their skills or learning new ones.


Ceridian’s 2023 Pulse of Talent survey found employees were particularly interested in internal mobility.  Nearly half (49%) of respondents said they would like to contribute their skills to new projects from within their current role, and 43% expressed an interest in moving into a new role in a different team. A further 35% said they would like to change career paths within the company. 


But I accept there is a fine line between enabling individuals to grow and advance their career aspirations and forcing people to take on additional work.  If you want to embrace quiet hiring and a modern approach to Internal Talent Mobility, here’s my 3 step approach to getting it right AND growing your organisation.


Step 1.  Understand skills, competencies and aspirations. 

There are two sides to this step:

  • Understanding the organisation’s business strategy (aspirations) and what skills, competencies and behaviours are needed to deliver that strategy.  With 51% of Gen Z employees saying that their education has not prepared them to enter the workforce, and the rapid pace of change seen by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, knowing the future skills your organisation needs will be critical.  
  • But as organisations are full of people, you also need to understand their current skills, competencies and aspirations.  Knowing the skills and competencies already in existence gives you your starting point.  Objectively measuring the skills base already in your organisation opens up an readily available talent pipeline, and understanding your employees’ aspirations helps you tap into their motivations, needs and wants.  
  • Only then do you know what you need, know what you’ve got and know how to fuel the motivation and engagement of your people.


Step 2.  Grow skills, competencies and behaviours 

Many organisations focus on this because it is relatively easy to provide learning and development opportunities.  But having completed step one, your learning and development should be targeted to grow your people’s skills and competencies to satisfy their aspirations and your organisation’s strategic needs.  According to a study conducted by Degreed, 46% of the responding professionals agreed they are more likely to leave their company if they do not see a commitment to upskilling and reskilling


By doing this, you can focus your (limited) budget on the areas that matter the most to the organisation and the individuals.  With the democratisation of learning being a reality, and responding to the employee voice a necessity; balancing the needs of the organisation with employee aspirations is possible and necessary.  


To balance individual and organisational needs, we need to shift mindsets about learning and development away from an event to an activity available anytime, any place, anywhere. Where information is accessible to all employees and the process of learning is accessible to all employees.


Step 3  Connect people to jobs, opportunities and projects

Traditionally, this would involve a permanent job move, or maybe a secondment.  This takes time and is not flexible.  To do Quiet Hiring well, think broader.  Work is not always a job.  It could be a project that’s carried out without a job change. In a different department or function.  Or a secondment?  Or simply a new task or process.   


Going back to what you learnt about people’s aspirations in step 1, adding in the development carried out in step 2 – you’re now in a better position to systematically match people to work as the need arises.  This is where you can build agile talent pipelines based on skills, competencies AND aspirations – breaking through the functional silos and knowing those people are motivated to do that work. With that addition of motivation aligned with their aspirations, you’ll get more energy, commitment and even risk-taking. 


Technology can support this final step – holding details of people’s skills, competencies and aspirations and even matching people to work as it arises.  But this also means a culture and Leadership mindset that it’s OK for employees to actively consider and evaluate opportunities. And remove the stigma that managers sometimes feel when a member of their team moves to another role.  


Quiet Hiring is more than a new name for Internal Talent Mobility.  It’s the rebirth of Internal Talent Mobility for the modern-day organisation.  I’m not saying we completely abandon traditional recruitment practices, they are important for attracting a diverse pool of candidates and maintaining transparency in the hiring process.  As organisations need to quickly rebalance workloads from areas that see decreased demand to others with an increased need, the old model of planning career moves is slow, subjective and out of date.  Done well, Quiet Hiring could be the answer to that challenge.  


Did you enjoy this blog?  You might also be interested in my other ideas and suggestions.  Take a look at my other blogs on my website.  You’ll find thought leadership on topics like leadership, talent development, personal development and the future of work.  

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