Quiet hiring will dominate U.S. workplaces in 2023
A new year is here, and with it, a new workplace phenomenon that bosses and employees alike must prepare for: quiet hiring.
Soft hiring is when an organization acquires new skills without actually hiring new full-time employees, says Emily Rose McRae, who has led Gartner’s job research team since its inception in 2019, focusing on in human resource practices.
Sometimes, this means hiring short-term contractors. Other times, it means encouraging current employees to temporarily move into new roles within the organization, McRae says.
“The reality for next year is — whether we go into a recession or not — everybody’s a little nervous,” she says. “In many cases, organizations aren’t necessarily doing a hiring freeze, or layoffs, but maybe slowing down their hiring a little bit.”
But every employer still has financial goals to meet — often, ambitious ones.
“The talent shortage we talked about throughout 2022 hasn’t gone away,” says McRae. “So you’re in a situation where it’s harder to make headcount and you’re in desperate need of talent.”
Why smooth employment is on the horizon
Hiring usually falls into one of three categories: filling old roles, creating new roles to help the company grow, or addressing an acute and immediate need.
Quiet hiring is about that third category, even if it technically doesn’t involve any new hires at all. The idea is to prioritize the most important business functions at a given time, which may mean temporarily shuffling the roles of current employees.
McRae refers to it as “quiet internal employment.” She cites a recent example: Australian airline Qantas, which asked executives to solve a labor shortage last year, in part, by returning as baggage handlers.
“Executives are doing it in part because it’s the right thing to do to keep the company afloat, but it’s also just a rotation that makes sense to a lot of people,” says McRae, noting that they also gained a deeper understanding of how their operations work.
There’s an inherent tension here: If you’ve been temporarily reassigned to a different part of your company, you might interpret this as being told that your regular job isn’t particularly important. After all, no one will be hired to fill your old responsibilities.
Bosses can help address this by clearly articulating why the specific project or business division is so crucial to the company’s success. This will help the employee feel valued and less likely to see this move as a sign that they should start looking for work elsewhere.
Alternatively, companies with few mobile employees can hire short-term contractors to help keep things running year-round. McRae calls it “quiet outsourcing.”
“We need to position our employees against the priorities that matter most,” she says.
How to benefit from smooth employment
No one wants to step into a completely new role if they already love their job. No one wants to work for a business in shambles – and McRae says many companies could collapse without steady hiring this year.
With this in mind, an effective smooth hiring process lies in how it is tailored to the employee. “If you’re asking a group of people to make this move, you have to be able to articulate: What does this mean to them?” says McRae.
If your boss suggests a new set of tasks for you, they’ll have more luck motivating you if they can articulate how it will help you advance your career—whether you’re more interested in moving up the corporate ladder or improve your work-life balance.
“If you just say, ‘OK, this is where we need people.’ Great, but that’s not a good enough reason for people to want to move,” says McRae.
Plus, if your company makes an announcement about the need for employees to set up roles and you’re interested, you can use that as an opportunity to discuss your long-term goals. You can even wrangle a promotion for yourself, adds McRae.
“This is a really good chance for employees to sit down and say to their managers, HR people and the company as a whole, ‘Yes, I’m willing to do this. Let’s talk about what what does that mean for my career,'” she said.
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