What is quiet hiring? All you need to know

How to turn internal mobility into your competitive advantage

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

First, a mass uptick in quit rates got everyone talking about a Great Resignation. Then, as the turnover tsunami began subsiding, the conversation shifted to disengaged employees who are doing the bare minimum—soon to become known as quiet quitting. And now a new work trend is rising on leaders’ radars: quiet hiring is officially part of HR’s lexicon.

The inverse of quiet quitting, quiet hiring refers to organizations doing more with less, often by focusing on increasing the capabilities of their current employees rather than hiring externally for those skills. As a result, these organizations can fill skill gaps while skipping the high price tag that normally comes with hiring for them.

Beyond serving as an impactful cost-cutting strategy, quiet hiring empowers employees to develop their careers in meaningful ways through opportunities to upskill and reskill. These skill-building initiatives come at a critical time, given that 56% of HR managers are struggling to meet their recruiting targets and fill future skill needs. By satisfying workers’ ambitions and employers’ desire for expanded expertise on tightened budgets, quiet hiring is quickly becoming every talent management team’s ultimate win-win scenario.

What is quiet hiring?

Though hiring freezes and tightened headcounts already defining the first half of 2023, HR teams are encountering a paradox. Leaders must acquire highly skilled talent without the sizable investment that typically comes with external hiring.

Quiet hiring is emerging as the solution to this challenge. Rather than finding the skills needed across the market, executives are now looking to build or source these capabilities within their existing talent pools. That means companies might deploy current employees to emerging priorities, which often necessitates reskilling and stretch assignments.

Leaders who want to embrace quiet hiring must also emphasize upskilling to fulfill employees’ career aspirations while meeting organizational needs. Prioritizing skill-building is good news for employees, given that 63% of workers said they’d like to be considered for other positions within their current company.

What are the benefits of quiet hiring?

Part of what’s fueling quiet hiring’s sudden rise in popularity is the potential benefits that this strategy holds, for both workers and employers. Employees who are eager to explore new opportunities and grow their careers will have the chance to do just that by participating in stretch assignments and taking on additional responsibilities. Empowering workers to expand their horizons will also help organizations boost retention rates—a top priority in the wake of the Great Resignation—given that 62% of employees who make a lateral move are more likely to stay with their company.

At the same time, upskilling and reskilling employees to fill new roles is often a more cost-effective alternative to external hiring. It’s estimated that large enterprise organizations lose more than $400,000 annually from the costs involved in recruiting and training new hires. With quiet hiring, companies can sidestep that price tag and accelerate their onboarding processes.

Additionally, quiet hiring can help organizations embrace skills-based strategies, a shift that 98% of companies indicate they want to experiment with. To effectively redeploy and reallocate talent to tackle high-priority responsibilities, HR teams need a complete picture of their workforce’s capabilities. Developing full skills visibility paves the way for workforce pixelation—deconstructing work into tasks and projects to unlock agility and maximize employee potential.

How does quiet hiring fit into your workforce strategy?

Given that 1 in 2 CEOs are concerned about skills shortages disrupting their business, every organization is trying to find an efficient way to get the right talent in the right places. There are a handful of initiatives that leaders are prioritizing to develop the skills they need without overspending.

  • Upskilling: Experts predict that by 2030, more than 85 million jobs could go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them, amounting to a loss of $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues. To overcome this impending shortage, companies are devising multi-year plans to build skills internally.
  • Skills visibility: Many organizations are seeking new technologies or patterns to build a source of truth on the skill and job data they have across their organization. This information equips leaders with transparency into the capabilities they have, what they need, and what’s happening in the market.
  • Talent mobility: With hiring freezes, firing, and resignations fueling high churn rates, businesses are rethinking talent management strategies. Rather than dealing with the high costs that accompany layoffs and mass resignations, leaders are aiming to break down work and allocate talent more effectively.
  • Reimagining the employee experience: From hybrid work to embracing new wellbeing and learning platforms, executives are exploring new initiatives to enhance the employee value proposition.

Since quiet hiring allows employees to develop new skills and encourages businesses to prioritize talent mobility, it aligns with the other initiatives that businesses count as pillars of their workforce strategy. Ultimately, each of these efforts is rooted in the need for skills-based approaches and a fundamental belief in the power of employee potential.

3 steps to optimize quiet hiring at your organization

While many organizations are eager to implement quiet hiring, not all strategies are created equally. There are a few best practices that leaders can take to fine-tune their approach.

#1. Don’t underestimate employee potential

Employees are motivated to learn new skills, but all too often they don’t know where to look or how to contribute. Josh Bersin explains how widespread this workplace confusion is, noting, “40% of workers go to work scared. They’re afraid they’re going to fall behind or say the wrong thing. There’s a lot of imposter syndrome at work. We need to give people the opportunity to do the right thing by trusting them.”

Trusting your people is the fastest way to create impact and connect talent to critical business needs. As gig work and project economies gain momentum, companies are increasingly harnessing talent marketplaces to support internal mobility at speed and scale. By equipping your entire workforce with full visibility into all of your organization’s opportunities, the basic marketplace dynamics of skill supply and demand come into action and empower employees to step up to the plate.

#2. Put skills into focus

The key to successful quiet hiring is realizing that people are more than just their roles. No job title can encapsulate the unique blend of skills, interests, goals, and expertise that each employee brings to the table.

Rather than letting capabilities go untapped, companies are utilizing talent marketplaces and workforce intelligence tools to gain a complete picture of their people’s skills. Just as Amazon is the first to know about a budding consumer trend, a talent marketplace is a compass for navigating emerging, declining, and in-demand skills. This pulse gives leaders a real-time sense of the knowledge within their organization, as well as sheds light on any emerging skill gaps.

Even without a talent marketplace, most companies have plenty of data on skills and jobs across a lot of different platforms. To create the single source of truth needed to effectively practice quiet hiring, businesses are leveraging emerging workforce intelligence tools to harmonize their data across systems and pull in market insights.

#3. Make data-driven planning decisions

Rethinking talent acquisition strategies is a key component of quiet hiring. Talent acquisition is no longer about sourcing external candidates with similar titles and roles; instead, it’s about developing an understanding of how skills and experiences transfer cross-functionally. Talent marketplaces are a critical platform for putting capabilities in context because they match employees to relevant opportunities based solely on their skills, interests, and experiences.

To take data-driven planning decisions one step further, leading companies are tapping into workforce intelligence tools. Once data is harmonized, it becomes easy to identify emerging knowledge gaps, in turn helping leaders make informed decisions about when to upskill employees, when to reallocate internal talent, and when it makes sense to hire externally.

How are companies using quiet hiring to thrive today?

Although quiet hiring is just now becoming a buzzword, a handful of trailblazing companies are already leveraging this strategy to tap into the skills they need without looking outside of their organizations.

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mastercard began matching employees to high-priority tasks through an internal initiative known as Project Possible. After recognizing the immense value of an employee-led approach to career development, Mastercard launched a talent marketplace to bring their internal mobility to speed and scale.

“We saw the start of this internal talent marketplace where people were willing to use 10%, 20%, or 30% of their time to actually work on other things in adjacent businesses or functions,” Mastercard’s Chief People Officer Michael Fraccaro explains. “It has been a real eye-opener, which is why we are partnering with Gloat, because see this at a macro level and we see this as part of the future of work as well.”

After internal surveys revealed that 80% of associates lacked visibility into career opportunities, Novartis decided it was time to make a change. The leading pharmaceutical enterprise launched a talent marketplace to democratize career development and empower associates to take on new learning opportunities.

“When you think about the impact, we are super happy,” Novartis’s Global Head of Talent Markus Graf says, reflecting on the eight months since the organization launched its platform globally. “What we have seen so far exceeds all of the expectations that we had. We’ve reached over 800 mentorships, 300 projects assigned, and more than 81,000 hours unlocked.” In total, the value that Novartis’s talent marketplace has generated now surpasses $4 million, with no signs of slowing down.

Every company will face unique challenges that present leaders with a chance to embrace organizational agility. For Unilever, the COVID-19 pandemic was that opportunity. Changes in market demands left some teams overwhelmed while their colleagues in other departments were suddenly looking for new projects to take on. To respond to these shifts, the organization needed to redeploy talent to meet emerging priorities.

As former Executive Vice President of HR and Chief Talent Officer Jeroen Wels explains, “We had a fantastic campaign where through six to eight weeks time we were able to move 6,000 people without work to do to really help out on the other side.”

Beyond enabling Unilever to swiftly respond to shifting consumer demands, the campaign serves as a prime example of what a business can achieve by embracing more agile strategies like quiet hiring. “Our CEO at the time used that in an investor conference to exemplify how agile Unilever can be. So there you have a moment of truth where the talent marketplace was really making an impact,” Wels concludes.

To learn more about what it takes to make quiet hiring a success, download our report on workforce agility which explores both employee expectations and HR priorities.

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