Eight out of ten workers have been “quiet hired,” according to a Monster poll conducted among workers in January. Quiet hiring occurs when an employee moves into a new role with new responsibilities at their company — either short-term or permanently — due to need.
“I think companies are being much more strategic about not adding headcount,” says Matthew Burr, a human resources consultant in Elmira, N.Y. “Employees are the biggest asset and cost to an organization, so if they can find ways to streamline and do more with less, they can do that. It’s up to the employee to see if they want to stay.”
Here’s what workers have to say about quiet hiring:
It’s not always a great match
Half of workers who have been quiet hired said the new role wasn’t aligned with their skill set, according to Monster’s poll. Job experts say this doesn’t seem like the best strategy.
“That tells me the company just needs a warm body in that space, and good luck to you figuring out how to do it, which I don’t think is great for anybody, frankly,” says Laura MacLeod, an HR expert and consultant with From The Inside Out Project, an employee-morale company. “That has a ripple effect. My morale now is down, and I share that with other people, and maybe I’m on another team now where people resent that because I don’t know what I’m doing. I think that’s hugely problematic.”
Workers are mostly open to the idea
Even though it wasn’t the role they’d signed up for, 63% of workers say they view quiet hiring as an opportunity to learn new skills, and 19% are open to taking on a new role as long as it’s temporary.
“I could see a lot of scenarios where this could be a good thing for the employee,” says Mikaela Kiner, founder and CEO at Reverb, an HR consulting firm. “It’s a new opportunity, new visibility, maybe new work that’s going to bring new skills.”
That said, MacLeod reminds employers that if they do this to workers, they should be prepared to help them bridge the gap. “I doubt that anybody is really teaching them new skills,” she says. “Who has time for that, and who is really doing that?”
Quiet hiring leads workers to question their company
Slightly more than one in four workers (27%) say they’d wonder whether their company was going out of business if they were quiet hired. Forty-one percent would view the company as disorganized, with unclear vision.
In an era where layoff news seems to hit every other day, it’s not surprising that quiet hiring makes employees nervous. “On the one hand, people are being reduced, and on the other hand, suddenly there’s more work on your plate and nobody has recognized or rewarded you for it,” Kiner says. “And it’s not clear to me how this is part of company strategy. I could absolutely see that as something that would really give people anxiety.”
Company communication is key to managing these worries. “If there’s fear the company is going out of business, you’ve got to address that head on,” Burr says. “It’s beholden on leadership to reinforce the viability of the organization. You need to have that conversation up front and be completely transparent.”
Some workers would consider leaving
Slightly more than a quarter of workers (27%) say they’d consider quitting if they were quiet hired, and 4% would leave immediately. Other findings:
- 39% wouldn’t quit and view quiet hiring as an opportunity to spread their wings
- 16% wouldn’t quit, as long as the new role was temporary
- 15% wouldn’t quit, but only because their “hands are tied”
Monster career expert Vicki Salemi thinks many stay-or-go sentiments come down to how a company handles the move.
“Have a transparent conversation with departments as well as individuals, so it’s a one-on-one conversation with the performance manager and the person being asked,” Salemi says. “‘So-and-so left, and we’re dividing these tasks between three different people, and this will help you grow into XYZ.’ This data is very valuable for people to know.”
And best practice, experts say, is to make sure you’re compensating people who are being asked to increase their workload. Says Burr, “I would always encourage employers to pay people more money if you’re asking them to take on additional responsibilities.”