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Quiet hiring: Why have we fallen silent when it comes to development and retention?

We reflect on the quiet hiring trend and explore why organisations should instead be making noise to ensure they retain essential expertise.

What is quiet hiring?

Following on from ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘quiet firing’, yet another trend of silence has emerged: quiet hiring.
A combination of internal mobility (both upwards and lateral), upskilling, and reskilling, quiet hiring encourages employees to take on new projects or tasks, in addition to, or instead of, day-to-day responsibilities. People are effectively ‘hired’ for a role without undergoing the formal assessment and selection process.
As we look towards an increasingly uncertain economic future, it’s easy to see why quiet hiring has gained traction as a popular workforce-related buzzword.
Organisations need to ensure agility, deploying skills more effectively to align with their priorities. But a tight labour market has intensified the battle for expertise at a time when many organisations are pursuing growth or undergoing significant digital investment and transformations.
Offering financial and resource efficiencies (consider the reduced recruiting costs and faster onboarding process), quiet hiring allows organisations to pursue key strategic objectives without committing to significant changes in their permanent headcount. Once internal opportunities have been exhausted, organisations can turn to contingent talent, such as gig workers or their alumni network, to support project delivery.
Truthfully, quiet hiring feels like a repackaging of a conversation we’ve been having with our customers for many years. And while, as an organisation, we are keen advocates of any concept that sparks conversation around employee engagement and development, the silence feels sinister.

Why silence isn’t always golden

We’ll let the numbers do the talking:
  • When searching for a new role, 54% of jobseekers overlook opportunities at their current company.
  • One in four workers are not fully committed to their current role and are instead biding their time for their bonus or waiting for a better opportunity to come along. 
  • Less than 30% of employees believe that if they work hard and apply skills effectively, they will be promoted to a better job with a higher ranking-title at their company.
The situation becomes critical when you consider that fewer organisations are undertaking initiatives to improve retention. A study by the CIPD found that just 29% of companies deployed retention strategies in 2021, compared to over half in the previous year.
The result of poor communication and a lack of opportunity caused by reduced investment is a shift in the global employee turnover rate, with 28% of employees either uncertain of staying with their current employer, or planning to leave.
At a time when employees are pessimistic about progression, why are organisations choosing to keep their development and retention efforts under wraps?
Below, we explore some of the strategies that your organsation should be making some noise about.

Ensuring the appeal of your Employer Value Proposition

We’ve previously discussed the role that a carefully crafted Employer Value Proposition plays in attracting key skills, but how committed you are as an organisation to enabling workers to ‘live out’ this proposition is what keeps them engaged.
If you’ve promised flexibility but refuse to accommodate remote working requests, you may be suffering from an authenticity problem that will prompt people to reconsider their career options.
Broadly speaking, your EVP can be split into three key pillars:
  • How people work: Flexibility regarding when, where and how people complete their work continues to spark debate. Organisations should remember that flexible doesn’t solely equate to remote working. ‘Flexi’ can also take the form of compressed workweeks and job shares to enable people to shape work around their personal lives.
  • How people are supported to work: The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally reshaped our understanding of the support that organisations must offer their people. In the face of looming economic instability, organisations could consider financial counselling alongside other physical and mental wellbeing efforts.
  • How people are compensated for their work: Compensation remains critical, and it’s important to use contemporary data to ensure you are engaging people at the right price. However, recent data from LinkedIn suggests that organisations cannot simply lean into a larger salary, nor can they afford to as demand continues to outstrip supply across multiple industries.
Company culture is dynamic, and the pace of change means that many of the best ideas are yet to come’. Organisations will need to regularly shape, review and refine their EVP, leveraging feedback across the organisation to ensure their offering is fit for purpose.
Have you considered how you’ll shape a suitable proposition for your non-permanent staff? Read more on competing for the best contractors.

Building an internal mobility strategy

Internal mobility often occurs organically within many organisations. An internal mobility strategy, however, sees organisations bringing together people, process and technology to intentionally move skilled workers across projects, ensuring the right skills are in the right place - at the right time.
The efforts of designing a strategy are richly rewarded. Data from the Society for Human Resource Management indicates that promoting employees internally boosts their chances of staying at an organisation to 70%.
But organisations are struggling to transform their vision into a reality. Just 6% of companies believe they are ‘excelling’ at internal mobility, with the process requiring changes to the way careers work, changes to the way in which you reward and pay people and changes to the nature of management, leadership and learning.
For some companies, making internal mobility work will require a top-to-toe business transformation. Common features across some of the most successful internal mobility strategies include:
  • Think lattice, not just ladder: Organisations are often preoccupied with mapping career paths that focus upwards, but the career ‘lattice’ is gaining traction as a growing number of workers seek new opportunities while protecting their work-life balance. Consider how your internal mobility strategy incorporates transitions from role to role, including location transfers and project-based mobility.
  • Leverage an ecosystem of technology: The investments you make in HR and Talent Acquisition technology will pay dividends when it comes to shaping an Internal Mobility strategy. The more data you can accrue, the greater your ability to see your workforce at a skills level, allowing you to closely match individuals with opportunities. Being guided by data can also support in your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion commitments, democratising your decision-making process.
The burden is on employers to define career paths for their people. Do you have the tools in place to pursue shared success?

Prioritising Learning and Development

Offering all workers, regardless of classification or source, the opportunity to enhance or expand their skillset should form the foundation of any forward-thinking development and retention strategy.
Appetite for learning has heightened; data from Worklife indicates that the opportunity to learn and grow is the number one driver of a great work culture, a jump from ninth position in 2019. And data from the Learning Mindset report showcases the willingness of 83% of workers who are ‘very much’ open to learning new skills.
But a commitment to enhancing the capabilities of employees will require a shift in mindset. Learning promotes a more fluid movement of people, as upskilling and reskilling facilitates transitions into new roles – and even new industries.
The managers rewarded based on operational KPIs, for example, may be unwilling to let their star performers switch roles. Organisations need to support teams in seeing the big picture, realigning their strategic ambitions to ensure that every individual can see the benefit of moving critical skills to where they are needed most.
After all, organisations become talent magnets when they are also talent accelerators. Make sure you aren’t putting the brakes on the development of your best people.

Calling time on quiet hiring

With 89% of the global workforce reporting that they are disengaged from their current role, its time organisations started making some noise. The investments that organisations make in the development and retention of their people today will have a direct impact on their ability to succeed in tomorrow’s world of work.
To discuss how Hays can support your organisation in building development and retention strategies, get in touch with the team today.

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