“Quiet Hiring is just the menacing reframing of the traditional practice of upskilling employees”.
This was the immediate reaction from one of the HR professionals and a sentiment which was swiftly agreed by many in attendance. It was in fact so widely agreed that it guided the conversation from what defines quiet hiring to how can we ensure the practice of upskilling candidates is protected as a positive influence.
Is it important?
Neatly, it was articulated thereafter that although the term quiet hiring was arguably lazy in its inception, there was necessity in discussions around it; the very fact it has become such a widely debated topic alludes to the negative connotations around traditional upskilling techniques in the current market. Thus, HR need to identify areas of concern with the current norms and customs and subsequently reach ways to guide and advise managers and communicate the change effectively.
There has been a motif throughout all of our recent roundtables that there is a recognisable tension surrounding greater expectations from younger generations, particularly since the pandemic. In this context, there have been increasing demands for greater communication and transparency on policy changes, career paths, and a redefinition of work-life balance. As such, if the upskilling process of labour is ‘quiet’, there is limited, or indeed an absence, of communication around what this means for the business and individual employees. Quiet hiring is arguably a symptom of generational tensions that narrows the aches to spotlight one area of HR.
With this, conversation naturally turned to the challenges all were facing in this battle, especially in guiding line managers and stakeholders in the wider business on why these issues are important. There was an acceptance from HR professionals that there needs to be a focus on educating hiring managers of the shifting expectations from new generations coming in, certainly since the pandemic. If these are the next generation of talent, then it is up to the current hiring managers to find an effective compromise. The ‘I did it back in my day’ saying is no longer greeted as a satisfactory justification for frustrations to their work. Reframing this relationship and communication is the key to ensuring the phenomenon now recognised as quiet hiring is reverted back to the upskilling of employees.
The principal variation in regard to quiet hiring was unsurprisingly around large, established organisations where there are strong graduate/apprenticeship plans and clear development plans which are demonstrated through clearly set out and time-stamped review processes. If employees, especially those at the beginning or early stages of their career, have clear guidelines and a number of demonstrable examples where getting those extra responsibilities or doing that specific training can propel you to the next level, they are far more likely to engage with it more positively.
What are the impacts?
Quiet hiring, in its most menacing form can deeply affect retention. The actions can occur gradually where there has been no acknowledgement of progression and extra responsibility through title, career trajectory or compensation. Additionally, a lack of training to support the additional responsibilities is often attributed to quiet hiring and can result in inadequate performance results. This will ultimately lead to burnout or a recognition from employees that they are currently being unfairly compensated (however that best fits their goals) and they look to leave for a job title, a support function, and salary they feel is more aligned. Certainly from an agency perspective, a lack of recognition or value from an employer is one of the top reasons employees look to leave and often don’t accept counter offers centred on compensation alone.
On the other hand, quiet hiring (or upskilling) can be an exceptionally important part of retaining staff and ensuring the business remains productive and innovative. Effective and clear communication on career paths can reduce the demands from younger generations that is becoming more apparent. If they know, and can envisage the routes and time frames to promotions or personal growth, then they will be more willing to go the extra mile, work longer hours on occasion and have less frequent demands to be ‘rewarded’ unjustly in the eyes of current managers.
Effective quiet hiring is a really useful tool for organisations to restructure teams and to identify hiring and training needs in a more considered way. If you have had an open vacancy for a number of months and yet the productivity is not being harmed, perhaps rethinking the hire in the first place and identify who has been capable of carrying the extra responsibilities and having regular catch-ups to understand their motivations and goals.
The conclusions of the event reflected the alternative perspective on quiet hiring. Quiet hiring as a concept is more of a negative branding of upskilling current employees; where the adverse perspective is due to a lack of transparent and consistent communication around clear career paths, clarity and reflection on expectations and boundaries of the company and individuals. Thus, it is not the practice of upskilling existing employees and sharing out further responsibilities that holistically requires a new approach, but the communication and projection of long term outcomes for these actions that are a must change. There was an acceptance from attendees that it is HR’s role to advise and guide line managers to demonstrate more effective communication and transparency in the training process and that anecdotal justifications are no longer an accepted practice, particularly from younger generations.