There have been a lot of “quiet” things going on in workplaces in the last few years, since we’ve settled into our “new normal” of work. Employees have been in the spotlight for “quiet quitting,” and bosses have had their share of scrutiny for “quiet firing.” But what about “quiet hiring”? Is that even a thing? Yes! Turns out giant companies like Google have been employing this practice to their great advantage, and using it to build the best teams they can. So what does it mean to quiet hire, and can you borrow some of the ideas from the big boys to make sure you’ve got the best team possible, and grow your business?
Quiet Quitting, Firing, and Hiring, Oh My!
So what is all of this quiet stuff going on in the workplace these days, and is there a reason why it’s all exploded recently?
You might have heard this term on social media, and you might even be experiencing it with your own team. Quiet quitting refers to employees doing the bare minimum expected of them rather than truly abandoning their positions. The term took hold on social media, with one TikTok user posting a video describing the idea behind quiet quitting in this way:
“You’re not abandoning your job overtly, but you’re losing the concept of going above and beyond at work. You’re still doing your job, but you’re not buying into the hustle culture attitude that says work needs to be your life.”
While some employees lack the will to fully quit, some employers also feel unwilling to outright break ties with their less-than-stellar team members. Instead, employers who engage in quiet firing will purposely behave in a poor manner towards their employees, passing them over for promotions or raises, moving them to a less desirable position, or withholding development opportunities. This is certainly not a tactic we recommend for your workplace. Instead of engaging in negative practices that discourage employees, you might want to consider more positive and nurturing practices, like quiet hiring.
According to an Inc article, quiet hiring is Google’s little-known but incredibly effective recruiting method, a method that excludes employees unwilling to go the additional mile. This strategy is all about picking out employees who are already going above and beyond, doing things like taking on additional responsibilities, and proving they have what it takes to excel. These employees are then recruited from within to fill open positions. According to the article, “It’s part of what enables [companies like Google] to identify the brightest minds (internally and externally) and place the best candidates into its open positions.”
And when Google does hire externally, they tend to prioritize candidates who have been referred by trusted employees, or who score high on notes from other employees who sit in on their interviews. This also cuts down on making bad hires, and keeps the team feeling cohesive.
So quiet hiring can be good for employees who are up to the job, but why can it be so beneficial for employers? Again according to the Inc article, “For employers, there is far less risk, as well as little to no cost associated with recruiting and training, saving what can amount to a lot of money.” In addition, studies show that high-achievers can produce 400% more than the average employee, so from a business perspective, prioritizing them over the quiet quitter type just makes sense.
Quiet hiring can help you to promote and reward the best members of your team, but can it also help you to turn things around with those who aren’t giving their all, or even engaging in quiet quitting? Let’s look at that, but first, we need to look at why workers might be quiet quitting.
Why All the Quiet Quitting?
So while the attitude that leads to quiet quitting can be very frustrating for employers, it is rooted in more than just laziness. The last few years since the pandemic have seen employees reexamine their work-life balance, and the “grind” that is driving the high levels of burnout we’re seeing in workers.
And not only that, but when it comes to employees quiet quitting, it takes two to tango, as they say. It might not just be an employee problem: according to data gathered by the Harvard Business Review, quiet quitting typically has less to do with a worker’s willingness to work in better ways, and more to do with a manager’s capacity to create bonds with and engage employees.
In fact, employee engagement seems to be falling for the first time in a while. According to a Gallup poll, from 2019 to 2022, the percentage of engaged employees fell by 6%. At the same time, the proportion of actively disengaged employees climbed by 6%. This is bad news for employers, because employees who aren’t engaged at work will bring less energy and passion to their jobs, which is a slippery slope to quiet quitting.
And once they do that, a vicious cycle can begin. Other team members will have to pick up the slack, which could lead to those employees becoming dissatisfied, and a toxic work culture. So if you’re experiencing this in your workplace, could quiet hiring be a way to turn things around? Or is it better to do everything at your business out loud?
Can Quiet Hiring Tempt Quiet Quitters?
With all of this surreptitious quitting going around, you might be a bit worried. And you’re not alone! According to SHRM research, 51% of HR professionals are concerned about silent resignation. Furthermore, HR experts are afraid that quiet quitting will have a negative impact on their business, because they worry it will reduce employee morale in the workplace (83%), employee productivity (70%), or the quality of employee work products (50%).
But engaging in quiet hiring, or at least taking some of the best parts of it, like rewarding employees who are engaged and working creatively, can possibly entice those who might otherwise fall into quiet quitting to go for the gold.
It’s also important, though, to look at your own management style. Quiet hiring can motivate employees, but you still need to do at least the following to keep the right atmosphere at your business:
- Have a set of well-defined values that are aligned with the actions of you and your other leaders
- Foster a culture of accountability
- Know your staff as people, including their life circumstances, abilities, and ambitions
- Make sure your employees understand how their efforts fit into the bigger picture
- Consider the impact of requiring mandatory attendance in tasks that employees may accomplish from home, and have a shared understanding of what amount of flexibility is acceptable
- Give employees a clear roadmap for their career trajectories
- Pay attention to their health and well-being, perhaps by offering family leave, healthcare, and other perks
So quiet hiring can be a win-win for employers and employees. It can be seen as giving the power back to employees who want to move forward in their careers and be rewarded for their stellar performance, and it can also save you the pain and expense of recruiting employees, only to be saddled with the wrong team – or even quiet quitters!
But on the other hand, all of these “quiet” goings-on, including using a quiet hiring strategy, could point to a vaguely toxic or passive-aggressive workplace, where employees and employers aren’t engaging in enough direct communication. It’s up to you, then, to set the tone, and use the strategies that will work for your business, so you can build your dream team and soar to new heights of growth!
Co-written by Joanna Bowling