‘Quiet Hiring’ is nothing new to the workplace. In fact, this practice has been going on for decades, it just now got a name. ‘Quiet Hiring’ is the managerial practice of putting additional work responsibilities on employees to fill in the gaps instead of hiring new talent. When I talk to new clients about their growth plans and how they envision their management team evolving over time, I often hear that quiet hiring is a central part of their plan.
From a manager’s perspective, the practice of quiet hiring is appealing because it does cut labor costs because you can simply force your employees to work more.. Plus, they can leverage the talent of their current employees instead of having to go through a long recruitment process. However, in addition to this practice being detrimental to employees (with excelling employees getting the brunt of the work), it can be damaging to the company for a number of reasons.
When managers add more work on top of an employee’s current responsibilities without a promotion or additional pay, it is unfair to the employee; who begins to feel taken advantage of. This leads to potential feelings of resentment towards the workplace and/or creates a toxic work environment. Quiet hiring is typically done with no communication of the vision or goals or an explanation of why the workload is being increased or how long the increased workload will last.
In order to achieve meaningful growth, a company needs employees that are motivated and dedicated to the same goal. They need to believe that they are valued for their contributions. Quiet hiring leads to the opposite- dissatisfied employees, especially when their salary does not increase with their responsibilities. They may also feel like they are being forced to do things that they are not skilled to do, or possibly overskilled!
Employees who are overburdened with the additional workload may stop focusing on producing quality work and they begin to simply focus on getting things done on time. In some cases, it may cause employees to engage in ‘quiet quitting’, which is the practice of doing the bare minimum. They don’t put forth any extra effort, time, or enthusiasm. In fact, the resentment can get worse over time and they can create a negative workplace for those around them.
Worse, the new responsibilities might be some that the employee is not properly trained for or have the necessary experience in. For example, I often see in accounting departments that a company will hire a full-time accounting manager, with an expectation that they do many of the tasks that a controller would normally be responsible for, such as financial statement preparation and creating their annual budget or asking them to create a cash flow forecast.. I encourage them not to do this because although this person may be incredibly smart and talented, they aren’t yet at a level they can perform as a controller. On the flip side, this Accounting Manager is likely not going to want to do the lower level work, so they end up in the weeds more than they want to be.
Some companies think that they could just hire the senior level person, such as a Controller or CFO and then have them to all of the work of the department, such as data entry and bank reconciliations. I always try to steer companies away from hiring a seasoned controller and expecting them to do the work of an accounting manager. Most controllers who are skilled are expensive and even if they don’t mind doing the work below them, you are essentially overpaying them to do the data entry or month-end close, which are tasks that the people below them should perform.
A Better Approach: Fractional Hiring
Instead of engaging in ‘quiet hiring’, consider outsourcing, or fractional hiring. This allows you to put a qualified person in the position for only the hours you need – without having to ‘quiet hire’ a current employee that is not equipped or motivated to do the job. Focus on having the right person do what they are good at and getting them enough support above and below them so that they have checks and balances in place and room for growth.
The most significant cost for most companies is labor, which includes salaries, training, payroll taxes, workers comp and benefits such as a 401k plan and PTO. Outsourcing reduces these costs and makes onboarding easier because the person specializes in the role they are hired for. In addition, bringing on a highly skilled fractional hire allows for development of your internal staff, especially in the areas that make your company revenue! If you have a project or a role that requires skills that your staff does not have, outsourcing can help fill that gap while also providing a seasoned person to act as a sounding board and to provide the less experienced employees with direction in developing new skills.
Jennifer Barnes is the CEO of Optima Office, Inc.