The difference between quiet hiring and employee development

Ever since "The Great Resignation" surfaced, a lot of "quiet" trends have followed including "quiet hiring," but how does that term differ from employee development? Learn more from Beacon Hill here.

We live in a time when new hiring terms seem to pop up every day. Ever since "The Great Resignation" phrase was coined, a lot of "quiet" trends have followed including "quiet quitting," "quiet hiring," "quiet promotion," and even "quiet firing." But one term, "quiet hiring," seems to blur the lines with the classic concept of employee development.

Today we are going to discuss the similarities between these concepts as well as how they differ. Let's get started!

What is quiet hiring?

So what is quiet hiring? It sounds ... secretive or sneaky, and done wrong, it can be a bit underhanded in the eyes of job seekers.

In several recent articles from major networks including Forbes, it has been defined as, “[W]hen an organization acquires new skills without actually hiring new full-time employees.”*

*This definition originally came from Emily Rose McRae, Gartner's Senior Director of Research.

That definition is a bit open though, so here are some examples of what quiet hiring might look like:

  • Outsourcing certain elements of work to freelancers or contractors (who are either more economical or are able to complete the work quicker).
  • Doing projects in-house that are typically given to outside talent (if the skills exist to do so and savings are available by doing so).
  • Giving existing employees the opportunity and resources to learn and use different skills in addition to the ones in their current job description.
  • Moving a current hire into a new position with more responsibilities.

What is employee development?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
states that, "[E]mployee development refers to training and related opportunities for employees to gain new skills and competencies."

However, another way to explain and justify the concept is investing in your current team with a goal of helping them grow within their current role and possibly into another one in your company. In essence, you, the employer can foster employees by providing opportunities that employees can take on, if they choose.

Some employers opt to create specific programs for employee development.

Heineken, City National Bank, Cooley, Cruise Automation, Amazon, Chipotle, Workday, Marriott International and Urban Company all have top-rated programs focused on training employees. In fact, over 70% of Fortune 500 companies offer employee training and development options.

Ultimately, most employees want to increase their skills in order to advance and, clearly, top-tier companies know that investing in employee growth is a winning strategy.

Hiring insight: A 2021 Gallup survey conducted for Amazon revealed that 66% of workers from 18-24 valued learning new skills as their third-most important perk. The other two choices that ranked higher were health insurance and disability benefits, so it's easy to see how important employee development is!

The intersection

Upskilling employees with the intention of giving them more responsibilities in order to solve for gaps is quiet hiring.

Choosing to fill skill gaps by outsourcing to freelancers and short-term contractors is also part of quiet hiring, but it isn't an element of employee development.

Both strategies are used to solve for talent or skills that are lacking, but employee development is separated by its internal nature. Essentially, some pieces of quiet hiring can be termed employee development, but not all.

Pros, cons and considerations

It's pretty clear that quiet hiring and employee development can both save companies money and time whether it's by leveraging contract or freelance workers or utilizing your existing workforce. However, if you are going the internal employee route, it's important to consider current employee perspectives.

Giving an employee more responsibilities that they aren't interested in or won't benefit from is not going to be considered positive or supportive. At some point, they will begin to complain about burnout if you don't offer them something in return for the increased effort they are going to be putting in.

On the other hand, providing employees with opportunities to learn new skills that want them helps them grow and will be appreciated, as long as they are recognized.

Employers and employees can benefit from quiet hiring when it dovetails into true employee development. Forbes said it well when they suggested using quiet hiring in an ethical way.

Companies that develop and maintain strong employee relations win even during an economic downturn or other talent acquisition crisis. After reading this, we suggest that you review your existing recruiting strategy and consider utilizing the positive parts of quiet hiring and implementing or increasing your employee development options. Your employees will appreciate it!

Pro tip: Employee development programs can be leveraged as selling points to new employees when you're ready to hire again. Many candidates are looking to join companies that are willing to invest in them so that they can do their best work.

Would you like to learn more hiring tips and trends? Are you interested in expert research within the recruitment field? Click over to our Resource Center; it's packed with everything you need to be an employer of choice.

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