Quiet Hiring: The Latest Trend or Part of the Talent Management Revolution?


Chances are you've heard of quiet quitting—the phenomenon of people doing the bare minimum at work and refusing to invest any more time or effort than is required to stay employed. Now, with a persistent candidate shortage and many still anticipating a recession in the coming year, hiring managers have had to get creative to meet their talent needs. This has given birth to a new movement that’s quickly gaining steam: quiet hiring.

What is Quiet Hiring?

Listed by Gartner as one of the top future of work trends for 2023, quiet hiring is when a business expands the capabilities and skill sets of its workforce without increasing headcount. There are two types of quiet hiring we’ve seen playing out in the current market: internal and external.

Internal quiet hiring: a delicate proposition

With internal quiet hiring, you give an existing employee an additional role, responsibility, or skill set that aligns with company needs—in essence, tapping into and maximizing your own talent pool. On one hand, this approach can be a win-win for employers and employees. We have found that legal professionals often leave a job because they feel they have stagnated in their career progression and are not being given enough opportunities for growth. Thus, by giving employees the opportunity to learn coveted new skills or advance into a more sophisticated role, employers can ensure happier, more engaged workers and better retention rates in a still-tight job market.

Internal quiet hiring is something that must be executed ethically and transparently; this point cannot be overemphasized. When augmenting a person’s job duties, managers should explain how this change is strategic to the company’s success and why that specific individual was chosen. And of course, if a team member is asked to significantly change up their job role, a bump in pay—plus an upgrade in job title—may be warranted.  

The peril of internal quiet hiring is that when it’s not done mindfully, it can backfire. Here are some pitfalls to consider:

  • If the increased workload does not come with an appropriate increase in compensation or other reward, employees may end up feeling taken advantage of. This can lead to quiet quitting or quitting altogether. In fact, this is another big reason candidates tell us they are looking for new work. They resent that they have taken on duties outside of the scope of their role and are not being properly compensated. It's also worth noting that even with a generous pay raise, employees who feel overburdened with additional obligations can still become burned out, leading them to seek greener pastures.
  • If role changes are not embraced with enthusiasm, even by a single employee, it can serve a blow to workforce morale company wide. Other team members may perceive that their colleague was pressured into accepting more responsibilities instead of making an active choice to take them on.
  • Enhancing an employee’s skill set takes time and training. Combined with the risk of costly mistakes as the individual gets up to speed, this may not be a worthwhile investment for an organization.

External quiet hiring: A less risky and often more cost-effective option

That brings us to the next type of quiet hiring: external. This is when companies hire consultants and  contractors to fill their talent and expertise gaps. Organizations that aren’t familiar with this flexible staffing model may have reservations about using temporary talent, including level of loyalty, speed of onboarding, and potential negative impact on morale. But from what we’ve seen as recruiters, external quiet hiring is a low-risk tactic with very few downsides. Consider the advantages:

  • Breadth of talent: Contract staffing gives you access to a rich pool of seasoned legal professionals, all the way up to former AmLaw partners and general counsel, with a wide breadth of skills and backgrounds. This means you can pinpoint candidates with the exact qualifications and expertise you seek—and there’s no downtime required for training.
  • Flexibility: Contract assignments offer a flexible array of structures, including temporary to permanent, part-time, and open-ended. As a result, you can tailor the contract to your business needs without worrying about overspending. As well, a temp-to-permanent arrangement can provide a valuable probationary period that allows you to assess whether a candidate would be a good long-term fit.
  • Diversity: Contractors give you the chance to build more heterogeneous teams—a vital part of developing a thriving, sustainable organization today. Beyond meeting DEI goals, cultivating a diverse workforce helps ensure a variety of perspectives that drive creativity and innovation. This includes age diversity, which has been shown to improve workplace performance. Hiring a contractor is a great opportunity to bring in older, well-established legal professionals who can mentor and inspire younger members of the permanent team.

What’s more, external quiet hiring is often the most cost-efficient option in the long run. Contract employees don’t come with the hefty cost of benefits. When you engage an experienced consulting attorney or paraprofessional, you also don’t have the added expense and headaches of training.

Most importantly, engaging contractors frees up more time for your permanent employees to focus on their assigned job duties, working toward and obtaining a promotion, fostering a better work-life balance, preventing burnout, and boosting morale across the board. This can help you decrease attrition and spare your company the costs of finding new full-time hires.

In this unsettled economic environment, a brisk hiring momentum may not be in the cards. But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your business growing steadily. Quiet hiring can help you access the skills and expertise you need to stay competitive without straining your budget. Although looking in-house is an option, using contractors can save you added time and money while empowering you to harness some of the best talent the legal industry has to offer.


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