The term "quiet quitting" went viral last year, describing people who stay in their jobs but mentally take a step back -- for example, working the bare minimum and not making their job the center of their lives.
Now in 2023, there is a new workplace trend on the horizon, called "quiet hiring."
The term -- a way to obtain new talent without hiring new employees -- was declared one of the nine workplace trends of the year by Gartner, a technological research and consulting firm.
The trend has understandably caught people's attention as it comes amid continued recession fears and a wave of tech industry layoffs.
Here is what to know.
What is quiet hiring?
Quiet hiring is a strategy companies are using to fill in holes without hiring new full-time employees, according to Emily Rose McRae, senior director of research at Gartner.
Before people get concerned the trend is a just a fancy term for cutting headcount and giving more work to existing employees, McRae said it's more specific than that.
"With quiet hiring, we're talking about an organization strategically, at a leadership level, looking at the talent they have across the organization and where the critical gaps are and finding ways to fill those," she said. "It's trying to acquire new skills and capabilities without acquiring new people."
As an example, McRae said a company may determine it needs to add five more data scientists to its team in order to meet its strategic goals for the year.
The company may then look at the hiring forecast and see it could take as long as nine months to fill those five roles, which would mean they could not meet their 2023 goals.
As a solution, the company may decide to temporarily move five employees from another department, like data analysts in the human resources and marketing department, into the five open data scientist roles, and that is quiet hiring, McRae explained.
"The idea is that you have a finite amount of talent in your organization, and you need to make a call about where it's going to have the best impact," McRae said. "In this case, you're saying, 'We're going to intentionally deprioritize analytic support for HR and marketing for the next six months so that we can increase the productivity of our data science team, and we are saying this very explicitly. Everyone knows this.'"
According to McRae, the important distinction with quiet hiring is that a company is openly communicating with employees about its priorities and temporarily moving employees to areas that serve those priorities, versus just loading employees with more work instead of hiring more people.
"A company is saying, 'We are intentionally deprioritizing that space right now in order to prioritize another part of the business,'" McRae said.
Why is quiet hiring a 2023 trend?
The current economic uncertainty is one reason why quiet hiring is a current trend, as companies may be more likely to slow down hiring, according to McRae.
Another reason, she explained, is a widespread talent shortage.
"We do not have enough talent for the roles that are available," McRae said. "The jobs report that just came out said we had the lowest number of job seekers in months, so we're not in a situation where we're easily finding lots more talent."
According to McRae, the talent shortage means it may take employers several months to fill a position, while the economic uncertainty means companies may intentionally keep their employee count at a minimum.
In both scenarios, she said, companies would turn to existing employees to fill mission-critical roles.
What should I do if my employer is quiet hiring?
While a workplace trend that involves being assigned to a new role may seem scary, McRae said quiet hiring should be both beneficial and reassuring to employees.
"If you were asked to do a totally different role, or to take on additional responsibilities, they're asking you to do that because your work is valued," she said. "They value you enough to say, 'Please can you do this for us.'"
McRae said the key with quiet hiring is that your employer is explicitly telling you what is happening and what is expected.
That means there is also an opportunity for you, as an employee, to learn new skills, possibly transition to a different line of work within the company and to negotiate.
"One thing that an employee could get out of it is by asking, 'OK, I will do this rotation but I actually want to move over there permanently, so how can we make that happen?'" said McRae, noting that an employee could negotiate having the company pay for additional training or providing a mentor.
McRae said she recommends that employees use the opportunity to negotiate a one-time bonus or salary increase for the time of their rotation, or a greater amount of paid time off or more flexibility if a company says it cannot increase pay.
"An employee might say, 'If it's not possible to increase my compensation, can we make it so that I can work from home five days a week, reducing my commute costs?'" McRae said. "Or, 'Can we make it so that I can work flex hours, which makes it easier for me to live the rest of my life?'"
McRae added that while an individual conversation may be intimidating, if you're part of a department or team being asked to switch roles, leverage that power and approach human resources as a group.
For example, McRae said employees could say, "This is a group wide challenge. We'd like to make sure we have an understanding of it."
Employees should also feel empowered to "nudge" their employer towards quiet hiring.
"If there are roles within your organization that you work with a lot or that require similar skills that you think would be interesting, talk to your manager about what opportunities are available," McRae said. "Could you do some trainings? Could you rotate in over time? You can nudge your company in the direction of quiet hiring, if you want."