When Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, first appears in the television series Suits as Rachel Zane, she is portrayed as a paralegal at Pearson Hardman law firm.
Her role involves assisting lawyers with their cases, performing legal research, and handling various administrative and legal tasks. However, in the show’s second season, Rachel’s career trajectory subtly aligns with the concept of “quiet hiring”.
She is entrusted with supervising interns, a responsibility that extends beyond her typical paralegal duties. This shift in her role, without a formal change in her job title or a traditional hiring process for a new position, exemplifies the essence of quiet hiring.
It is about leveraging internal resources and existing employees’ potential to fulfil evolving needs within an organisation. Rachel’s new role in supervising interns not only highlights her leadership capabilities but also reflects her understanding of legal practices.
Pros and cons
Grace Ndung’u, a human resources consultant says apart from cutting costs, quiet hiring offers an opportunity for employees to learn new skills, retrain, and grow career-wise.
“If they had burnout in a certain department, there are new changes in the new environment, there is productivity because of the new roles,” she says.
Additionally, the employees get to focus more and be loyal to the company because of the reassurance that they can grow within without looking for opportunities elsewhere.
“There is also job security. When you hear that roles are freezing and there is no recruitment and you are in a department where roles are dwindling, you will be confident to be productive because your job is secure.”
To elaborate on employee morale, Ms Ndung’u says when a company hires quietly, its energies are revitalised.
“As an HR professional with over 20 years of experience, if I’m moved to the public relations department, I will perform very well. Because there is an epitome in one’s career and you will need a fresh breath of air.”
On the flip side, Hosea Buliba, a lead consultant and managing partner at Denidel Consortium LLP, shares that if the quiet hiring procedure is not done well, it might impact productivity.
“If there is a lack of clarity on roles and deliverables, then productivity will be strained,” he explains.
A lack of diversity can also chip into the organisation as only employees within the organisation are hired.
Mr Buliba further says the workplace culture will be impacted. Quiet hiring can still be achieved through external contracting.
“For instance, you have a vacant position but you do not want to hire full-time hence engage gig workers. If not well onboarded, or oriented within then the culture of the organisation will be compromised.”
Employees can also be demotivated if the communication process is broken and they cannot understand their responsibilities.
“In turn, there will be increased levels of burnout and stress mainly because they are biting more than they can chew.”
However, to curb this potentiality, Mr Buliba advises employers to ensure there is a balance in the work schedule as well as automate some tasks.
Ultimately, when all is said and done, he asserts that the standard practice in quiet hiring is fairly compensating the employee who is being added roles.
“Legally, you need to look at the employee’s job description and refine it to cater for all the duties needed,” he emphasises.
Fairness and transparency
While nepotism is a contested debate when it comes to quiet hiring, Ms Ndung’u holds the notion that the process should not begin with promotion.
“Of course, everyone wants that extra coin that’s why you shift the performing employee to a department as an assistant, let them prove their worth then talk about renumeration,” she advises.
This way, Ms Ndung’u notes that an employee’s worth in that department will be judged by their value-addition lens first. Looking at it from another angle, Mr Buliba shares that nepotism can manifest in quiet hiring more so in private organisations and only the favoured will be selected for professional development. This will impact the organisation’s culture in the long run.
Ms Ndung’u says the public relations, communication, and marketing fields are some of the departments that are susceptible to quiet hiring.
“These fields require passion despite education backup. Those in leadership positions also can be easily hired quietly. For instance, almost all vice-chancellors are professors in different academic fields but excel in their role as their role as leaders of the universities,” she adds.