Amid 'quiet hiring,' here’s what highly successful workplaces should focus on

A job applicant (L) talks with a recruiter for Sears at a job fair in Golden, Colorado.
Rick Wilking | Reuters

In 2023, "quiet hiring" — when a company redistributes staffers or recruits short-term contractors instead of hiring full-time employees — could dominate the workplace. 

That means the most successful companies this year will be the ones hyper-focused on employee retention, says Michelle Labbe, the chief people officer at staffing firm Toptal.

It's top of mind for many: 47% of HR professionals said retention was their "most pressing challenge" this year, according to an annual Human Resource Executive Survey

But there's a big difference between working somewhere that talks a big game about employee retention, and belonging to a workplace that actually cares about its employees.

Here's what your workplace should be doing to improve retention — and what you should think about before jumping ship.

How quality workplaces improve retention

Thriving companies conduct regular surveys and host check-ins to track employee engagement, Labbe says. Failing companies don't.

Low engagement can be the first sign that an employee is going to quit soon. If it's a widespread problem at your workplace, your bosses probably need an intervention: Managers are responsible for roughly 70% of a worker's engagement levels, according to Gallup data

Quiet hiring itself can also help with employee retention. Most people tend to enjoy doing tasks they're good at — so if members of your workforce have skills that could be better applied to more crucial parts of the company's operations, you might find a nice bit of overlap, Labbe says.

You'll need to convey why the shift in responsibility is necessary, while reassuring people their old job is still valuable — and that it'll still be waiting for them after they finish up their new duties.

"If you're asking a bunch of people to make this move, you should be able to articulate: What does this mean for them?" Emily Rose McRae, a Gartner HR analyst who helped coin the term "quiet hiring," told CNBC Make It last week.

At Toptal, during periods the recruiting team wasn't busy, some team members moved over to the sales team, Labbe says. Despite their face-value differences, those jobs ultimately require the same core skills.

"You're either selling the company or selling a service," Labbe says.

Labbe also recommends a simpler tweak to increase retention: Provide career maps for everyone at the company, so everyone knows what their next steps look like.

Even on an individual level, having conversations with your manager or HR department about internal opportunities can show you how you'll benefit by sticking around.

Why you shouldn't burn bridges

As an employee, look around: If your company isn't trying to improve engagement or provide long-term career support, you might want to quietly consider your options.

Just don't do it rashly, Labbe says: "You have to do your homework and not jump for the wrong reasons."

She points to "boomerang employees," or employees who return to their old companies after a stint elsewhere, as a model for how to quit effectively.

When those people leave a workplace, they don't burn bridges. To that end, follow best quitting practices: Don't surprise your boss, stay positive in exit interviews and create a transition plan so you can minimize the burden on your coworkers.

"Regardless of how you're having that conversation, it's an interpersonal interaction related to a big decision that's going to affect a number of individuals," Anthony Klotz, the Texas A&M professor who first coined the term "The Great Resignation," told CNBC Make It in 2021.

Leaving a positive impression also makes you more hirable down the line, Labbe says.

In a tight job market, that matters, she adds: "I haven't been chasing [boomerang employees] to come back. They've been calling back."

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