When organizations need to fill a position, they often go straight to posting a job ad to start the hiring process – leading to missed opportunities, underutilized talent, and possibly low morale among staff who might feel overlooked. Instead of going straight to the external job market, “quiet hiring” takes a different approach and shifts the focus inward. Quiet hiring is rooted in knowledge management principles and focuses on using untapped knowledge within an organization to fill gaps. In this article, we’ll discuss how to incorporate quiet hiring into a broader organizational knowledge management strategy.
What is Quiet Hiring?
Quiet hiring is a simple yet profound human resources and knowledge management strategy. Instead of looking externally for new hires, with quiet hiring, organizations focus on identifying and leveraging the knowledge, skills, experiences, and expertise that already exist in-house within the organization. Quiet hiring is about recognizing the untapped potential within an organization, from existing employees who already possess a wealth of knowledge about internal operations, organizational culture, procedures, people, and existing ways of working. Quiet hiring is so important today that it has been named as Gartner’s top future of work trend for 2023.
With quiet hiring, organizations assess the internal talent pool first when a new role opens up or when new staffing needs arise. Instead of rushing to create a new position or post a job ad, the organization will consider if the required skills, experiences, or knowledge already exist in-house. By looking internally, HR and organizational leaders work together to explore possibilities for role changes, job rotations, or even career advancements – all of which can help to fill the gap but also can provide development opportunities for staff members and lead to happier employees.
The Value of Internal Knowledge
Every individual within an organization brings something unique to the table – a distinct set of knowledge, skills, experiences, insights, and know-how that they accumulate over time. This tacit knowledge, particularly when it is deeply intertwined with the organization’s operations, culture, and industry, becomes an invaluable asset.
Long-tenured employees – whether they recognize it or not – typically hold a tremendous amount of valuable internal knowledge. They should have a deep understanding of work processes, internal procedures, and organizational culture. They’ve built long-standing relationships with colleagues, as well as other internal and external partners. They’ve developed a sense of what works and what doesn’t for the company. This type of tacit knowledge takes time for a new hire to learn and absorb.
Moreover, recognizing, supporting, and encouraging internal knowledge can have profound effects on staff morale and loyalty. When employees see that their knowledge is valued and that there are growth opportunities within the organization, they’re likely to be more engaged, motivated, and committed to their work.
Incorporating Quiet Hiring into a KM Strategy
Adopting quiet hiring as part of a holistic knowledge management strategy is a powerful way to make the most of your organization’s internal knowledge, skills, and expertise. Here’s how to do it:
1. Identify critical knowledge
Start by identifying key areas of knowledge within the organization – the subject matter areas or knowledge domains that are critical for your organization, as well as the soft skills and technical skills needed for your organizational to be successful. Once these have been documented, determine where that expertise lives internally and identify current gaps. This type of exercise should be conducted regularly to identify newly emerging skills and areas of knowledge.
2. Promote internal mobility
Consider promoting staff or posting internally before publishing positions for external candidates. At a minimum, make staff aware of positions that are going to be available, so they have an opportunity to consider applying. When staff see that an organization has a history of promoting from within, it helps to indirectly encourage other staff members to apply for open positions.
3. Encourage and support continuous learning
Formally including continuous learning as part of the organization’s knowledge management strategy can go a long way. But saying that your organization supports continuous learning and actually doing it are often two different things.
Make sure your organization is standing behind what it says – either through supporting staff who are attending conferences, taking classes, or enrolling in degree programs; by offering low-cost online learning platforms such as access to (or reimbursing for) classes through Udemy or LinkedIn Learning; or through other means that don’t have a direct cost associated with them such as offering a day a month to staff to focus on training. From an organizational approach, we suggest taking a two-pronged approach: allow staff to select classes and other learning opportunities on their own, and highlight areas where the organization is aiming to focus moving forward so staff are aware of gaps or specific needs the organization is seeking to fill.
4. Nurture a culture of knowledge sharing
Similarly, it’s important to encourage staff to share their knowledge. Successful knowledge management programs progress from incentivizing knowledge sharing to encouraging knowledge sharing, and eventually, to expecting knowledge sharing and making it the norm. This can take many different forms, from “lunch and learn” sessions to share fairs, poster sessions, Pecha Kucha sessions, reporting back after conferences, giving short presentations during all-staff meetings, and more.
5. Foster an open dialogue with staff
Get staff to help solve these organizational challenges. Ask staff to help by sharing what skills and knowledge they can contribute. Ask for feedback and input regarding skills, expertise, and knowledge gaps as well. Use existing mechanisms to ask for input – drop-in office hours, focus groups, a suggestion box on the intranet, surveys, performance evaluations and mid-year check-ins, check-ins with new hires, etc.
6. Work together
All of these activities require close collaboration and a partnership between the knowledge management team and Human Resources. Regardless of whether KM is an individual role, a component of someone’s job, a cross-functional team, or a standalone, dedicated team, these two areas should work closely with each other. Knowledge management truly is about people, processes, and technology.
In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, the organizations that thrive are those that recognize and harness their most valuable asset — their internal knowledge. Quiet hiring is one approach that allows organizations to do exactly that. By prioritizing internal knowledge and talent, organizations not only save on the cost and time of external hiring but also foster a culture of learning, growth, and engagement, and can help improve staff morale – all big wins!
Start your quiet hiring journey today. Begin by taking stock of the skills, experiences, and knowledge within your organization as an aspect of your organization’s overall knowledge management strategy. Encourage a culture of knowledge sharing and continuous learning. And remember, the first place to look when you need to fill a role might be right under your nose.