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Quiet Hiring Explained: How to Hire More With Less

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Do you have all the talent you need? We asked 100+ creative, marketing and tech hiring managers this very question. Over 40% admitted their teams are understaffed. Employees echoed the same sentiment, with over 85% reporting they’re being asked to do more with less. Market shifts continue to leave teams with tight budgets, limited resources, and the same amount of work.

However, top companies aren’t letting economic uncertainty slow them down. Determined to embrace new technologies, prevent employee burnout, and hit strategic goals, 86% of companies are hiring or planning to hire in the coming months. But they’re not all hiring how you might think. Employers are increasingly turning to alternative talent strategies, collectively known as “quiet hiring.”

While sources differ in their definitions, “quiet hiring” is often used as an umbrella term to describe cost-effective alternatives to increasing full-time headcount. Done right, this approach can eliminate direct hire expenses, saving you 30% or more. As a trusted staffing and talent solutions provider, we’ve helped over 3,000 clients explore and embrace such strategies. Here’s 5 ways top companies quietly hire more with less.

1. Internal Mobility | Hire From Within

Sometimes, the best person for the job is already working within your organization. Oftentimes, that person is also the most cost-effective option. By upskilling, expanding responsibilities, or promoting new job openings to internal teams, you can cut recruitment and onboarding expenses while boosting employee morale. Studies show that those who experience internal mobility are 40% more engaged. Invest in training programs to equip high-potential employees with the necessary skills for new roles.

Use Case: A Fortune 100 healthcare company leveraged digital accessibility trainers from our talent network to develop internal training programs and upskill product owners, designers, and engineers for new roles – rather than hire new employees. The result: an industry-leading accessibility initiative.

2. Staff Augmentation | Leverage Contract Talent

Staff augmentation is nothing new, but there has been a renewed emphasis on it at companies of all sizes. As competitors race to embrace rapidly advancing tools while leaning into cost savings initiatives, leaders are increasingly relying upon contract, freelance, or temporary talent to fill gaps and staff projects. Over 65% of companies plan to increase their use of contingent workers, empowering teams to scale up and down without the commitment or costs associated with permanent hires.

Use Case: A world-renowned entertainment enterprise turned to our specialized recruiters to augment marketing teams with contract producers, copywriters, designers, and more – saving the client over $800,000 in projected hard expenses and far more when factoring soft costs of direct hiring.

3. Statement of Work | Use SOW Agreements

Unlike traditional temporary hires, SOW workers are independent contractors often paid per project or milestone for a finished product. Both eliminate overhead costs, but SOW workers often act less like internal team members and commonly fall under project budgets. This means they’re both cost-effective and more likely to be approved for use during uncertain times at select organizations. As a result, research shows SOW spend frequently makes up 65% or more of a company’s contingent labor spend.

Use Case: A top streaming service provider used an SOW to engage an Onward Search creative project manager (PM) during a hiring freeze. The PM helped lead a mission-critical brand review project which set the stage for year-over-year growth. Upon the project’s completion, the contractor was hired full-time.

4. Part-Time Leadership | Find Fractional Executives

Every organization requires senior-level creative, marketing and technology expertise. Yet, not every company has the budget or workload to justify hiring full-time leaders in such fields. Fractional executives take contingent labor to a new level by providing companies with top-tier leadership on a part-time or temporary basis. Offering strategic guidance and tactical execution for a fraction of the cost, these seasoned experts can be over 60% more cost-effective than full-time ones, and they’re just as experienced.

Use Case: A fast-growing travel company turned to our executive recruiters to find a fractional CMO. The challenge: build, launch, and lead a comprehensive digital marketing strategy without hiring a full-time leader. They’re expected to save well over $200,000 in projected annual salary costs alone.

5. Managed Solutions | Build Embedded Teams

From performance marketing to experience design and beyond, great work can rarely be attributed to a single individual. Nearly every significant achievement is a credit to collaboration. And so, a single fractional leader or contract hire isn’t always enough, nor is traditional outsourcing. Managed solutions such as embedded teams give you another option: a streamlined way to assemble contract talent across disciplines, alleviate management burdens, and cut hiring costs – all while ensuring integration.

Use Case: A leading health insurance company engaged us to build, manage and embed a cross-functional UX team within the organization. The challenge: transform an outdated online customer portal on an aggressive timeline. Within months, the client more than tripled its portal users.

Quiet Hiring Next Steps

As you research and implement the above talent strategies, remember these truths: No solution is suitable for every situation. No matter which tactics you choose, ethics and transparency are always the best policies. And the phrase, “quiet hiring,” may fade with time, but the concept is no fad. It’s the future. So, combine talent solutions, explore all your options, and lean into what works. With the right talent at your disposal, you can thrive in any economy, grow beyond your goals, and propel your people forward.


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