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Upskilling and cross-skilling will be key in the workplace of the future

By Jane Lambert | |6 minute read

Organisations are facing an unprecedented level of change and uncertainty, driven by technological innovation, globalisation and shifting demographics. In this environment, upskilling and cross-skilling are emerging as key strategic imperatives for organisations wishing to maximise their capacity and boost productivity.

Traditionally, organisational structures have focused on empowering employees to work exclusively in their specialist roles. However, this approach may no longer be the most sensible or effective way for organisations to operate. Economic uncertainty, combined with the need to cut headcount, is driving a new phenomenon known as “quiet hiring”. In this approach, organisations seek to develop new skills from their existing workforce by cross-skilling and upskilling rather than hiring new employees. Gartner predicts that quiet hiring will be one of the top workforce trends for 2023. But is it the answer to boosting productivity this year?

What is ‘quiet hiring’?


Quiet hiring has emerged as a response to the trend of “quiet quitting”. This phenomenon, which came to light in 2022, describes a situation where employees (particularly younger demographics) profess to be doing the bare minimum required to retain their jobs, forgoing all tasks beyond their assigned duties.

According to research from LendingTree, one in three employees consciously participate in quiet quitting. Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce 2022 Report found the level of employee engagement to be even more alarming, with a mere 17 per cent of Australian and New Zealand workers feeling enthused by their work and workplace in 2022.

In today’s economic environment, business leaders can benefit financially from quiet hiring — by filling roles with current talent from within the organisation, they can save money on recruitment and salary costs. However, quiet hiring is not just about cost-cutting; it can also benefit existing staff members in several ways. For instance, it allows employees to expand their skill sets through training and try out new areas of the business without giving up the security of their current role.

Additionally, it creates opportunities for promotions that might otherwise be filled through external hiring. Therefore, companies that embrace quiet hiring by offering a more diverse range of tasks and responsibilities can improve employee morale, create a more engaging and fulfilling workplace, and reduce attrition rates.

While some employees may prefer to stick with their current roles or are reluctant to take on additional tasks, research conducted by Monster, a US-based job-search platform, found that 63 per cent of workers are open to the idea of quiet hiring as an opportunity to develop their skills.

An engaged and satisfied workforce can enhance both customer experience and operational efficiency, which are critical priorities for Australian businesses today. Given the challenges posed by stagnating productivity, improving scores in these areas is more important than ever. Although Australia is expected to avoid a recession this year, it is facing significant economic challenges that require proactive solutions.

For example, in the financial services industry, operational productivity has steadily improved since the start of the pandemic, according to our research, OpsTracker: The Performance Tracker for Operations in Financial Services Q1 report. However, that research highlights the need for Australian and New Zealand financial services organisations to urgently address capacity issues to build on productivity gains and reach their potential.

Identifying capacity

Many organisations are negatively impacting their productivity because they are squandering capacity and not fully utilising their current staff. This issue is prevalent across all sectors, but a recent study by ActiveOps in the financial sector alone showed that 62 per cent of Australian and New Zealand operations professionals acknowledge that there is unused capacity within their organisation, but they are unsure how to access it.

The root of this problem lies in traditional team structures and siloed approaches to business operations. Teams are often confined to specific areas of the business, lacking the flexibility and skills necessary to shift workloads between them. This causes difficulties in handling fluctuations and an inability to distribute the workload evenly. The study also discovered that 59 per cent of organisations recognise the need to cross-skill or upskill their staff to navigate the current economic uncertainty.

So, what is the process for organisations to start quiet hiring, and how can they ensure they are developing skills that are most valuable to both employees and the organisation?

To begin, organisations must identify any obstacles and capacity-related issues throughout the company. By gathering and analysing data on current capacity, leaders can effectively address workload balance issues and invest in training the appropriate individuals while implementing necessary changes that will have a lasting impact on the organisation’s success.

Embracing the latest “quiet” trend and adopting operational structures in which teams possess a wider range of skills can make organisations more agile and better equipped to not only survive but thrive in the face of current economic challenges.

With pressures to reduce costs, retain and attract staff, and navigate the economic downturn, quiet hiring is a winning strategy for organisations. Like other beneficial trends, such as remote working, there is no reason why quiet hiring shouldn’t continue to evolve and become the “new norm” in Australian workplaces.

Jane Lambert is the managing director of APAC at ActiveOps.



Training is the process of enhancing a worker's knowledge and abilities to do a certain profession. It aims to enhance trainees' work behaviour and performance on the job.