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What is Quiet Hiring? Introducing the Latest Workplace Trend

‘Quiet hiring’ has emerged as a new trend in the wake of the so-called phenomenon of ‘quiet quitting’.

What is Quiet Hiring? Introducing the Latest Workplace Trend

The phrase ‘quiet hiring’ refers to the workplace practice of giving employees additional duties and responsibilities in order to fill skill gaps. It avoids hiring a new employee to fill these gaps, while promoting internal growth.

At the end of last year, Gartner predicted that quiet hiring would become the number one trend for organisations in 2023. They suggested that the focus would be on internal talent mobility and upskilling opportunities for existing employees.

However, quiet hiring often comes with negative connotations. Upskilling and promoting internal talent can ensure retention and business continuity – but only if those employees are being adequately rewarded and their job descriptions updated. Without the appropriate rewards and recognition, employees could begin to feel like they’re being taken advantage of. Depending on the demands of the workload, the additional responsibilities could also lead to work fatigue.

How common is quiet hiring?

Our recent Employee Sentiment Index, which surveyed 1500 employees across Australia and New Zealand, shed light on the trend of quiet hiring. According to the report, more than half of employees in both New Zealand and Australia have taken on extra responsibilities that are not part of their job description in the last three months. The most common responsibility they’ve been tasked with is managing others, with younger workers more likely to take on this function. This could be part of organisations’ attempts to fill skills gaps within the company without hiring new employees – aka, quiet hiring.

Why organisations are choosing to quiet hire

There are plenty of reasons why companies may choose to quiet hire. It could have to do with their talent strategy and succession planning, or it could come down to budget. Some of the reasons may include:

  • Keep costs down: If budgets are tight, an organisation may find it more economical to promote internal talent.
  • Struggling to find new talent while maintaining top talent: Our latest HR Industry Benchmark Report showed that recruitment was top of mind for many HR professionals; yet the skills shortage could hamper hiring efforts.
  • Giving current employees more responsibilities beyond their job description: Expanding the duties of employees allows them to grow their skill set and also discover new career paths.
  • Moving to other positions or taking on different projects internally: An employee may be asked to take on a different project or to move into another position in order to meet productivity demands.

Whatever the reason, there are pros and cons to quiet hiring and a few things you need to consider if you’re thinking of giving staff members greater responsibilities and additional work.

How quiet hiring can benefit employers

Reduces recruitment costs

Recruiting and training new employees can be an expensive task. In comparison, upskilling internal talent can cut down on costs.

Our 2023 HR Industry Benchmark Report found that in Australia, the average cost to hire a new employee is around $8000, while the average time to fill a vacant role is 20 days. According to the report, recruitment is the number one challenge for organisations in 2023.

Deploy resources to high-priority areas of the business

Some organisations may need to be dynamic in their ability to urgently fill roles as quickly as possible. For example, recruitment teams within a project-based workforce will need to redeploy staff to different projects quickly and efficiently. This is easier when employees have a well-rounded skillset and experience within different types of roles. If this is the case, it is a good idea to promote internal talent rather than spending weeks or even months looking for a new hire.

Allows upskilling, engagement, and productivity

Many companies have a talent strategy that focuses on pinpointing internal employees who are keen to expand their skillset and creating opportunities for them to stretch their abilities. By providing these opportunities for high-achieving team members to move up the ladder, you can create a work culture that offers career progression and learning. This in turn will lead to greater levels of engagement and productivity – so long as employees are appropriately rewarded.

Boosts retention

By promoting internal talent you can ensure the continuation of hard-earned institutional knowledge, which is a huge asset to any organisation. Institutional knowledge is often the result of years of experience, which means that sometimes there is no easy shortcut new hires can take. It all comes down to putting in the hours and gaining knowledge through direct exposure to either a specific project or an industry.

Creates opportunity for raises and promotions in the future

Quiet hiring may be used as a way to gauge an employee’s capabilities in a more senior position. By gaining experience in the role, this could help employees to achieve a promotion and pay rise. However, make sure that a reasonable timeline is set to monitor the employee’s results. Waiting too long to offer them a promotion or pay rise could result in them walking out on you.

How quiet hiring can negatively impact your employees

Risk of burnout, more employee sick days, and employees feeling overworked

When the expectation on an employee is too high and their new workload becomes overwhelming – whether it was intended as a temporary stop-gap or not – it can lead to burnout and work fatigue.

The solution here is to always ensure that you’re transparent and upfront with employees about their new duties, and make sure they can handle the new workload. If this is a temporary increase in workload, then give them a timeline. If this is a permanent move, then make sure their job title and salary match their new responsibilities.

In a report released by the Australian HR Institute, it was discovered almost 7 in 10 workers felt like they were burning out. Overworked employees can become severely burnt out, which may lead to prolonged absenteeism. In Australia, absenteeism costs businesses more than $24 billion each year in lost productivity.

Risk of creating a toxic culture, harming performance and productivity

When an employee feels like they’re being unfairly taken advantage of, they’re unlikely to keep their opinions to themself and will air their grievances to their colleagues. This can create a negative work environment where team members don’t feel like they’re recognised for their hard work. If an employee feels particularly exploited, then they may even decide to quit. And if you need to find a replacement for their role, then you’re back to square one.

To avoid creating a toxic and negative work environment, it again comes back to open and honest communication with staff members and ensuring that employees feel adequately compensated.

Leads to a lack of diversity

By not hiring outside talent, you risk creating an echo chamber within your organisation that lacks new, outside perspectives.

Overcoming this obstacle is not simple, as we all know that diversity within an organisation benefits everyone. However, if internal talent promotion is at the core of your talent strategy, then you could consider organising training sessions and workshops that encourage collaboration and innovation as a way to bring new ideas to the table. You could even look at having guest speakers visit the company to share their experiences and knowledge to kickstart new ways of thinking within the business.

Creates a sense of wage theft and labour abuse

In the most extreme cases, quiet hiring could constitute wage theft and labour abuse. Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for their staff, and that includes minimising psychosocial hazards such as excessive workloads.

If employees are struggling with chronic overwork, it can have devastating impacts on their mental and physical health. It is imperative that employers understand and respect their legal obligations to their staff, ensuring that firstly, they have the time to take on any additional responsibilities, and secondly, the support of their manager. Ensure employees know who to turn to if they’re struggling to adjust to the new responsibilities and be ready to help them prioritise their workload or delegate tasks among the rest of the team.

Leads to quiet quitting

If employees are feeling exploited, exhausted and generally unmotivated at work, this can lead to quiet quitting.

We’ve been hearing a lot about quiet quitting over the past few years and the detrimental impact it has on productivity and a company’s bottom line. So in order to get in front of the issue and ensure that your employees are coping with their workloads and generally engaged, then there are a few ways you can do this:

  • Check in frequently with employees to see how they’re managing and listen to what they have to say.
  • If employees are struggling with their workloads, find strategies to help them prioritise tasks.
  • Hold pay review meetings to make sure employees are satisfied with their remuneration.
  • Instigate a rewards and recognition program.
  • Implement an employee assistance program as part of your overall staff wellbeing strategy, which could also help with fatigue management if employers are feeling drained.

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With a highly configurable product that can be tailored to suit your business, industry-leading security practises, and a supportive implementation process, it’s no wonder more people prefer – and stick with – ELMO.

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*YouGov findings are based on the survey responses from 347 HR decision makers in Australian businesses with 50+ employees. Responses were collected in March 2023.