Washington D.C. (September 27, 2022) — On September 16, I presented the results of some of Connected Nation’s recent research on a poster titled, “Employee Technology Skill Gaps in the Great Resignation,” co-authored by myself, Director of Research Development Chris McGovern, and Vice President, Community Affairs Eric Frederick, to the 50th Annual Telecommunications Research and Policy Conference (TPRC) at American University’s Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C.
Given the significance of the anniversary, the conference brought out many of the brightest minds in telecommunications research. The poster session took place amidst the cocktail reception, so several individuals came over to learn more about our project and offer substantive feedback.
Our research focused on factors that influence whether the technology skills of a business’s employees match the needs of the business. If employee technology skills do not fit the company’s needs, certain processes could take longer than they should — sacrificing efficiency and, likely, profit. Moreover, the business might struggle to attract clients because it cannot perform certain services. Identifying which businesses experience this deficiency could illuminate general market problems and potentially offer solutions.
Analyzing the data
Data for this endeavor come from businesses surveyed by Connected Nation in communities in Texas, Michigan, and Ohio during the period known as “The Great Resignation,” from February 2021 to February 2022. Businesses self-selected into taking these surveys, and therefore data represent self-reported information.
In the survey, we asked: “How well do the technology skills of your employees match the technology needs of your business?” Respondents could offer a positive indication (well or excellent), a negative indication (poor or fair), or a neutral response. We then calculated summary statistics and tested for relationships with theoretically interesting variables using chi-square tests and ordered logistic regression models.
The results highlight a crucial problem facing businesses during this period that could apply to the present-day context. Our findings show that 28.2% of employers report a poor or fair employee technology skills match. While we may not have a representative sample of all U.S. businesses, this large number shows that many companies struggle to attract the talent they need to perform day-to-day operations.
Given this information, we analyzed which employers were disproportionately affected. While the size of the business and its revenue did not seem to matter in our models, some economic sectors fared worse than others. The health care and social assistance sector (35.6% negative responses) and businesses in the tourism industry (41.5% negative responses) experienced the largest employee skills gap in our sample.
Bridging the skills gap with telework
Our other significant finding could offer employers a way out of their troubles. Our research found that employers that allow their employees to telework experience a greater skills match than those that do not. Looking at the raw numbers, only 20.8% of businesses that allow employees to telework report a poor or fair employee skills match, compared to 32% of businesses that do not allow telework. Moreover, 47.4% of businesses that permit telework report that their employees’ skills match their needs well or excellently, compared to 33.9% of businesses that do not.
While our study cannot discern causality, perhaps allowing for telework could help businesses attract skilled workers who can further the company’s interests. These employees may appreciate the additional flexibility and time that remote work affords them and choose to seek out those jobs.
Speaking personally, being allowed the freedom to telework while employed at Connected Nation has greatly alleviated many stressors that burdened my daily life beforehand. But to make this option more accessible to the broader population, we must continue promoting high-speed broadband availability across the country to bridge the Digital Divide — for the benefit of employees and employers alike.
About the Author: David Nunnally is the Connected Nation Research Assistant. David is responsible for using qualitative and quantitative techniques to interpret survey data, in addition to collecting data from secondary sources to help support those findings. David works with internal and external stakeholders to help develop research and provide critical information in support of the Connected Nation mission.
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