Editor's Note: The research below was conducted in partnership between Amazon Web Services and Gallup.
According to a study of more than 30,000 workers and 3,000 hiring managers across 19 countries, employees earn more, are more satisfied with their employment situation and report greater job security the more digital skills they have. Self-directed learning, informal training and employer-provided training are more common pathways to learning digital skills than formal schooling, according to the survey; 98% of workers who have taken digital skills training in the past 12 months report at least one positive career benefit. The worker benefits of digital skills come at a time when hiring managers are straining to hire workers who possess them.
The study, conducted Aug. 2-23, 2022, by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Gallup, finds that workers who use intermediate or advanced digital skills on the job earn 40% and 65% higher salaries, respectively, than workers at the other extreme who do not use a computer at work. This income premium persists even after accounting for factors such as age, gender, immigration status and educational attainment.
Respondents self-reported the level of digital skills they use at work. Advanced digital skills were defined as those that require knowledge of a programming language or involve skills such as cloud architecture or machine learning. Examples of intermediate skills included drag-and-drop website design and data analysis, while basic skills were limited to platforms such as email and word processing.
Additionally, workers reported whether they have each of 26 different digital skills, including cloud-based tools, software development principles, artificial intelligence, Java and others. The number of skills they selected was moderately correlated with the digital skill level they reported.
Workers Using Intermediate and Advanced Skills Report Higher Job Satisfaction, Security
In addition to commanding higher salaries, workers with advanced digital skills report higher job satisfaction. Seventy-two percent of workers who use advanced digital skills in their job daily evaluate their employment situation favorably -- rating their situation an 8 or higher on a zero-to-10 scale. By comparison, slightly less than half (48%) of those who use intermediate digital skills and 43% of those who use basic digital skills rate their job satisfaction this high.
The strong relationship between degree of digital skill use and job satisfaction is also found when looking at the number of skills that workers selected. Sixty-four percent of workers who selected five or more digital skills evaluated their job favorably, compared with 56% who selected three skills, 40% who selected one skill and 37% who selected none.
On average, workers who use advanced digital skills at work also report higher levels of perceived job security. When asked to rate their job security on a scale of zero to 10, where zero is not at all secure and 10 is completely secure, 72% of employees using advanced digital skills rate their job security as an 8 or higher, compared with slightly more than half (53%) of those using intermediate digital skills and 48% using basic digital skills.
The survey also uncovered evidence that workers are more likely to acquire their digital skills outside of higher education and formal schooling. Only 27% of workers with digital skills said they acquired those skills through school. Several pathways were more common, including self-directed learning (56%), online videos (41%), informal on-the-job training (37%) and employer-provided training (31%).
The importance of employer training is even greater for those with advanced digital skills. Forty-two percent with that advanced level say they acquired their skills through employer-provided training. This compares with just 24% of workers with basic digital skills.
Training also seems to be highly advantageous for workers. Among workers who have received training in the past year, 98% report at least one benefit, with "increased efficiency in doing my work" -- cited by 47% -- being the most common, followed by "increased opportunities for promotion" at 39%.
Employers Report Challenges and Competition in Hiring Digitally Skilled Workers
In a complementary survey of employers across the same 19 countries -- defined as employers in organizations with at least five employees whose job requires them to manage teams, hire staff, or oversee technology functions, implementation, or staffing -- Gallup asked whether hiring digitally skilled workers is a challenge. (To make the question relevant for this analysis, the sample was limited to about 3,000 hiring managers who reported that they had at least one job vacancy for workers with digital skills and that their organization employs workers with advanced digital skills.)
Across the 19 countries, 84% of hiring managers reported that hiring digitally skilled workers was somewhat of a challenge or a significant challenge. Only 3% said it was no challenge at all.
When asked about barriers to hiring employees with the digital skills needed by their organization, 55% of hiring managers reported that they "get enough applicants and offer competitive compensation but lose many candidates to other companies." About half (53%) also said that they do not get enough applicants with the digital skills they need, and 25% said they cannot afford to pay the market wage for digitally skilled workers.
Global demand for digital skills across industries and job categories is increasing amid an unusually employee-friendly job market, providing workers with increasing power to seek more favorable working conditions.
In the U.S., hiring difficulty has been a growing concern as unemployment fell leading up to the pandemic and job vacancies increased, especially in roles requiring digital skills. Despite a temporary downturn caused by the pandemic, the economic reopening in 2021 culminated with the Great Resignation as workers took advantage of competition for their labor. More recently, employers have grown concerned about a new phenomenon, "quiet quitting," generally viewed as a refusal to put in extra effort. Gallup's 2022 State of the Global Workplace report shows that employers are contending with a workforce that they describe as disengaged, akin to quiet quitters.
As previous Gallup research has shown, how employees rate the quality of their job and workplace engagement are closely linked, suggesting that digitally skilled workers are less likely than other employees to participate in actual or quiet quitting. Amid concerns about a possible recession, digitally skilled workers are more confident than others that their job is secure. Yet, with intense competition for digital skills around the world, employers may benefit from investing in worker upskilling, creating a win-win dynamic that powers the business while also empowering the workforce.
Read the full AWS Global Digital Skills Study: The Economic Benefits of a Tech-Savvy Workforce report.
To stay up to date with the latest Gallup News insights and updates, follow us on Twitter.