From a tight labor market to telework: results from the 2022 NOVA Workforce Index

In Chamber Blog, Workforce by admin

Workforce issues continue to dominate our region's business discussions this year as leaders face frustrating employee recruiting, retention, and remote work challenges. Working on behalf of our members, your Chamber has made sourcing solutions to these workforce issues a priority. As part of this effort, we've developed a broad range of member tools that include the Northern Virginia Workforce Index, a longitudinal research program of regional workforce trends conducted with the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Northern Virginia Community College.

Last week we released the second report of the Workforce Index at our "Economic Outlook: The Future of Workforce" event. Dr. Anne Kress, President of the Northern Virginia Community College, presented a summary of the key research findings. “The second annual Northern Virginia Workforce Index gathers the input of almost 240 business leaders in our region and presents a complex and not entirely optimistic outlook on the regional business climate and workforce pipeline. However, there are bright spots and, I think, real opportunities for innovative and effective approaches and partnerships embedded in the 2022 Workforce Index,” noted Dr. Kress in her opening remarks.

The report findings and discussion highlighted relatively easy steps that companies can take to ease their workforce challenges including workforce innovations such as adding apprenticeship as a recruitment strategy. The Greater Washington Apprentice Network intentionally brings together employers, academic institutions, public and private sectors for the purpose of expanding the model of apprenticeship. Employers gain access to best practices from organizational peers, sources of prospective apprentice candidates, support services, academic institutions, and training resources. 

Some of the key findings of the report include:

  • 71% reported that filling job openings has been more difficult in the last 12 months than in the prior year.
  • Employee referrals are one of the most successful hiring strategies.  43% reported that employee referral candidates are very often or nearly always hired.
  • Telework: 70% reported an increase in the share of their workforce eligible to telework.  67% reported an increase in the number of telework hours per week.  56% report an increase in support for remote office arrangements.  41% report an increase in the geographic area in which remote workers may reside. 
  • There is a correlation between increased remote work flexibility and reduced employee turnover, especially among professional services firms. 
  • 49% reported employing at least one intern over the past 12 months
  • 15% reported recruiting through apprenticeships, a 2% increase over last year
  • Seemingly contradictory: 25% reported that a candidate’s level of education to be very important or essential when making hiring decisions.  However, 42% report that they are rarely or never willing to accept equivalent professional experience. 
  • A tight labor market, high labor costs, and high inflation are making it more difficult for businesses in Northern Virginia to hire and retain talent.  However, many hiring approaches that could address these challenges remain underutilized.

Dr. Kress’s presentation of the research findings was followed by a dynamic moderated discussion among key business leaders sharing how the research findings resonate with their business realities and how they will inform their 2023 planning.