Austin Young Chamber has partnered with the RGK Center’s CONNECT program to release key findings from their COVID-19 survey for employees. Data from the survey highlights employees’ concerns about the pandemic and gives government and business entities a snapshot of who is most affected.
"Our hope was that this survey data could be a starting point for a broader conversation,” said graduate student Kat Sisler, who worked on the project through the CONNECT program. “It can be used to find out where to dig a little deeper and how to reach populations who are going to need it most.”
Soon after the stay-at-home orders were issued in Austin in March, Austin Young Chamber (AYC) began observing that many of their members were already being impacted by COVID-19. AYC members are generally young professionals between the ages of 21 and 40 looking to grow professionally. Individuals aged 30-35 made up the largest sample of survey respondents for this round.
“We started hearing that folks were scared, so we decided to put together a survey to take a pulse on how our community was thinking, feeling, and handling things,” said Katherine Wheeler, director of development for AYC.
Within the first week, AYC received 433 responses from their members across the Greater Austin area; now they faced the daunting task of quickly analyzing this data in time to share it with the community and take action through programming. After reaching out to the RGK Center, AYC was matched with a graduate student through the CONNECT program.
Sisler, a dual degree graduate student with UT Health’s School of Public Health and the LBJ School of Public Affairs, was concerned about the COVID-19 crisis in Austin and was looking for ways to help. She had worked on a CONNECT project in Spring 2019 and was open to additional opportunities to strengthen her data analysis skills as she prepared to graduate in Spring 2020.
“When [I learned about the project], I thought not only would that be interesting just from a point of something I could do and feel like I’m helping during the crisis, but it would also be interesting to know the broader impacts of this on the workforce in general,” Sisler said.
Within just a few days, Sisler and her fiancé Christian Buckler (who Sisler affectionately describes as an “Excel guru") analyzed the data sets provided by AYC and put together a report of key findings. Sisler’s background and training in public health, policy, nonprofits, and consulting helped her analyze the data through multiple lenses and pull out data that would be useful to a variety of sectors.
“Working with [Sisler] helped us shape how we delivered the survey data,” said Alyssia Palacios-Woods, the President and CEO of AYC. “We moved quickly to get the survey out, but knew we needed extra support in data analysis to understand the highlights of the data we were receiving. Kat helped us determine those highlights, and even provided useful feedback for ways we can improve our survey processes and questions in the future.”
AYC shared their survey results online and began planning programming that was open to the community in response to the results. Notably, many people were concerned about their careers, finances, and their health. According to the survey, 73% of respondents felt like they had job security for 90 days or less; the top three vulnerable industries identified were non-profits, technology, and marketing. Additionally, the survey found that 61% of respondents did not feel comfortable going to a clinic for non-COVID-19-related issues.
“We got to read through the survey data and think through what we thought might be interesting,” Sisler said. “We tried to pick things we thought were interesting and could also be impactful—things that people could focus on and do something about in the Austin community.”
AYC programming created as a result of this data included: a telemedicine webinar with Ascension Seton to help individuals access preventative healthcare during the COVID-19 crisis; an event with St. Edwards about building soft skills; a workshop with UFCU addressing financial resilience; and a webinar with McCombs School of Business about how to navigate your career during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The survey data has been shared across multiple networks to inform COVID-19 response,” said Palacios-Woods. “It was sent to local, state, and federal leaders, our members and partners, and used internally in our own organization to develop rapid response programming, including webinars, resources lists, and mentoring.”
AYC is also planning additional upcoming virtual events to address themes such as working in a gig economy. According to the survey, 48% of respondents were looking for additional ways to earn income.
“We hope businesses, nonprofits, and government entities use the survey data to inform their decision-making processes as they roll out policies, programs, and funding aimed at supporting economic recovery,” said Palacios-Woods.
Sisler describes CONNECT as a good opportunity for graduate students to gain real-world expertise about a topic they are interested in or might already know about in theory.
“It’s also a good opportunity for nonprofits to take advantage of a different line of thinking,” Sisler said. “You could bring in someone who could maybe find different pieces that you’re not necessarily looking at and bring some different things to the table.”
AYC plans on distributing a second survey in the near future to dig deeper into some of the issues addressed in the first round. Follow AYC to stay up to date with upcoming events targeted at addressing the issues highlighted in the survey results.