Global connections and the structure of skills in local co-worker networks


Social connections that reach distant places are advantageous for individuals, firms and cities, providing access to new skills and knowledge. However, systematic evidence on how firms build global knowledge access is still lacking. In this paper, we analyse how global work connections relate to differences in the skill composition of employees within companies and local industry clusters. We gather survey data from 10% of workers in a local industry in Sweden, and complement this with digital trace data to map co-worker networks and skill composition. This unique combination of data and features allows us to quantify global connections of employees and measure the degree of skill similarity and skill relatedness to co-workers. We find that workers with extensive local networks typically have skills related to those of others in the region and to those of their co-workers. Workers with more global ties typically bring in less related skills to the region. These results provide new insights into the composition of skills within knowledge-intensive firms by connecting the geography of network contacts to the diversity of skills accessible through them.