The War for Cyber Talent Will Be Won by Retention not Recruitment

Six steps for creating a work environment that challenges, stimulates, rewards, and constantly engages employees fighting the good fight against cybercriminals.



When it comes to cybersecurity, there are two common truths any executive will tell you. First, there is a well-documented shortfall of 3 million workers in the industry — too many jobs for too few qualified workers. Second, to fill these jobs, we need to think outside the box and look to professionals who aren't in the computer science and IT fields.

There are more articles than we can count that tangentially explore those two points. We need to move past discussing the problem and who may fill these jobs and explore the deeper question of how we get people into these jobs.

Right now, the supply of skilled workers is significantly less than the incredible demand for these positions; thus, the negotiating power is squarely in the hands of the workers. They can set their requirements and can do so with virtually any number of willing suitors. Consequently, how we attract talent and who we recruit will still be an active area of focus. But how we retain these workers should be positioned with equal or greater importance. Here are six steps to keep your cyber talent from running off to the next highest bidder.

Step 1: Stay competitive with compensation and benefits. This should go without saying: The best legacy cyber workers and the smartest professionals that can be upskilled to be cyber professionals are able to name their price. If the wages and benefit packages aren't fair and competitive, they'll find their next opportunity quickly.

Step 2: Have a well-defined hiring strategy. While there are more jobs than can be filled, there is no need to be reckless and hire for quantity versus quality. Clearly articulate what your organization and team is looking for and hire against those needs. This will provide your hire(s) with a sense of purpose toward a specific goal instead of anonymity in some homogeneous group.

Step 3: Provide continuous education. Cybersecurity is a field that is changing by the hour. There are new threats, new advances in technology, new social and political ramifications, and new solutions to constantly stay in front of. By investing in education, you are equipping your new hires and current employees to be the best in their field and provide the best service and solutions to your clients.

Step 4: Redefine purpose. It's very easy once people are hired to give them objectives and leave them to their own devices. While focusing on the objective is great for short-term goals, in the long term, new hires may begin to wonder what their purpose is on the team, what they are trying to achieve, and how their work is affecting the greater good. At the onset, work with employees to create their big-picture purpose and continually redefine their objectives as the work changes. This will allow your employees to articulate how their positions are impacting the company and society. For instance, while the employment objective may be pinhole testing for system vulnerabilities, that employee's bigger purpose is to discover weaknesses in a bank's mobile app and create defenses against those vulnerabilities to allow for a safe and seamless experience for customers while mobile banking.

Step 5: Create an employee career map. Job security and the opportunity for growth are incredible motivators. However, as cybersecurity practitioners are incredibly coveted in the marketplace, it becomes crucial to show them their career trajectory rather than simply saying "you have a future with this company." By creating an employee journey map, you are laying out clear instructions for how they can succeed and grow organically within the organization.

Step 6: Utilize human resource analytics. The use of HR analytics will allow the hiring manager on the team to not only see in real time what the needs of the team are, who's been hired, and where they came from, but it will also measure the ROI of employee programs and overall workforce performance as well as identify where the team is growing and where resources can be allocated. By utilizing this information, hiring managers can make informed decisions possible that will help them hire the best people, reduce costly and morale-damaging turnover, and allow for the proper management of team resources.

Recruiting the best talent is only the beginning. Where we'll win both the battle and the war for talent is by creating an environment that challenges, stimulates, rewards, and constantly re‑engages our employees to fight the good fight against cybercriminals.

The views reflected in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.

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Sundeep Nehra, Principal, Cybersecurity leader,  Financial Services Office, Ernst & Young LLP As a Principal in the Financial Services Office, Sundeep leads the Integrated Cyber and Resiliency Risk practice. He advises clients on issues related to cyber, ... View Full Bio
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