Tips to use ‘The Great Resignation’ to support cybersecurity talent

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This article is contributed by Michael DeCesare, CEO and president of Exabeam.

The war against cyber-attackers rages on every day, and if trends like The Great Resignation continue and viable rocks aren’t turned for talent, the bad actors could get the upper hand.

There are nearly 900,000 cybersecurity professionals in the US, with: almost 400,000 unfilled vacancies threatening. According to a recent survey of 1,200 individuals, 72% of technical workers consider quitting their jobs within a year. Another study reported by Inc. softens this percentage blow, noting that 40% of tech workers have already retired or plan to retire by 2022.

Equally worrisome, however, is that understaffed and overworked security analysts in various industries face an onslaught of attacks, and many simply don’t have the resources to fight them.

So how can CEOs leading cybersecurity and other organizations turn this around and attract and retain the right cybersecurity talent to win the race against cybercriminals? Fortunately, there are several useful paths:

Gather your people around the mission. Cybersecurity is a mission-oriented business. It’s the only industry in IT where every day there are bad guys trying to beat and take down your product to gain access to customer data. Companies in every industry need to be able to relate what they do to something that makes the world a better place. Gather your employees around that mission. This is also a time for all of us in leadership to focus on building an emotional connection with our employees, many of whom feel more disconnected than ever before, especially in an industry where so many people are now working from home. Do executive and team off-sites whenever you can. Encourage open lines of communication. Listen to your people about what they are working on towards the mission.
Embrace the hybrid work model. One way to attract more cybersecurity talent is to give employees the flexibility to live and work where they want in their country of residence, with options for global mobility when needed. Companies like PwC, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Zillow took the lead in 2021 and announced a work-from-everywhere policy. These times have given the CHRO a tremendous opportunity to work with other leaders to develop well-planned and communicated work-from-everywhere policies. Recognize that our new distributed workforce is putting more pressure on the company and its leaders to learn how to stay connected and make sure all employees feel part of the culture and mission.
Solve the diversity problem. We all know there is a lack of diversity in high tech and cybersecurity, so how are we going to solve these problems to attract top talent? Fighting cyber threats, like any other challenge, requires diverse teams with different perspectives to create long-lasting solutions to problems. Creating the kind of culture that attracts and retains a more diverse pool of candidates; everyone, regardless of their background, wants to work in a place where they feel psychologically safe to contribute and communicate their knowledge and perspectives. Make sure your HR and other leaders are equipped to go the extra mile to find diverse cybersecurity talent, too. The more diverse you become, the more people from diverse backgrounds will want to work at your company. Recognize that this also puts greater focus on the CHRO, which should help create an environment where all employees feel welcome, supported and empowered to do their best work.
Make use of military spirits. Many of the most successful people in cybersecurity came to their positions with deep military backgrounds. They understand that cybersecurity can be a complex game of cat and mouse and know how to fight and win against the adversaries. The cybersecurity companies that hire them understand that the adversaries are often state sponsored and also have military backgrounds. The current unemployment rate for veterans is at almost 4% as of November 2021. It’s an incredible pool of candidates to attract and retain. Veterans are focused, trained leaders, who take responsibility seriously and help the best cybersecurity companies and their clients fight against cyberattacks from nation states like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
Invest in your security analysts, machine learning-based analytics, and automation. Breaches have become more sophisticated and cause problems within an organization much faster. The recent Apache Log4J vulnerability is a prime example of how hackers can use these unknown vulnerabilities to gain entry through a backdoor that the worlds of business, government, IT and cybersecurity professionals didn’t even know existed. The only way security teams can keep pace is by embracing machine learning and AI in their security teams’ response. Tools in this area have been radically improved and cyber teams must automate their security activities to defend against threats from within and without.

All CEOs in the cybersecurity industry can build and nurture different cultures that help change The Great Resignation. Our industry can benefit from the fact that there are currently many passionate people of all ages and experiences in the market looking for more fulfilling work – people eager to join our industry’s cause to avoid the continue to inflict damage on opponents and harm the world through cybercrime, attacks and other careless actions. We must be open to hiring practices and create work environments that provide a sense of belonging and purpose.

Micheal DeCesare is the CEO and Chairman of Exabeam.

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