To Retain Cybersecurity Employees, Know What Drives Them

COVID-19 may have given cybersecurity talent retention an artificial prop up over the last two years. For example, job satisfaction was on a downward trend from 2018 to 2019, but with the pandemic came a plateau in 2020 and 2021. Was the plateau due to newfound satisfaction or were there other factors, such as economic instability, lockdowns and mandates?

It’s hard to know for sure, but based on a recent ISACA State of Cybersecurity survey, it appears that 2020 and 2021 were a ‘blip’ on the satisfaction meter, with downward trends back again. Today,  pandemic restrictions are being lifted. With employees expecting different things – such as remote work – employers need to keep a close eye on retention once again. 

Dissatisfaction on the Rise

According to the survey, security leaders are finding it harder to retain cybersecurity workers. Meanwhile, teams are already understaffed and vacancies remain unfilled. The most common factors for employees leaving are:

  • Recruited by other companies
  • Poor salaries and bonuses
  • Limited promotion and development
  • High work stress levels
  • Lack of management support.

Also, cybersecurity workers are feeling ‘completely checked out’ because of the work environment and burnout, resulting in doing the bare minimum. Artificial intelligence and other tools, such as monitoring and orchestration, can help, but humans are behind these wheels. Add into the mix work becoming tedious, resulting in repetitive and manual tasks which are not fulfilling and take time away from programs that can improve overall security posture and resilience.

Find the Counterbalance 

From the list above, look at the second and third points: poor financial offerings and limited mobility and development. These can be connected and are reason enough to start looking. Compound them with the other issues, and you have a definite flight risk.

We have talked about success as a chief information security officer being about more than just technical knowledge. Security and cyber consulting workers must up their people skills. That’s not always about being ‘nice’ or ‘understanding’, or even empathetic. It’s about fulfillment, so find the counterbalance.

For example, you might manage a job that calls for someone to be ‘always on’, such as incident response. The counterbalance may be a pay premium. If you can’t afford a pay premium, seek other incentives, such as ‘no-disruption zones’. That means once your employee finishes their shift for the day, ensure nothing disrupts them until the next workday. This may mean changing your working model and staffing hours for shifts.

Of course, all this is easier said than done. Some methods may not be practical for your business. But, don’t forget one of the most important business truths: a shortage of workers means your business can’t carry out the work.

Fulfillment: Fill It or Someone Else May

For leaders and managers, retaining talent will come down to having insight into what drives your employees. You could throw a handful of cash at one person and they’ll be happy, whereas that approach can backfire with someone else, even if in a similar role.

Why? Because people have different drivers. One person can be happy with the cash, whereas the other may want to own and run a project, have the certainty of uninterrupted private time, the freedom to work from home or support for more professional training. Or all of the above!

Don’t think others, such as competitors, will sit idly by. With talent hard to find, they’ll exploit this for their own benefit.

Retention is closely tied to a leader and manager’s skill at knowing what drives their staff. You will not be able to please everyone, but you want to stop the bleed. If you lose one, more are likely to follow, and that may require some time for you to look in the mirror and figure out the root cause.

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