How to Incentivize the Cybersecurity Workforce?

Updated: Aug 2

Keeping the best talent will always be an uphill battle. From trying to entice teachers to forgo higher pay to motivating well-paid employees to achieve more and elevate the corporate vision, nearly endless factors shape the equation of: will they stay or will they go?


In the ultra-competitive cyber world, the fluidity of employment and a company's inability to retain talent can be cataclysmic. Between the high stakes of maintaining product development, customer relationships, and attempting to read the hearts and minds of a largely remote workforce keeping employees on board and instep is no small endeavor.


In the past, employers largely thought high pay or fancy titles could keep their best employees and intellectual assets appeased. Today, especially among cybersecurity and IT professionals money can only move the needle so much if ideological or personal dynamics are not thoroughly addressed.


Money?


Is it a millennial thing? Maybe cyber employees are just out of touch with reality? Well, not quite (but there's always room for exceptions). Financial compensation and its implications and tradeoffs are just one level of how modern cyber professionals assess their career opportunities.


For some, payment structure could still be THE deciding factor of which position to pursue. However, for an increasingly growing segment of the cyber community, moral and ethical factors as well as the broader incentive structure can dictate if they stay with their current company or transition to a new role.


Often, the desire for ‘happiness’ or perception of personal fulfillment trumps higher pay. How much would they give up to enhance the intangibles?


According to a survey from Fidelity, “25- to 35-year-olds would give up $7,600 in pay on average for a better experience at the office, such as a good work-life balance or a focus on career development.”


Titles and authority?


I’ve got an idea. What if the board anoints new titles, like the director of developmental fulfillment, Head of engineering, and chief interpretive dancer? Maybe that would make up for a toxic workplace or having to bring your own milk for the coffee? Unfortunately, regardless of what you call someone keeping their feet in the door requires more than just a nicely printed nameplate.


Without broad organizational support, freedom to express their ideas and doubts, and more importantly respect for every employee in the company, many budding cyber experts will happily move to their next position.


Often what organizations, especially those in the cyber community miss are that it's not so much about the title but the consistent appreciation and understanding of the importance of individual and group achievements.


Forbes correlates the appreciation in more emphatic terms “Loyalty within a workplace tends to skyrocket when the company expresses appreciation for its workforce and starts respecting and celebrating its employees' successes. It increases morale within each department and makes their job feel worthwhile.”


In essence, the more an individual or team feels their making an impact that is seen and respected by the organization as a whole, the more they are collectively vested in its success.


Flexibility, ideology & employee buy-in


What are cybersecurity professionals, leaders, and rising innovators seeking from their employers? If financial motives and titles aren't keeping your team in the office, how do you create an environment and incentive structure that does?


In practice, the best way to keep your cyber team intact and expanding is to emphasize:

  • Job engagement of all employees. By ensuring all staff are fulfilled with their responsibilities and growing within the company retention is more easily achieved.

  • Respect, appreciation, and flexibility go hand in hand. By enabling employees the flexibility to manage their life responsibilities and appreciation when they achieve, individuals develop a vested interest in pursuing team success.

  • Beanbags and coffee rooms are nice but relationships are the true key. By ensuring your departments have effective communication, clear expectations, and positive rapport, team members consistently give and invest in the company's long-term interests.

Attempting to know what will keep one person in a job is complex. By appreciating the interplay between team dynamics and compensation, responsibility, and flexibility employers may have greater insight into the equation. For the cyber and IT sector, with its hyper-competitive employment landscape, the factors only amplify. All we can say for sure is that only through an effective blend of corporate awareness and individual sensitivities can the cyberworld improve its employee retention.


This was previously published in Cyber Protection Magazine.



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