In an article posted on the organization’s website, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CISI.org) reported that, as of January 2019, the United States had 314,000 more available cybersecurity positions than it had trained professionals available to fill them. That was an increase of over 50% since 2015. Globally, this shortfall is expected to grow to 1.8 million by 2022, and that number only applies to cybersecurity positions. The shortage of available trained cyber professionals is impacting all areas of information technology specialization.
Because it is already difficult to find and hire technology pros now and will become even more difficult over time, organizations and managers must focus on retaining the talent they currently have on staff. There are some common reasons given by IT personnel when asked why they are seeking new employment. There are also some common-sense measures managers and their employers can take to address them.
Too much overtime
Personnel shortages, combined with off-hours work associated with tasks like system updates, patching, dealing with threats or incidents, and testing can make for long days for your IT staff. Add to that the unplanned projects that often force IT to move its own projects to the back burner, and the frustration is compounded.
Currently, one of the most popular ways to deal with this issue is to contract with third-party service providers to offload some of the work. If you choose the right provider, you can save a significant amount of time and allow your employees to have the downtime they need to recharge. We have found that this is one of the biggest benefits of our managed security services.
There may also be some non-technical tasks currently being handled by the IT department that could be either shared with, or assigned to, other departments within the organization. Cross-training others to handle these could lighten the load significantly. An example might be physical access security. Because applications used to manage these controls reside on servers, IT often ends up being responsible for access management tasks that could be offloaded to facilities, security, or engineering personnel.
Cross-training within your technology team is also a good idea. Not only does it broaden the skillsets of your staffers, but it also helps ensure that tasks are completed and projects don’t fall behind because only one overworked employee possesses the knowledge and skills needed to handle them.
Limited or no advancement opportunities
No one wants to be stuck in a dead-end job, but, with personnel shortages, promoting someone and back-filling their position could prove to be difficult. Consider, however, that you will need to fill the position anyway when a current employee, frustrated by a lack of advancement opportunities, finds a new job elsewhere. One way of addressing this is to improve communication with your staff. Until you know what their goals are, you can’t help your employees achieve them. Just knowing that you’re interested may give your staffers some hope that they aren’t stuck in a rut, but you’ll need to follow through with action.
Talk with your people one-on-one and come up with ways for each individual to further develop their skillsets. Perhaps they have ideas that would streamline and improve operations. Find ways to allow them to implement those ideas. This may increase their chances for promotion when opportunities arise.
Let upper management and human resources personnel know what you’re doing and why. Find out what new opportunities may be on the horizon and how you can help your people to position themselves for advancement.
Google initially implemented what is known as the 80/20 policy. Employees devote 80% of their time to completing the tasks required to meet their responsibilities. They then spend the remaining 20% working or projects that further develop their skills and make them more valuable to the organization. The more valuable the employee, the less likely upper management will be to let them get away.
Increase opportunities for training
Another way to help your employees prepare for promotions, sharpen their skills, and learn of new industry developments is to ensure that they have access to training. Keep in mind that many training providers offer online coursework that can be completed anytime and from any device with an Internet connection. Some, like the SANS Institute (SANS.org), offer free courses and exercises so that, even if training isn’t in the budget, it’s still accessible. Additionally, when new hardware and software is procured, training is often part of the deal and can be beneficial to both the organization and its employees.
In addition to an overabundance of overtime, a lack of advancement, and the unavailability of training, tech workers often cite issues with their direct managers as their reason for seeking new employment. How you, as a manager, interact with your staffers may have more to do with whether they seek employment elsewhere than any other factor. If they know you’re interested in them and want to help them achieve their goals and be successful, they are more apt to stick around even if advancement opportunities are currently limited or unavailable.
Get buy-in from upper management and HR. Maintain an open-door policy. Frequently speak with them one-on-one. If you say you’ll do something, do it. Be their advocate and be creative. Find ways to give them access to the resources they need and the time required to take advantage of them.