Most cybersecurity professionals love cutting-edge technology, casual work environments, and creative mindsets. These unique tendencies help them excel under the constantly changing cyber environment but sometimes their work preferences differentiate them from other workers in terms of (1) work environment (2) work preferences, and (3) career paths. Recruiting, developing, and retaining this unique workforce requires alternative talent management strategies – strategies that are often connected to, but distinct from those applied elsewhere. To tackle the talent search, the government and partner organizations should consider the following.
1) Cyber Work Environment: The nature of cyber work means it is often executed in an environment which differs from that of its parent organization. Organizations can support the development of a sub-culture and environment that accepts – and reflects – these key traits of successful cyber organizations: 1) agility, 2) multi-functionality (i.e., workers have diverse skill sets and can perform multiple roles), 3) dynamic (i.e., changing constantly and keeping up with the latest threats), 4) flexibility, and 5) informality (i.e., unconventional working hours, shifting duties, relaxed atmosphere).
2) Cyber Work Preferences: Recognizing the unique work traits of cyber professionals is critical to developing cyber identification and management strategies. Organizations can consider the following to reflect the specific attributes in a potential cyber candidate: 1) consider alternative interview questions (e.g. offering an on-the-spot challenge to test problem solving), 2) offer a variety of training options that encourage cross-functional work environments (e.g., engage employees in strategy, offense, and defense training), 3) provide workers with constantly changing task of different difficulty levels, 4) present workers with emerging technology, and 5) reward employees for forward thinking.
3) Cyber Career Paths: Attracting and retaining cyber professionals requires alternative pathways that reflect the diversity of positions within the field. For cyber professionals, try providing a non-linear career path – one that can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. Show cyber professionals a set of attributes that describe how to progress using their experience, unconventional education, and industry certifications. This provides cyber professionals with flexibility to build their own paths.
An effective way to improve the long term security of our nation is by investing in the cyber workforce. Investments in technology and processes will go unrealized unless organizations have a cyber workforce capable of defending our networks and improving our security. Building a cyber workforce takes time, but by considering the unique workforce characteristics of the people protecting our most valuable assets, organizations can invest wisely - attracting, building, and retaining a world-class cyber function. As the cyber threats change, an organization can stay ahead by evaluating your talent management strategies in light of the workforce characteristics that empower cyber employees – considering their environment, work preferences, and career path. It’s only by acknowledging the unique factors that apply to
managing this talent pool that the cyber workforce necessary to protect our nation can be built and maintained.