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How can HR handle demand for cyber security jobs in 2019?

23rd Jan 2019
Elite hacker entering a room in turquoise
BeeBright/iStock
Elite hacker entering a room in turquoise

As global threats increase, cyber security experts are highly sought after. HR professionals need to find new ways to attract, retain and develop talent in this relatively new and competitive market.

The year 2018 will be remembered by many as the year that organisations grappled with a smorgasbord of cybersecurity and data-related challenges. From the introduction of GDPR to high profile cyber breaches involving the likes of Uber, Marriott and British Airways, all organisations must now consider digital and cyber skills as business-critical.

As we enter 2019 this means that HR professionals must help lead the recruitment, retainment and development of staff across a spectrum of cyber-related roles. This will be no easy task when the UK faces a well-documented cyber-skills shortage, set to be compounded by Brexit in 2019.

Attracting cyber-talent in 2019

To recruit talented cybersecurity staff in a candidate-driven market, organisations must demonstrate that they consider cybersecurity a board-level issue, and that they welcome innovation.

Talented cyber professionals want to know they have the attention and support of seniors in these fast-paced and, often mentally taxing, roles.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the average security salary has increased by 6.3 percent compared to 2017, double the average UK growth of 2.9 percent.

To recruit talented cybersecurity staff... organisations must demonstrate that they consider cybersecurity a board-level issue, and that they welcome innovation.

Financial reward is undoubtedly important in a competitive market but just as important will be how organisations demonstrate to candidates that they will be given opportunities to train and develop.

Cybersecurity candidates in particular are increasingly attracted by access to industry mentoring programmes, which HR can be instrumental in developing and driving.

In this sector you cannot simply buy loyalty, and learning and development is where HR will be so important in the recruitment and retention of talent.

Identifying roles to future-proof your organisation

Cybersecurity is a constantly evolving sector, and in 2018 there were several roles gathering pace. The Security Awareness Manager being one such example; organisations are more widely adopting awareness programmes in response to GDPR or to improve security management.

This is leading to non-technical Awareness Manager roles growing from out of a side-line responsibility within the IT and compliance teams to an organisational wide role commanding impressive salaries.

In our latest salary survey, the greatest salary increase was claimed by the Security Awareness Manager. This role is responsible for security user awareness programmes within an organisation and is focused on behavioural and cultural change to drive better security practices within the workforce.

In a climate of cyber-skills shortages, it will be increasingly important to demonstrate flexibility in hiring for cyber and look beyond the checklist.

Pay jumped by 20 percent in just 12 months, with annual salaries sitting between £60-90k on average. This huge increase reflects the growing cognisance of the number of cyber threats that target personnel and count on employees’ lack of awareness to succeed.

However, when it comes to cybersecurity job titles there are few firmly agreed descriptors in use. Without the standard industry terms enjoyed by more established disciplines, cyber related CV’s may not clearly specify skills that align with the job description, but that doesn’t mean the candidate doesn’t possess what’s required.

In a climate of cyber-skills shortages, it will be increasingly important to demonstrate flexibility in hiring for cyber and look beyond the checklist.

As a developing sector HR must also keep pace with technological change that will demand new talent. For example, through 2019 we will see new roles emerge as technologies such as autonomous cars, connected medical devices and artificial intelligence boom.

These will demand very specific skillsets to ensure implementation is secure and safe. How will your HR teams support brand new roles, the likes of which will require supreme talent and board-level support to succeed?

Make 2019 a year of collaboration and diversification

With these challenges in mind, in 2019 hiring managers will need to work closely with IT and compliance colleagues, as well as the board and wider business to truly understand the organisation’s cyber requirements. Hiring processes must allow for subject matter experts to be closely involved and supported.

Equally, it must be HR’s role to ensure that assets such as adverts, job descriptions and candidate communication encourage those with diverse backgrounds or needs.

HR must also be able to facilitate any workplace adjustments necessary to enable accessibility and safeguard employees. Whether race, gender or neurodiversity, cyber is a sector that demands different approaches and innovative thinking.

Are we nearing the end of cyber talent shortages?

Unfortunately, not. The cyber security skills gap will likely take many more years to close and demand will continue to far outstrip supply.

We are likely to see further difficulties during 2019 due to Brexit as it becomes harder for firms to hire international talent.

The industry relies heavily on practitioners from around Europe and beyond, particularly in frontline work such as security analysis.

Stemming from this, outsourcing will become an even more prominent factor in security as organisations turn to external contractors to fill vacancies, and offerings such as Managed Security Services will become an essential part of the security strategy. HR will also have a crucial role to play in managing these outsourced relationships and ensuring value for money.

The cyber security skills gap will likely take many more years to close and demand will continue to far outstrip supply.

Nevertheless, HR can help to stop security costs spiralling by learning from the hiring strategies of some public bodies. That focus more on internal development and upskilling for graduates and junior practitioners.

Rather than offering increasingly high wages for senior professionals, HR should look at ways to help grow their own in-house capabilities without expending their budget on inflated salaries and contract rates.

The task for HR in 2019 is to make sure the will, support and strategy is in place to build this culture of upskilling – and effectively communicate this strategy of staff development to potential recruits, and to their leaders. 

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