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Top 6 Issues in the Cyber Workforce — Part One

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

In late 2022, Blackmere conducted a survey of cybersecurity professionals on the evolution of the cybersecurity workforce — the ongoing challenges in attracting technology talent — and gathered some great insights.


In conjunction with the survey, I had an engaging conversation with Maxine Holt on Blackmere Live. Maxine is Senior Research Director for Cybersecurity at Omdia, a respected technology research consultancy (you can view our conversation here).


Meanwhile, however, the pace of layoffs in the tech industry has skyrocketed, making it appear that the survey and the conversation are less relevant than it we hoped. But a closer look at the news tells us that, while the big layoffs are very real, especially for displaced employees, the tech industry still faces a talent gap.


According to the Dice Tech Jobs Report, there are 375,000 open technology positions today, far exceeding the number of available and qualified workers. The report also states that the number of job postings increased by 25% from 2021 to 2022.


CompTIA's January 2023 Tech Jobs Report echoes this information, stating that the unemployment rate in technology actually dropped in the second half of 2022, suggesting that the layoffs aren't making much of a dent in the talent gap.


Real Solutions, Real Fast

If you are nodding your head and saying, "Yes, I still need real solutions" to the talent gap, read on to hear some good ideas. In the survey we got responses from 80 people in a variety of industries, including government, financial services, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, telecommunications, aerospace and others. The largest number of respondents (33) have titles from the C-Suite (CISO, CIO, CTO etc.), and we also got responses from VPs of operations, network operations technicians, IS analysts, chief systems engineers, and more.


One of the biggest issues in acquiring tech talent is long, expensive time-to-hire numbers.

Five key talent issues emerged from the survey. In this first post of a three-part series, I'll share about the first topic, the costs and benefits of outsourcing. In the next two posts we'll look at automation, employee burnout, the lack of budget or influence to hire the best people, the inability to provide remote and/or hybrid flexibility and leadership issues at the team and company levels.

According to the survey, 25 percent of respondents fill open roles in one to four weeks. For the other 75 percent, it takes months, with 20 percent saying it takes longer than 6 months. One solution I discussed with Maxine is outsourcing various aspects of your technology processes.


Ordering Out

Maxine and I focused on cybersecurity, but the insights apply to most (if not all) areas of IT. CIOs and other leaders are attracted to outsourcing for several reasons. It allows you and your team to focus on what you do best. It offers support and resources quickly, blunting the time-to-hire knife. It also gives you fast access to specific skills that you may not have in-house.


So how are outsourced service providers attracting staff when everyone else is desperately seeking talent? Maxine believes that at least part of the reason is that service providers offer tech professionals exposure to diverse projects, customers and verticals, helping them build their skills and enhance their résumés. That suggests that, if you want to retain the talent you have, you should consider offering them opportunities to expand their skills.


You also can outsource talent acquisition in a couple of ways. The obvious one is to engage a recruiting firm specializing in technical talent. In addition, more and more companies are taking advantage of contracting. This is particularly attractive considering the large pool of laid-off talent looking for new opportunities. For more about this solution, see my blog post Top Five Best Hiring Practices.


As Maxine says, we are looking at a "long-term talent gap." Technology leaders, of course, need real solutions right now. The ideas I share in this blog series won't close the gap entirely, but they should make it easier to bridge the gap and achieve immediate goals.


Stay tuned for Part Two, where we'll explore employee burnout and the lack of budget or influence to hire the best people.

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