By Pete Sorensen, VP of Strategic Initiatives of ConnectWise
In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, technology solution providers (TSPs) are having to deal with an unprecedented number of staff vacancies on their teams. What’s more concerning is that the current IT Talent Gap and tech labor shortage are making it nearly impossible to fill these critical roles.
Although these shortages are reaching all areas of the tech industry, specific sectors, like cybersecurity, have been affected more than others. Despite the overwhelming need, cybersecurity continues to be one of the hardest-hit sectors of the IT talent gap because it’s a necessity within all industries. The vast majority (86%) of Small- and Medium-size Businesses (SMBs) place cybersecurity within the top five priorities for their organization. And six in 10 will invest more in cybersecurity because it reduces the risks for their organization, according to the IT Talent Gap report.
While most cybersecurity companies are focusing on digital transformation, the new cloud-based technologies they need to turn to in the wake of the pandemic, and how they will handle rising inflation costs, many tech leaders are overlooking much more alarming truths within the industry.
The Critical Connection Between Cybersecurity and the IT Industry Talent Gap While the IT talent gap is an immense issue, causing similar pains in multiple corners of the globe, solving the cybersecurity talent gap is a sub-issue that’s just as important, if not more, given the dire consequences a cyber-attack or breach can have on an organization’s critical infrastructure, sensitive information, private data, business operation, and overall reputation.
The State of SMB Cybersecurity in 2022 report revealed several interesting statistics related to the issue:
- 78% of organizations across all industries said they plan to increase their cybersecurity spending over the next year.
- 31% cited broad-level pressure in this area compared to 14% in 2020.
- 94% of organizations said they’d be willing to move to a new cybersecurity provider that offered the right solution for their business.
- Additionally, 39% said they’d even be willing to pay more for a company that could provide that said solution (versus 30% in 2019).
What’s at Stake for SMBs if the Cybersecurity Talent Gap Continues?
While the IT Skills Gap is causing similar pain points for all business leaders, solving the challenges posed by the cybersecurity industry talent gap is mission-critical to help SMBs survive the current backdrop of economic certainty and an increasingly complex cyber threat landscape.
Cybersecurity is one of the most significant IT sub-sectors in the global marketplace due to several contributing factors–namely the growing number and increasingly damaging effects of digital attacks.
In fact, over 60% of SMBs have experienced a financially damaging cyber-attack in the past 12 months, according to research.
The biggest reason is an increase in the number and effect of digital attacks. Also, many industries are calling for increased compliance legislation, necessitating more in-depth cybersecurity protocols.
Now, the question becomes: with this increased demand, how does the IT talent gap specifically play out for the cybersecurity sector?
IT companies that continue to fall short when it comes to finding talented, specialized labor begin to see drastic declines in key areas of their businesses. Failure to fill these highly skilled tech roles makes IT companies less secure, less efficient, and less effective. With so much of our world running on data and IT infrastructure, this may be one of the biggest industry challenges of our time.
Root of the Cause: Why Is There a Cybersecurity Skills Gap With Such High Demand?
Although data shows that the number of open cybersecurity positions dropped from 3.12 million to 2.72 million in October 2021, the cybersecurity talent gap actually grew during that period. What makes this even odder is that IT cybersecurity professionals reported overall higher job satisfaction and happiness levels from working in the field.
Data from one study shows that 2021 was the best year for cybersecurity workers, and employees in the field showed a job satisfaction rate of 77% that year, which was the highest job satisfaction rate in the history of the survey.
So, it stands to reason that one of the gaps in this particular IT sub-sector might have to do with questions surrounding on-site, hybrid, or remote work options. Only 15% of cybersecurity professionals expressed interest in returning to an office environment full-time, which has led to an above-average wave of resignations within this industry.
It’s also important to note that changes to the job itself had a hand in this resignation wave. In the wake of the global pandemic, it wasn’t just cybersecurity pros going remote–everyone did. The move to remote work resulted in a nightmare for industry professionals plagued with more headaches and more security risks that made it even more challenging for experts in the field to do their job.
North America is also facing a unique IT “size gap” due to the insurmountable medium-sized tech businesses experiencing intense competition from international mega-firms regarding things like market share and profitability. Naturally, the same competition takes place on a national scale when recruiting premier talent.
Automation to Ease the Burden on Cybersecurity Pros
The idea behind automation and the technology skills gap is to reduce the demand for talent by reducing the reliance on people. This can be especially effective in the security world, where things like patching, disaster recovery, and threat detection can all be automated and reduce the need for specialized talent.
Automation can indeed reduce the need for specialized cybersecurity talent, but IT execs need to be careful not to fall into the trap of relying solely on it. Some highly-skilled talent will still be needed to run and monitor these systems. So, while automation does relieve some of the pressure caused by the labor shortage in the cybersecurity sector, it doesn’t solve it completely.
Budgets and expenses also limit the deployment of automation cybersecurity platforms throughout the industry. While this technology is becoming more and more established by the day, it’s still relatively new. IT execs will need to carefully examine AI/automation platforms to see what they can afford and what services will be most impactful to their business.
Here are just a few ways IT companies are using automation to their advantage when it comes to cybersecurity:
- Offer customers 24/7 support solutions
- Streamline project management and automate routine tasks to increase employee satisfaction
- Improve business insights through real-time data capture and analysis
- Decrease unnecessary threat alerts and service calls
- Speed up threat detection and response times
While the list above is a great start, AI technology will continue to take on more responsibility in the
future and hopefully drastically reduce the global pain felt by the IT skills gap.
Internal Training Programs to Upskill Employees
It’s also important for companies to invest in an internal process for professional development opportunities to help widen the IT skills gap in cybersecurity. The benefits here are two-fold:
- It shows employees that their employers are invested in their long-term success.
- Employers benefit from a workforce with new and improved capabilities that enable them to tackle a wider variety of tasks in the short term.
The beauty of these programs is that they can be linked to specific needs or areas of specialization.
For example, by linking cybersecurity training to specific requirements or career plans (CompTIA, ISC2, etc.), organizations can craft and mold existing talent to fit their needs. This is particularly essential in areas like cybersecurity where roles are significantly outstripping supply.
Expanding Hiring Pools
The diversity and inclusion topic can be a loaded one because it forces tech employers to take a good, hard look in the mirror. IT companies need to be honest about whether or not they’re taking advantage of the entire tech talent pool available.
Many minority groups find themselves underrepresented in the IT world. Part of the problem may be that employees and executives in the space have a massive disconnect on this issue. Only 24% of women and minorities experience a feeling of belonging within the IT industry compared to 75% of executives who feel like they do belong. What can IT leaders do to make these individuals feel more comfortable?
To achieve more diversity in IT roles, executives need to improve the diversity of the talent pool as a whole. Mentorship programs are a valuable tool in this area. A senior-level employee taking a new, minority employee under their wing can go a long way toward making them feel that they belong.
The Conclusion: Building a Cybersecurity Talent Foundation in IT
IT firms and SMBs need to think long and hard about the workplace systems and environment they’re creating, and whether or not they’re setting themselves up to attract new talent. In addition, they also need to consider implementing tools and strategies that allow their existing teams to be as productive as possible. Navigating this is the only way to keep your business best-in-class as we move into the future of the IT landscape and help reverse the trend of this growing global IT talent gap and increasing cybersecurity threats and breaches.
About the Author
Pete Sorensen, VP of Strategic Initiatives at ConnectWise. Pete Sorenson serves as the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at ConnectWise–the world’s leading software company dedicated to the success of IT solution providers (TSPs) through unmatched software, services, community, and marketplace of integrations. Pete joined ConnectWise in early 2018 and prior to that, he held several leadership positions during his 10-year tenure at DuPont Pioneer.
Website Link: https://www.connectwise.com/