The cybersecurity industry is beset with a crippling skills shortage. As such, it’s not only difficult to fill positions, but the economic reality of an employee’s market means that it’s also difficult to retain staff. Companies are more than willing to engage in bidding wars over apparently qualified workers, and apparently qualified workers are equally willing to undercut the median U.S. employment tenure of 4.6 years.
Retaining employees and combatting the skills shortage is important for countless reasons. Most simply, hiring new employees is expensive on a number of fronts: you have to find the right person, you have to fly them out for interviews and potentially relocate them, you have to set them up with benefits, you have to train them, etc. All of these tasks involve direct costs (flights for prospective employees) and indirect costs (productivity losses stemming from employee-time spent training new workers).
Staff retention is one of the tenants of the MKACyber security operations center (SOC) management philosophy, and our CEO, Mischel Kwon, shared some of her thoughts on the matter with Jon R. Anderson of Govtech Works.
Kwon says that she’s adopted what she calls “a West Coast environment,” providing her staff with breakfast, lunch, snacks, a relaxing workspace, and a family-first environment among other benefits, which is something of a rarity in contrast to the archaic formality that continues to dominate workplaces in much of the D.C. area.
Treatment is key, but it’s more than just employee-supplied perks, Kwon claims. Companies also need to look smarter. They need to hire more diverse and they need to seek out “life-long learners.”
Beyond getting smart and qualified workers, employers need to focus on finding employees that are a good fit. Raw technical knowledge is important but so too are the softer skills that the employee will employ around the office with his or her colleagues on a daily basis.
“We’re very ready to have people take tests, have certifications, and look at the onesy-twosy things that they know,” says Kwon. “What we’re finding though, is just as important as the actual content that they know, is their actual work ethic, their personalities. Do they fit in with other people? Do they work well in groups? Are they life-long learners? These types of personal skills are as important as technical skills. We can teach the technical skills. It’s hard to teach the work ethic.”