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By Deborah Johnson

The confluence of a long-standing global shortage of cybersecurity professionals and ongoing impact of the current pandemic will continue to present cybersecurity hiring challenges in the coming year. Some of these challenges (which could also be seen as “opportunities”) include the continuation of the remote workforce, the potential of salary creep and the need for upskilling current staff.

But there’s another major challenge already underway: staff retention.

A record 4.3 million U.S. workers across all professions quit their jobs in August 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Similar trends appear to be playing out in the UK and across mainland Europe, according to The Washington Post. People, including those in the technology sector, are quitting—or contemplating an exit. An August 2021 report by TalentLMS and Workable reveals that 72% of the 1,200 U.S. technology and IT workers surveyed are “thinking of quitting or exploring other job opportunities in the next 12 months.”

Some of the most cited reasons for leaving a current job, even one with good pay and benefits:

  • Stress and burnout
  • “I want to be my own boss”
  • Working from home has altered the “9-to-5” office scenario

A troubling trend by any name

This mass movement has been dubbed “The Great Resignation” by Anthony Klotz, associate professor of business management at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. McKinsey and Company in September referred to the sharp drop in workers voluntarily calling it quits as “The Great Attrition.” In its survey of more than 5,700 workers, McKinsey found that the most crucial factors in employees leaving were the lack of work-life balance and a sense of belonging within the company.

“Rather than ‘The Great Resignation,’ we’re calling it ‘The Great Reprioritization,’’’ says Ben Eubanks, chief research officer for Lighthouse Research & Advisory, in Huntsville, AL. In an interview, he cited data from a Lighthouse study yet to be published. “The data shows that people in the last 18 months have made a lot of different decisions because they realize their priorities are not where they need to be. Or have reset their priorities.”

Not all who’ve fled are low-wage workers no longer willing to risk their own physical and mental well-being for poor work conditions. A Harvard Business Review article notes that the group with the highest resignation rates, at least through summer 2021, were mid-career employees between 30 and 45 years old. The tech sector saw resignations rise by 4.5% during the same period.

Millennials, who now comprise the largest demographic in global workforces, value work-life balance and career mobility above older peers raised with a different view of job loyalty. In addition to dominating the workforce, millennials are also more likely to be negatively impacted by disruptions in childcare caused by COVID-19 outbreaks or the return of less flexible work policies than at the onset of the pandemic.

Employers bear some responsibility for losing valuable talent, says writer and workplace consultant Heidi Lynne Kurter in an interview. “[Employers] are not focused on keeping them, and they need to be. They put all this money and all this effort into it, and talent will leave a job if they are not happy. So why spend all this money on job boards and sourcing and external recruiters if you don’t even have a plan in place to keep the talent.”

Kurter says such plans should include flexibility in pay and what training employees will receive. But, most important, she advises, is “selling the company.”

“Talk about what the company can do for them,” she says. “And actively work to weave in the vision and the mission of the company with their own career goals.”

Workplace flight will likely continue, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. Respondents cited “too heavy a workload,” “lack of involvement in decision-making,” and “lack of opportunity for growth or advancement” as job stressors that would make them look elsewhere.

The clarion call to cybersecurity managers is to listen to your team members to find ways to enhance the workplace that will allow both the individual and the company to grow. Even if your organization is blessed with high retention rates, anticipate some turnover in the coming months so you’re prepared to maintain cybersecurity coverage. And, be ready to provide cybersecurity awareness to a new fleet of employees in 2022.

Deborah Johnson writes the Help Wanted column for InfoSecurity Professional magazine.