It’s Official – There is a Cyber Security Skills Shortage

Australia is facing a serious IT cyber security shortage. Mitigating risks is imperative to the successful implementation of any cyber functionality within the workplace, and yet offices are seeing fewer and fewer certified personnel equipped to handle the role. As of late the majority of employees aged 45 or older (33%) and only a small percentage between 15 and 24 (13%). That being said, there are small proportions of employees in the IT industry who are placed in younger or more mature age groups. In spite of the serious threats that face the industry, and the penetration of IT in all fields of business, the employing industry in Australia represents only 216,800 workers which is tantamount to 2% of the national employment. While there has been an 11.4% change in the IT field in Australia over the last five years the growth rate is still comparatively small and well below the average for all other industries in the nation. Sydney has the highest concentration of the IT jobs at 34%.

Importance of IT

As businesses today move into global environments, they are facing organisational challenges that require the expertise on full time IT workers as a mitigating force. Beyond the IT field, all companies must handle continuous change in order to remain a functional company. As the corporate world grows and reaches international heights, coping with incremental changes is no longer a sufficient management structure. Today, companies must handle accelerating, often overlapping, and large-scale transitions in all areas of the organisation. The life cycle of customers, clients, corporations, and all aspects of the workplace are now subject to change. Products today are continually being improved so that they can be offered online. Customers are demanding the flexibility of mobile-friendly sites in tandem with regular websites. That being said, companies reliant upon such infrastructures are equally exposed to cyber security risks.

When individuals seek to penetrate another computer network, they are at a great advantage. It is imperative to identify and understand all of the actors who populate cyberspace and how they can manipulate the environment. The average user can contribute unwittingly to said power as a conduit for viruses or worms that can hijack computers and servers. In order to mitigate the risk of the serious cyber security concerns listed above, companies must retain full time IT workers. The skills and expertise of such highly technical staff can afford the specific security measures each company needs. IT professionals can set up infrastructure and virtual networks that best meet the individual needs of the company for whom they work, while simultaneously providing regular maintenance. Of course, IT professionals serve more roles than cyber security.

Today information technology is a vital component to every business plan regardless of whether the company has one computer or cross-border cloud systems. Computer technology is omnipresent within businesses and information technology employees play a vital role. Who are many businesses email remains the primary means of communication among customers, employees, and suppliers. Email offers a simple yet inexpensive way to communicate. Today many companies use communication tools that expound upon the idea of email. Staff can communicate with online meeting tools, video conferencing tools, or live chat systems. Yet all of these components have to remain functional and operation of all times something which can only be done with the help of full time IT staff.

Newer Certifications

To fulfill these demands, IT roles require newer certifications to mitigate security risks. CISSP cultivates IT leaders who can engineer and implement an overall information security program into the workplace so as to protect organisations from more sophisticated attacks. CompTIA CASP is designed to counter the growing number of security threats facing companies, by offering them hardware and software skills compliant with the DoD. With hackers attacking from around the world, those with CASP certification can counter these attacks anywhere they may originate. With the growth of hackers, the EC-Council CEH program now provides IT personnel with ethical hacking technologies and techniques to counter the moves by hackers from anywhere in the world. Immersing professionals into the mindset of a hacker, IT professionals with this certification can now defend against future attacks in the chess game of cyber security.

Retention Problems

That being said, the IT industry is facing significant problems with retention of their workers, and thus far research is open to a handful of influential factors, one of which is personality traits. According to Lounsbury, Sundstrom, Levy, & Gibson (2014), today a persistent problem with the staffing and the retention of IT based staff is a direct result of little research being completed about what attitudes exist toward jobs and what functions as job motivation among IT workers. The result is that there has been little literature on “key personal attributes of IT personnel which distinguish them from other occupations” .

Every company measures some percentage of turnover. In certain industries the turnover rates between 30 and 40% are considered common and acceptable. But reality show that regardless of the role played by employees, 10 years employees provide far greater value for companies compared to those who are cyclical. While age is one of the considerations pertaining to emotional stability and to job satisfaction, this research suggests that while many people believe that Millennials between the age of 18 and 31 have unrealistic expectations about the IT workplace, the reality is that companies are not offering compensation on par with new IT skills. Today companies work to pay for as little IT service as necessary, knowing that things might change regularly and yet it is this exact idea of IT employees not being considered the same as other fulltime employees that causes job dissatisfaction and high turnover rates. Companies are not loyal to their IT individuals and those without IT backgrounds are unable to truly understand the role played by IT employees and thus are unable to appreciate their contributions. Compared to other fields, a manager may not have a thorough finance background, but has some idea of what responsibilities fall to the financial department and can appreciate the serious nature of their work, the difficulties, what skills it requires, and why the employees are valuable. This is not a feeling that has been found to translate over to the IT world. Even in companies where all other employees are considered valuable, the skills brought to the company table by the IT individual go unappreciated at best because the vast majority of the work is ensuring nothing breaks, and when it does, fixing it immediately. The regular behind-the-scenes maintenance done to ensure nothing breaks is often unseen or unappreciated. This results in highly unappreciated individuals who are then significantly more likely to leave their company or to feel overall dissatisfaction within the company.

Solutions

The retention of IT workers is critical to the success of any business organizations especially where the company has many people interfacing. Appropriate HR strategies can be useful in the ability of a company to retain their IT staff. This study focused on one articulate IT sector whose HR department put into place new practices conducive to higher job satisfaction among IT individuals and as a result, higher retention among employees. The result of this study indicated that higher job satisfaction among IT staff directly influences higher retention rates, but understanding what influences better policies and better job satisfaction is imperative to implementing new company policy effective to that measure.

References

Aarseth, W., Rolstadås, A., & Andersen, B. (2013). Managing organizational challenges in global projects. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business7(1), 103-132.

Borgohain, S. B. (2010). Key Factors and Challenges for Retention of Employees in a Public Sector Enterprise: A Case Study in Power Grid Corporation of India Limited: Master’s Thesis (Doctoral dissertation, SB Borgohain).

Cyber Warfare. The Hague: Advisory Council on International Affairs, 2011. Print.

Lounsbury, J. W., Sundstrom, E., Levy, J. J., & Gibson, L. W. (2014). Distinctive Personality Traits of Information Technology Professionals. Computer and Information Science, 7(3). doi:10.5539/cis.v7n3p38

Singh, S., Sharma, G. D., & Mahendru, M. (2010). A Study of Employee Retention in ITeS Industry: A Case of North India. Res Manageria1(1).

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Salim Karim

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