When it comes to the cybersecurity talent shortage, an already troublesome situation is getting worse: The shortage is expected to grow to 1.8 million employees by 2022, which is 20 percent greater than a forecast from 2015, according to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study.

More than 19,600 cybersecurity professionals worldwide took part in the research, which was published by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education as partnered with Booz Allen Hamilton, Alta Associates, Frost & Sullivan and my company, (ISC)2. Two-thirds of survey respondents indicated that they didn’t have enough information security workers in their department. When asked why this was the case, respondents cited a lack of qualified personnel (49%); a failure for leadership to understand cybersecurity requirements (42%); an inability for business conditions to support additional personnel (41%); difficulties of retaining security staffers (31%); and a lack of a clear career path for information security (31%).

What’s more, we are in the middle of a Baby Boomer retirement exodus, with 10,000 people from this generation reaching retirement age every day, according to the Pew Research Center. As a CIO, CISO or even CEO, you cannot afford to ignore these trends, as the following, proactive recruitment and retention strategies prove critical here:


Think Outside of the Traditional Workforce.

Too many businesses still resort to the passive approach of checking their online application in-box and then clicking on a bunch of resumes in hopes that a good find turns up. If this is how your department tries to fill cybersecurity vacancies, then it’s shutting itself off from an abundant source of skilled professionals. Instead, you should come up with ways to reach out to non-traditional candidates/resources to plug in the holes – military service veterans, remote workers, local community colleges, contractual “hired guns,” part-timers, interns and organizations which seek to place women and minorities in IT jobs.


Search from Within.

If you’d conduct a survey of your entire company workforce, you’d probably find a significant share of internal employees expressing possible interest in a cybersecurity career, regardless of whether they’re in IT or not. These sentiments may emerge from a desire for more intriguing challenges, a higher calling and – let’s face it – a better-paying position with great job security. This presents immense appeal to hiring managers, because these staffers are already onboard, fully aware of the organization’s culture and overall strategic goals. For the transition to work, training and development must come into play. However, some corporate leaders may hesitate to make that investment. “Why pay to train people to protect us from hackers,” they might reason, “when, once qualified and certified, they could leave us for the highest bidders?”

While we can’t dismiss such risk, we have found over and over again that it’s one worth taking. When you invest into employees’ skills development, after all, you demonstrate that you genuinely care about their future. This, in turn, helps instill a sense of loyalty within the employees, making them much more likely to stay and strengthen your cybersecurity team.


Target the Next Generation (Millennials, Of Course).

To effectively recruit them, you need to acknowledge how they differ from other generations, and appeal to their specific interests. But you have to think beyond the stereotypical juice bars and foosball tables; Millennials seek inherent value within their roles and daily tasks. They want autonomy in defining their vocational path. They’d like more freedom to choose their own devices and apps, i.e. BYOD and BYOA. And they thrive within an environment which embraces collaboration and innovation. In other words, a rigid, top-down, “my way or the highway” mentality will score few points here.

In addition, you should cultivate a mentorship culture to accelerate the seasoning process among these young people, because, again, such efforts convey that you care about their future success. For that, you’ll want to turn to your Generation X high performers. But they will require training as well, because mid-career cybersecurity pros will have to acquire the necessary communications and other “soft skills” to serve as impactful mentors.

As the old Buck Owens song goes, “You'll never miss the water ‘til the well runs dry.” In this case, a “dry well” caused by a Boomer exodus could result in a costly and potentially devastating compromise of your network and data. But when you identify months – or even years – ahead of time when and where key cybersecurity vacancies will surface and respond proactively, you can essentially “fill” them before they exist. That makes for a plentiful well.