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Leadership and Recruitment Changes Needed to Address Cybersecurity Burnout

Most organizations, in almost every industry, have been forced to implement many digital components into their day-to-day operations in order to operate effectively. With this shift, cybersecurity awareness permeates all departments of the business, and as malicious activity skyrockets, the role of security teams becomes even more important across all business functions.

In 2021, businesses experienced 50% more cyberattack attempts per week, and in this environment, 51% of those currently working in cybersecurity experienced extreme stress or burnout. This stress is further compounded by the growing skills gap, with more than 400,000 job postings all asking for cybersecurity-related skills. Now more than ever, it’s critical for organizations to address the issue of cyber employee burnout before the talent pool dries up.

As a CSO, I understand the challenges that come with being in a security role. There is rarely a time when it is possible to separate from work. Most security practitioners will spend most of their waking hours, and sometimes their sleeping hours as well, thinking about their organization’s technology, bad actors, and new threats they may face tomorrow. These all-consuming stressors leave very little room for individuals to take care of themselves and, unfortunately, employers may also lack the infrastructure to support employees struggling with burnout and health issues. mental.

If employees continue to feel unsupported in their roles and overwhelmed by negative emotions, they are much more likely to leave their jobs. The most effective way for organizations to mitigate this level of burnout is to fully understand the pressure security practitioners are under and then take effective action.

Encourage high-level conversations

Many security professionals don’t feel comfortable admitting they have mental health issues because the threat of personal and professional repercussions can be daunting. Therefore, senior leaders who are not afraid to speak up should take ownership of training leadership teams and bring these critical conversations to the top. That said, the elevation of such conversations shouldn’t stop at the organization’s leadership suite, but continue through to its board of directors.

Not only is the board responsible for corporate risk governance and cybersecurity strategy, but it is also the first stop for decision-making that can impact the overall health of an organization. (from hiring practices to daily operations) . These decisions should always promote a “psychologically safe” environment for their potential employees and talents, which means that the organization fosters a comfortable and supportive environment.

Creating such an environment can only happen if there are advocates willing to talk about the mental health issues their teams may be facing, including the increased pressure on cybersecurity professionals. Ultimately, ensuring that security practitioners feel supported and empowered in carrying out their duties is the responsibility of an organization’s leadership. Otherwise, they risk losing key talent that is critical to protecting the entire organization and its data from the next cyberattack.

Promote individual empowerment

If security teams are to operate effectively and contribute to long-term business success, the mental health crisis that permeates the cybersecurity industry must be addressed from all sides. While board-level discussions must take place for effective changes to be made, security teams must also be encouraged by their direct managers to improve their work-life balance on an individual level. While organizations can invest in programs and tools that help employees identify stress management strategies, cyber professionals themselves must also decide to make self-care a priority.

Most security professionals operate with a fast-paced, results-oriented mindset, and when faced with stress and challenges at work, their immediate instinct is to keep pushing themselves and remain silent. The constant stream of threats coming to an organization puts immense pressure on security professionals and can put them on edge. Therefore, allowing this stress to be the main facilitator of project completion may temporarily bring results, but it is not sustainable. It’s the kind of stress and overwork that leads to burnout and an unproductive work environment.

Instead, these practitioners should be encouraged to let go. Adopting daily personal wellness strategies, as well as taking time to breathe and regroup away from the computer screen, is a much more effective way to foster a healthy pattern of productivity when you’re overwhelmed. In addition to alleviating stress during the day, taking time at the end of each day to review action items and opportunities for improvement and put them on paper can also help alleviate the mental tension of conservation. information that does not need to live in an individual’s mind.

Changing the future of recruiting

It is both outdated and unproductive to nurture the mindset that a candidate applying for an open cybersecurity role in a company should have skills and experiences that are a perfect fit for the position. This only allows cyber teams to remain understaffed for longer periods of time, prolonging additional stress for current security employees.

Redesigning job descriptions to be more inclusive and focused on basic requirements can open the door to non-traditional candidates who will bring significant value to the team. By emphasizing the availability of training, mentorship and resources to help support an individual’s expertise and career growth, companies are likely to find the talent they may have been missing with a narrow job description. This will ultimately help reduce the existing e-skills gap and bring in additional employees who can effectively alleviate some of the pressure that current team members are facing.

Alongside these changes in hiring, recruitment should also involve adequate training of young professionals in security professions. Clarity must be provided around the roles they choose to seriously pursue before the responsibilities of this new role potentially overwhelm them and they leave. It’s also important to note that those who wish to pursue a career in cybersecurity but are unfamiliar with the industry, most likely imagine “black hat” hackers as the only type of “cybersecurity professional”. But there is a wide range of cybersecurity professions that require varying security skills. By not effectively advocating and educating young people or aspiring professionals on the possibilities of an e-career, organizations and business leaders are further contributing to the existing skills gap and lack of visibility on the many unique opportunities that exist in this space.

The role of a cybersecurity professional is both complicated and critical, so teams will always be under some kind of pressure. The most important thing we can do is talk openly about the causes of this stress and provide support when needed. Fortunately, this new era of work comes with a plethora of programs and tools to help employees and guide employers in making their organizations a positive place to work. This makes action the only reasonable response to the current mental health crisis.

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