Monthly Archives: March 2022

How Australia’s record-low jobless rate will impact cyber security hiring and retention

Australia’s unemployment rate could sink below 4 per cent this year, and fall further to 3.75 per cent by the end of 2023, the nation’s Reserve Bank forecast in February. If reached, that would be the lowest jobless rate in Australia in nearly 50 years. AISA communications manager Nick Moore asked cyber security recruiters, including Jim Morris from Synchro Partners, what this would mean for hiring and retaining staff in the already challenging infosec industry.

If Australia’s unemployment rate falls below 4%, how will that affect staff retention in cyber security?

Jim Morris: “With unemployment rates forecasted to fall below 4 per cent, this amplifies an already apparent short supply of accessible talent in the market and intensifies competition amongst employers, with the possibility of your staff being tempted to greener pastures.

New projects, new technologies and career growth opportunities arise every day so it is evitable that the ‘musical chairs’ in the cyber security marketplace will continue.

This is the nature of the beast as seen in the competitive market pre-GFC (Global Financial Crisis).”

If it falls below 4%, how will it affect recruitment?

Jim Morris: “Prospective, available candidates are already in low-supply, whether you are the local burger shop or a national cyber security firm. That is the brutal truth.

A key difference is, however, cyber security is a relatively niche, specialist area, with an already limited talent pool of available candidates. Couple that with the requirement for candidates in our sector to frequently upskill to keep up with constant changes and we’ve got a recipe for a different level of skills shortage.

Employers will face multiple challenges and obstacles when recruiting new staff – increased competition for talent, less overall supply and changes in candidate/jobseeker behaviour and expectations.

Now is a critical time for employers to review their value proposition to potential recruits out in the marketplace. What can you offer that the competitors in your segment can’t?

In my recent experience securing candidates within areas such as cloud security, penetration testing, incident response/threat intelligence or niche GRC (governance, risk and compliance) areas (IRAP, ISM, PCI) has become increasingly difficult for employers because of the market conditions.”

What advice would you give employers around staff retention? Is it possible to offer too many inducements?

Jim Morris: “First take a step back and really understand what you currently offer and how it stacks up against your competitors. Then look at adding extra value from there.

As a cyber security professional, continually developing their skills is the only way to keep up with the pace and demand of the market. What new skills are you offering your staff? What kind of programs can you offer them to be working on?

These are the key areas staff will consider against other options if they develop a ‘wandering eye’ for new opportunities as they are tangible ‘value adds’ for careers.

It can be easy to get swept up in the price/wage wars, having pinball machines, table tennis tables and fully stocked beer fridges but getting the real, measurable value propositions by way of professional development opportunities is a fundamental starting point for employers.”

What advice can you give around sourcing and hiring staff in this increasingly competitive jobs market?

Jim Morris: “Look inwards first. Have you really looked at which individuals within your organisation have the potential (and willingness) to upskill in order to fill your capability gap? Oftentimes I see clients quick to skip this step, missing real opportunities to find the capability readily available in house, and an opportunity to positively affect retention rates.

Be pragmatic about your list of requirements. Be realistic about what’s readily available out in the market. Does that candidate really exist and can you secure them within your target timeframe? If the answer is not an unequivocal yes, it’s likely time to consider where you can replace hard requirements with opportunities for prospective candidates with relevant experience to develop and upskill.

Moving fast is critical in the current market. Assess your current recruitment process, identify the bottlenecks and where the opportunities to streamline are. Much more often than not, this does not have to compromise the thoroughness of your process.

Candidates are not on the market for long and are often presented with multiple opportunities and offers at any given time.

Know your competition. What is your competition doing and offering and how does your organisation offer a compelling option as a comparison? This could be around a number of different factors – remuneration, professional development opportunities, flexible work arrangements and company culture. You need to know how you’re positioned against competing organisations to help target and secure the right candidate audience.”

Is it better to leave a position vacant than hire a substandard candidate? What strategies can employers deploy to cover for vacancies?

Jim Morris: “Look inwards first. Before going to market, which individuals in the business could redeploy into this role? Sometimes the answer lies within. Is this another opportunity to allow a team member to upskills? This can only have positive effects on your retention rates.

Consider a contingent workforce. A contractor resource has been a viable solution within our industry for years, often in a full-time capacity. Though, the working world is evolving, with the ‘Gig Economy’ seeing a noticeable boom in recent years. Many candidates in the cyber security space have started to engage with clients either on a part-time, ad-hoc or advisory capacity.”

This article was originally published as How Record-low Jobless Rate will Impact Cyber Security Hiring, Retention by the Australian Information Security Association (AISA). This abridged version is published with kind permission of the author.

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Posted in Synchro Partners, The world @work

Breaking the Bias: 5 things I’ve learned as a female leader

It’s rewarding to see other women succeed. I started my career in my mid 20s with a large multinational, led mainly by men who excelled in micro-management… they scrutinised all of our activities, imposed onerous activity reports and even questioned sick days. On results, my team were successful, but I didn’t aspire to their version of a manager – managing that way wasn’t my style. I left feeling burnt out, with a feeling management wasn’t for me.

As it turned out, every director I worked with subsequent to that early experience recognised my potential and encouraged me to go back into management. I’m glad I listened.

While challenging, management can also be incredibly rewarding, but the rewards begin when you start to think of yourself as a leader. The path to leadership was not smooth. I made mistakes – and learned from every single one of them! Most importantly, I learned that to be a leader, I also had to support and develop my team. I got a real kick out of giving them the tools (skills, experience and mentoring) to succeed and move on to the next stage of their career.

As a recruiter and team leader, I am in the unique position to be able to influence candidates and colleagues in their career choices, as well as to provide guidance to organisations on making unbiased hiring choices. I’ve encouraged both women and men to apply for opportunities that they may not ordinarily be considered for. For example, I placed a highly successful female Head of IT with a leading insurance company and recruited an amazing male executive assistant. I’ve coached businesses on the benefits of offering flexibility in their workplace: could a role be offered remotely, part-time or as a job-share arrangement to maximise the talent they attract?

On International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality, I’m sharing five things I’ve learned as a female leader:

1. Understand the importance of being a leader.

How you show up, how you communicate and how you lead, has a direct impact on your team. I looked up to successful female leaders and learned how they operate (especially when I was working in male-dominated environments), but of course you can learn from men too. Take from them what you like and leave what you don’t, but ensure to make it you own.

2. If you are not a man, don’t try to be one.

Early in my career, I thought you had to be tough and demand respect like my managers at the time (mostly men), but I was wrong. Research has shown that women in leadership not only positively contribute to an organisation’s profitability, but also bring imaginative problem-solving skills and a high level of empathy – an essential attribute for a successful leader. Take pride in your diversity, whether it’s from a female or another perspective. By being yourself, and allowing your colleagues to be themselves, you will create a productive, stable and happy team.

3. If you are underestimated, use it to your advantage.

I’ve typically worked in male dominated environments, often been the youngest in the room and consequently, have been underestimated. When that happens, don’t take it personally. Even when doing your job to the best of your ability, you may not always find opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge or use your full skillset. Make an ally of those who can see your worth, pick the right moment, engage the stakeholders and you’re sure to impress when it counts.

4. A few words about instinct and inclusion.

It is not called ‘female intuition’ for nothing, but you don’t have to be a woman to listen to your gut when it’s trying to tell you something. There have been times when I’ve not listened to my inner voice in the past and I’ve lived to regret it. However, ‘gut feel’ can also lead to bias in recruitment, which is why we use a merit-based process that has been quality assured and is independently audited. Even blind shortlists (removal of candidate names) are prone to unconscious bias and AI is capable of learned bias. When building teams it helps to maintain an awareness of diversity and inclusion across candidates from under-represented backgrounds, such as people with disabilities, Indigenous people, people from Non-English speaking backgrounds, the LGBTQI+ community and diverse age groups, as well as gender diversity.

5. Flexibility in the workplace is the new norm.

Pre-covid, as a mum, I felt like I was expected to work like I didn’t have a child. Flexible working has evolved significantly over the past 2-3 years to include working from home, working remotely, part-time executive roles and created better opportunities for women who may have otherwise put their careers on hold. Flexible environments also benefit both parents, single mothers (and fathers) and carers.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for everyone to reflect on what it means to be a woman in business. We still face inequality, but we’ve also come a long way. As a woman in a leadership position, I believe it is really important to encourage the next generation of women to go into management roles. And that’s a responsibility we all need to take on.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Interchange Bench, The world @work