Attracting Millennials to Cybersecurity

As Millennials will account for 75% of the workforce by 2030, I wanted to dig deeper into this generation’s working habits and preferences to best understand how to close the cybersecurity industry’s 0% unemployment gap and retain employees on a long-term basis. The Deloitte 2017 Millennial Survey gives us a better understanding of this generations attitudes about the world, and I used this to better understand this population at large in an attempt to fit it into a cybersecurity context. I believe this is essential going forward, as the workplace landscape is changing due to rapid technology advancements, as well as societal attitudes, and instead of kicking and screaming as to why things are not working now, we can look at ways to tweak the work environment to make cybersecurity more attractive.

There are 4 types of attraction, Status, Health, Emotional, and Logical and by dissecting how the Millennial generation views the workplace in relation to these levels of attraction, we can help to make learning information security more engaging, and in turn, fill the many of the available roles.

Millennialattributes


Status

The Millennial generation has grown up in an environment where information could be collected from a variety of sources, regardless of age or position. Due to this, they are a generation the prefers organizations to take inclusive approach, versus and authoritarian/rules-based approach. Those organization that do take a more relaxed approach to management can boast a 76 percent satisfaction rate, compared to only 49 percent at more controlling, rules-base organizations.

In the application of this to the cybersecurity job market, it is important for managers to work collaboratively with their employees and encourage everyone’s active participation in security awareness trainings. A less structured approach will highlight the fact that the safety of the corporation is everyone’s responsibility, not just the CISOs and upper management. This too creates a collaborative environment where cross-trainings in particular skills can take place, broadening the available job roles one can work in various departments.


Health

Flexibility in the workplace is another highly prized attribute that drives engagement for Millennials. This engagement is seen through improved organizational performance, personal benefit, and loyalty.

64 percent prize the ability to work from locations other than their employer’s primary site, a full 21 points higher than last year’s survey. This dramatic increase highlights how technology advancements and mobile enable employees to work in less structured environments. This type of flexibility is strongly linked to improved performance and employee retention, as employees feel a deeper sense of loyalty to their employers. As employers give their employees more trust to conduct themselves outside of the office environment, the employees in turn will reward their employers by working more productively and staying with the company longer, showing higher levels of personal responsibility. As the Deloitte study highlights, 34 percent take “a great deal” of personal accountability for their organizations’ reputations. This compares to just 12 percent within enterprises where there is low flexibility.

The ability to do remote trainings is something companies can look into. With the younger generation’s utilization of mobile, they are able to complete these trainings as they please, and will be more encouraged to learn a variety of skills compared to if they are in the structured office environment. Employees that work remotely should also be given special security trainings on the dangers of this type of working environment, including the use of public WiFi, keeping devices safe from being lost or stolen, removable devices, DOS attacks, etc. It should be understood that working remotely is a privileged, given that the employee is conducting themselves in a safe manner, which should be monitored on a continual basis. This will strongly motivate this generation to take care of their company’s data and reputation, as loyalty to the company will be increased.


Emotional

Millennials feel accountable to issues both in the workplace and the wider world in general. They enjoy being involved with “good causes” where they feel they can be empowered and influence the world. In the workplace, this influence is very closely correlated with accountability and is an important point for businesses to acknowledge as it offers a platform from which to build each employee’s sense of purpose and, ultimately, a more engaged workforce.

Millennials value their social causes, and businesses that engage in helping to solve these problems gain the population’s trust and loyalty. With 76 percent now regarding business as a force for positive social impact, they understand the degree of influence businesses have on larger society and expect a degree of responsibility with how these corporations operate in the world. Almost nine in 10 (86 percent) believe the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.

With this in mind however, only 54 percent of millennials are provided with opportunities to contribute to charities/good causes in their workplaces. To me, this seems like a prime area to be focusing on. By giving cybersecurity professionals the opportunity to volunteer their time and skills to organizations that look to enhance society knowledge in the area, we can both enhance employee engagement, while at the same time teach the larger society the skills needed to enter into the profession. The Deloitte study shows that those provided with such opportunities in the workplace show a greater level of loyalty, have a more positive opinion of business behavior, and are less pessimistic about the general social situation.


Logical

In particular to the cybersecurity market is the combined efforts of government entities and corporations to fight the ever changing attack landscape. In general, Millennials are split on their opinions of how well the two are working together in society at large, with 49 percent saying they do work well together, and 48 percent saying they are not, and only a minority believe that “the people” are the ones who benefit most from these types of working relationships between governments and corporations.

Both cybersecurity companies and governments should put increased attention on the ways they are helping to tackle the cybersecurity problem in ways where social responsibility is highlighted and the is a direct reflection of how it benefits “the people.” This generation values straight talk from both their business and political leaders, and want to cut through politically correct language to get down to the important matters, something managers can take into account when explaining “why” certain measures are being taken. Appealing to the logical side shows employees that they are respected with the decisions that the company is making and allows them to voice his/her opinion if needed.

In the cybersecurity space, it is essential to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies, and this generation, being the first “digital natives” are able to pick up on new technologies quickly. An interesting finding in the course of the study was that those who currently make the greatest use of social media especially recognize the potential for workplace automation to support more creative and expanded roles for millennials. As technology advancements accelerate the automation becomes more commonplace, the advancement of soft skills/creative outlets will become increasingly important and will be a determining success factor. As technology will be able to run itself, being able to translate technical language into business language will be essential. This finding is supported by the study, which found that millennials in senior positions rate information technology and social media skills as being of relatively low importance— especially when compared to attributes such as communication, flexibility, leadership, and the ability to think creatively and to generate new ideas. Information technology and social media skills are now commonplace attributes of society. Communication and management skills, however, are aspects that are innately human and the mastery of these skills will become increasingly important going forward.


Conclusions

The Millennial generation has gone through historical changes to how society conducts itself. Having been the first “digital natives,” grown up during the recession and Iraq war, and now facing a time of increased attacks, both through terrorist efforts and on the information technology landscape, this generation has faced considerable instability. As a generation that largely takes on the negative characteristic of not having the ability to concentrate or thinking they are exceptional, a larger picture of why this may be and what values have come from this volatility is crucial. Especially in the cybersecurity space itself, which faces fluctuations and uncertainty on a daily basis, we can look at the characteristic this generation has used to adapt and apply them to the working environment in the hopes of making learning about cybersecurity more attractive and filling the millions of open roles.