I first heard the term “war for talent” back in 2005. At the time, I was working as a corporate recruiter for a global supply chain and logistics organization. Previously, my main method to source talent was to simply place an advertisement in the local newspaper and respond to the applicants. Until I heard the phrase “war for talent,” leveraging the internet, networking events, meet-up groups, or any other creative sources was completely foreign to me.
After doing some research, I learned this phrase was originally coined by McKinsey & Company in 1997. At the beginning of my career, it was hard for me to recognize its profound truth; being raised by baby boomer parents, I related to the adage, “you are lucky if you even have a job.” This expression is not all false either: those of us who are happily employed are lucky to have jobs. I say “happily employed” because that showcases that we are employed by an organization that not only meets our basic needs, but goes beyond the basic to help us feel fulfilled in our careers by providing interesting, thought-provoking work and fantastic cultures where there is open communication, enabling employees to feel seen and heard.
In an article written in Cybercrime Magazine in 2016, Editor-in-Chief Steve Morgan stated that the cybersecurity unemployment rate dropped to zero percent. Today, we are living in a below-zero unemployment climate within cybersecurity professionals, and there are MILLIONS, YES MILLIONS of unfilled cybersecurity jobs. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts 3.5 million unfilled cyber jobs by 2021. To put it another way, there are more jobs than there are people. The phrase “war for talent” has never hit me harder than it has in the past two years of being in the director of talent acquisition role for The Crypsis Group.
In such a climate (and let’s face it, any climate), employees want more from their employers than just having a job, and in an industry like cybersecurity with such low unemployment statistics, they can certainly pick and choose. One study highlights the importance of company reputation:
“A 2015 study found that 75 percent of job seekers consider the employer’s brand and reputation before even applying for a position. With the existence of forums like Glassdoor, where employees, former employees and applicants are all given a podium to express opinion, it’s important that you are making an active effort to engage them.”
So, you may be asking, in such a competitive climate, what do you do? Well, the simple answer is, you layer up and make your employees a part of your story and a meaningful part of your growth. You offer a rich culture that goes beyond compensation.
That is exactly what we did . . . and the outcome, phenomenal! It was not a silver bullet, or a one-size-fits-all approach. We really started with a vision and the end in mind. As an organization, we have aggressive growth targets to meet market demand for our services, and to get there, we need the best, baddest, and most talented folks in the industry. We needed a compelling culture. One that, for a consulting organization, could be bleeding edge in terms of work-life balance, providing an open communication loop of ideas, and creating a committee that is dedicated to taking employee feedback and providing improvements for the betterment of our people.
To achieve this, we first started implementing incentives and talking to our current team, which was small at that time. We wanted them to help write the story of our growth and evolution, from start-up to seasoned and trusted advisory professional services and consulting firm. We also know that good people know other good people. We started asking who they knew in the industry and who they would want to build an organization with, and we wanted to incentivize them above the industry average through our employee referral program.
Referrals have been shown to reduce the time to fill a role within an organization by 50%; and referred employees are 23% less likely to quit than other sources of hires.
As we opened this dialogue with our employees, we learned why they chose Crypsis and why they decided to stay. . . then we kept talking. We started sharing this information with the most senior levels in the organization. We shared real-time feedback on anything from remote work options, upgrading our benefits package, revamping everything from bonus structures to the types of goldfish or coffee we had in our breakrooms.
Today, the leadership team hosts weekly collaboration sessions every Friday, where they unpack and wrestle with a new topic within cybersecurity where everyone’s voice can be heard. They encourage our employees to write white papers and participate in industry conferences and events to help with their own personal and professional development.
Our organization has become the voice of ALL, not just a few, which has become a distinct value proposition and one that isn’t all fluff but is actualized in our daily culture and lives within our organization.
As we enter 2020, I no longer believe the term “a war for talent” was a dramatic expression for describing the difficulty in recruiting the best talent into an organization. Eighteen years into my career, I realize this is real; this is our cybersecurity reality. However, it is one that I know we can persevere through together, because every employee in our organization participates in sharing our story and the culture of value. Every person is valued at any tenure point in their career. And, unquestionably, the service we provide our clients is highly valuable, the work rewarding. We not only encourage our team to share, we provide a platform to facilitate their voices to preserve the culture we have created—one that is incredibly unique, coveted and truly special to our teams.