Industry insights

Upskilling to deepen employee engagement & retention

February 1, 2021 by Cyber Pop-Up

Having a highly-skilled, engaged and motivated workforce is in everyone’s best interest, and it takes a combination of factors to support employees in becoming their best. Doing so requires that organizations engage their employees with learning opportunities, progression paths and strong mentorship. Employees also have a responsibility to be self-motivated in owning their career development journeys.

During Infosec Inspire, Jessica Amato, Operations Manager at Raytheon Technologies, and Romy Ricafort, Senior Director in Sales Engineering at Comcast Business, shared their strategies for developing strong, effective teams through empowerment and progressive development opportunities.

Engage, motivate and retain cybersecurity talent with an employee-focused talent development strategy.

“How Raytheon and Comcast go beyond training to engage employees”

Building and retaining well-qualified and effective cybersecurity professionals to deliver on your cybersecurity needs requires three key steps: 

  1. Know how employees can get the foundational skills required for in-demand security roles. 
  2. It’s not good enough to just focus on basic skills in the beginning. Aspire to upskill and be ready to continually grow skills to meet evolving demand. 
  3. Foster an environment that allows employees to be curious and learn about their interests.

There are a few key actions organizations can take to help make those steps a reality: 

  • Outline career paths: Establish learning and growth paths to give employees a career line of sight. Employees with this insight tend to have greater confidence in their skills, longer retention rates and higher job satisfaction. 
  • Train employees: Empower employees to achieve the necessary certifications to deliver on your needs through training. Leverage partners to build on the certification programs and provide training in specialized areas. 
  • Look ahead: Think about the future and the skills needed within 3-5 years and conduct a gap analysis against your current workforce. Create development plans, then incorporate those skills as early as possible. 
  • Set expectations: Clearly articulate job expectations and success measures on an ongoing basis, so employees know what they need to do to not only perform well but also exceed expectations and get to the next level.

“Dale Carnegie Training Foundation found that 60% of employees would leave their company if there was poor training.” Romy Ricafort

Prioritize listening to feedback from employees and address feedback promptly. 

Most important aspect to building successful cybersecurity teams

Engaging and motivating employees with training and development programs requires continuous listening and application of feedback. Gain an understanding of what types of learners you are dealing with. 

Not only do people learn in different ways, but there are also many different paths to growth in cybersecurity. For example, there are those who aspire to be penetration testers or incident responders and those who aspire to be managers and leaders. Each path requires different skills and unique learning approaches. 

To get a sense of the prevalent learning desires, styles and requirements in your organization, have your leadership team collect input from staff to learn of the gaps and opportunities for improvement. Create a safe space for employees to voice concerns. Also, remember that it’s not good enough to collect data and do nothing. Listen and then do something to address the feedback, even if small. Make sure you check back in and follow up with employees to ensure you took the right actions.

“Listen to the voice of your learners and take action. A little bit of change is better than no change at all. ” – Jessica Amato

Think about professional development beyond cybersecurity skills.

It’s important to build an in-depth employee engagement program that spans beyond cybersecurity. After all, technical cybersecurity skills are but a portion of the important qualities that make a strong security professional. To establish a robust engagement program:

  • Don’t neglect the essential skills that round out talent. For example, presentation skills, executive presence and communication skills though not technical in nature, are arguably equally important. 
  • Provide opportunities for holistic on-the-job training and job shadowing.
  • Help people connect with the bigger picture and understand how their contributions fit into the broader organizational mission.
  • Provide organic opportunities to network and cross-collaborate across departments.
  • Encourage employees to be self-motivated and dedicated to driving their own career growth.

“Experiential learning means providing opportunities for people to use and develop the skills that they’ve learned.” – Jessica Amato

Build partnerships with organizational units within the company and track key metrics to scale development and engagement programs.

They say that two heads are better than one when it comes to tackling tough challenges, and the cybersecurity talent engagement is no exception. Strengthen your program by partnering with internal teams who have a vested interest in and ability to influence employee engagement. Groups such as HR, Talent Acquisition, Learning & Development and more can help. 

You can also partner with these teams to get insight into blind spots and gaps in your employee skills inventory through employee satisfaction surveys and scores. Check-in on employees and make sure they feel fulfilled in their roles. Within this input, you can then work to address shortcomings. Where possible, leverage the data to intentionally bring diverse working styles and skills together within your teams as well.

It’s also important to track metrics that can highlight the value of your efforts. 

  • Track progress of employees’ training completion rates. 
  • Track employee retention and be sure to conduct exit interviews that provide insight on true reasons for employee departure. Listen to employees. 
  • Track how long it takes to onboard and hire employees. 

All of these data points together can provide key insight into what’s working well and what requires improvement from an employee engagement and retention standpoint.

In conclusion, deepening employee engagement and retention is a long-term investment. Romy perfectly sums it up: “It’s not a destination. It’s a journey.” By creating an employee-focused talent development strategy, fostering talent beyond typical technical skill development and partnering with internal organizational units for greater impact, common engagement and retention challenges impacting the industry can be reduced.

To hear the full story, watch Jessica and Romy’s full discussion in the video.

Posted: February 1, 2021
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