Demand for Cybersecurity Talent Keeps Getting Hotter

What’s the hottest, most in-demand area for executive talent this year? Not so surprisingly, it’s the area of digital transformation and cybersecurity.

A new global study by the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC), based on a survey of more than 500 representatives from executive search and leadership advisory firms, reveals that 65 percent of those surveyed predict that technology, analytics and cybersecurity will be the most in-demand executive roles this year.

The demand for cybersecurity talent is fierce, and for good reason. Over at our sister publication, Risk & Insurance, my colleague Michelle Kerr reports that cyber-criminals are pocketing an estimated $1.5 trillion annually–that’s five times the approximate cost of natural disasters in 2017 and $500 billion more than U.S. insurance industry net premiums written that same year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The U.S. Dept of Defense has made recruiting and retaining cybersecurity talent one of its top priorities. While the federal government may have a reputation for slow-moving bureaucracy, the DoD is changing that via its new “Cyber Excepted Service,” which allows employees to be hired in less than half the time it took to hire them previously, reports ClearanceJobs.

The CES has helped the department cut the average time-to-hire for these positions from 111 days to 44 days, U.S. Cyber Command leader Gen. Paul Nakasone told Congress recently.

“We have done over 21 different fairs,” Nakasone told the House Armed Services Committee. “We’ve interviewed over 2,700 people. We’ve provided over 90 acceptances for job applications.”

Retaining cybersecurity talent has proved challenging for the DoD. Last year it lost an estimated 4,000 civilian employees–mainly in IT management and computer science-related positions–through turnover, reports

The private sector isn’t doing much better, with an estimated million-plus unfilled cybersecurity positions, according to Leviathan Security Group. Similar to the DoD, companies are taking a hard look at their recruiting, retention and compensation practices, looking for ways to improve. Others are trying innovative approaches to make it easier for those interested in a career in cybersecurity to obtain the necessary training. Mosaic451, a Phoenix-based cybersecurity services provider, began its Cyber Candidate School in 2017. The program offers a paid, six-month internship for candidates, with graduates placed in entry-level positions. Other companies are creating hybrid positions that require some technical skills and a solid understanding of their business model and strategies, Willis Towers Watson’s Tracey Malcolm told my colleague Carol Patton.

Here are additional findings from the AESC survey:

  • More than a third (35 percent) forecast “digital leadership advisory” to be a growing service to businesses in 2019
  • More than a quarter surveyed (27 percent) predict “developing next gen leaders” as the No. 2 issue for organizations in 2019.
  • Asian markets are forecast to have the strongest demand growth for executive talent in the year ahead, with China leading (44 percent), followed by India (41 percent) and Southeast Asia (38 percent).
Andrew R. McIlvaine
Andrew R. McIlvaine is former senior editor with Human Resource Executive®.