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What you need to retain the security talent you want

Michael Santarcangelo | June 1, 2016
Mike Saurbaugh shares evidence-driven insights from the next generation workforce about what we need to attract and keep them -- and how it helps with our current efforts to retain security talent

Much attention is paid to the talent gap. Some companies are aggressively exploring how to best attract needed security talent. But what about retaining the people they have?

At InfoSec World, Mike Saurbaugh caught the attention of security leaders with a data-driven approach to retaining talent. Broader than the use of collected evidence is his targeted audience: the next generation of our workforce.

Mike Saurbaugh (LinkedIn@MikeSaurbaugh) has been a consultant, advisor, writer, and former head of security. He's got two decades of broad experience. We connected a few years ago when he reached out with an offer to help. It's indicative of his approach - and explains why he's been an advisor to schools and those they prepare for our industry.

As such, he initially set out in an effort to "open the eyes" of those preparing for successful careers in security. In the process, he discovered powerful insights we can use today to attract and retain the talent we crave.

What sparked your desire to explore the workforce with an eye toward what we need to do to attract the talent we want?

Having served as a curriculum advisor, I realized students were picking job titles based on what appeared cool, but no real understanding of the industry. In the industry, focus is largely on a talent gap and expected salaries.

Higher education tends to lead students to believe that they will make a lot of money. And, for the most part, they are right. However, what is often overlooked is the cost of living when salaries are compared. $80,000 for a security analyst is cheap in some metro areas, but the cost of living is exuberant. An $80,000 annual salary for a new college graduate seeking a security analyst role is not realistic in many parts of the country and because the cost of living is so much less. However, students are expecting salaries which may not translate equally depending on the location.  

Money only goes so far.

Business cannot continue to pay huge salaries. I decided to explore how to better retain people by exploring the perceptions and needs of the next generation of our workforce. As a leader, I sought to retain the talented folks who worked with me. Often that meant helping them grow, even if that means they might leave for a promotion. Sometimes people leave for other reasons, too. I saw an opportunity to explore more. 

Seems simple in hindsight to ask people what they want. What prompted the approach to ask about expectations?

It seemed to be the most logical thing to do. Simply ask. Once we learn and understand, we can then tailor the environment to hopefully provide a win-win. It's not always going to be perfect, but rather than guessing, let's have the conversation and better understand what's in their head.


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