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Two-thirds of IT Employees Are Ready to Walk Out the Door: Survey

Survey Shows IT Security Pros Aren’t Getting the Business Expertise Skills They Need at Their Current Companies...

With information security initiatives becoming more prominent in organizations, now is a good time to be an IT professional. However, organizations who don't invest in their personnel run the risk of their experts moving elsewhere.

IT professionals are noticing a significant change in how they are regarded within their organizations, according to the latest research report from Wisegate, a private practitioner-based IT research services group. Instead of being treated as a nuisance or necessary evil, IT is increasingly being integrated into and respected by the business, according to the respondents—senior IT practitioners across a variety of industry sectors—who participated in the Wisegate survey.

IT Security Skills TrainingBut there is a gap somewhere, as many of the 362 IT professionals surveyed were looking for opportunities outside their organizations. Almost half of the respondents felt their organizations did not offer the opportunities they needed to advance in their careers. Two-thirds of the respondents said they expected to move on to another organization within the next two years. Respondents weren't just anticipating events beyond their control, as nearly half said they wanted to move within the year.

"The fact that two-thirds of the IT employees are waiting to walk out the door is a far bigger risk [for organizations] than the next cyber-attack or a data breach," Sara Gates, founder and CEO of Wisegate, told SecurityWeek.

A Good Work Environment

Security practitioners aren't looking elsewhere because their organizations were ignoring their concerns or downplaying the importance of security. In fact, 72 percent of Wisegate respondents said their organizations took IT "very seriously" or "somewhat seriously," according to the report. What was even more significant was the fact nobody reported "not at all seriously" to this question, the report's authors noted.

"This makes particular sense considering the shadow recent high-profile IT security incidents have cast, as well as the growing importance of mobile, apps and cloud as key business decisions that rely on IT to be successful," the authors wrote.

A little under two-thirds of the respondents said processes at their organizations were "somewhat flexible" or "somewhat rigid," according to the report. This means the IT processes aren't treated trivially, nor are they "cast in stone and impossible to change" when necessary. This kind of environment "is actually ideal for IT professionals as they work to ensure stability and order at their places of work, even as technologies and new risks require them to frequently adapt," the authors concluded.

"Business perception of IT security is at an all-time high, making security professionals more valuable on the market," Gates said.

Soft Skills Wanted

IT professionals are discovering their place in the business, their ability to affect the business, and their career options are changing. However, only 34 percent felt there were opportunities to advance in their current organizations, and 47 percent felt they would have to "leave my current company in order to move up the ladder," according to the report. And lest anyone accuse these professionals of chasing a bigger paycheck, respondents to the Wisegate survey ranked "more money" sixth out of a list of eight reasons to move.

Instead, the Wisegate participants were interested in having more opportunities to learn, facing challenging work opportunities, and receiving positive feedback from the business side of the organization. IT professionals recognize they have to develop the soft skills necessary to work effectively with their non-IT counterparts.

Organizations interested in retaining their security staff need to look at the talent pool in a smarter way, Gates said. Developing technical skills, while important, is no longer enough. Programs focusing on soft skills such as effective communication, presentations, and negotiation are important. Organizations also need to open up internal opportunities to grow and advance. These security practitioners were "very focused on the [soft] skills they need; they are self-aware," she said.

There is no need for the "lens of fear," or worrying that investments would be wasted because the practitioners are going to leave anyway, Gates suggested. Since investments accumulate, organizations can spread out initiatives over a five-year program. One or two changes each year will be more effective than trying to throw together a lot of programs with varying levels of effectiveness. "It's time to ask, 'What's the one thing you need to grow in your career?' We need to build relationships," Gates said.

The report was very clear: IT security professionals aren’t getting the business expertise skills they need at their current companies and positions, and are therefore looking elsewhere. IT professionals are in the position to gain and exert influence within their companies, and the way to stop the security exodus is to provide those opportunities internally.

"As their ability to interact grows, this can only be good for the business," the report concluded.

The full report is available online (PDF) from Wisegate.

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Fahmida Y. Rashid is a Senior Contributing Writer for SecurityWeek. She has experience writing and reviewing security, core Internet infrastructure, open source, networking, and storage. Before setting out her journalism shingle, she spent nine years as a help-desk technician, software and Web application developer, network administrator, and technology consultant.