Agencies Must Create a Culture of Flexibility and Belonging
Jammer and Ward spoke of the importance of building a “culture of belonging” to retain talent. Jammer said a culture of belonging is one where employees feel they can bring all of their unique selves to the workplace.
“Do you get to know employees? Do you get to understand their stories? How does that align with their career progression? Employees are looking for an opportunity to have a full-cycle lifestyle and journey with you as their whole self,” Jammer said.
When speaking of cybersecurity jobs, soft skills, culture and mental well-being may not be the first things that come to mind. Nevertheless, they’re important to the IT workforce, especially to millennials, who now make up most of the workforce. State and local governments must make sure they’re creating inclusive, accepting and flexible work environments.
“Millennials want to belong, have flexibility, do meaningful work, and they want to give back,” Ward said, noting that older generations want these things as well. “Someone told me the other day that he has a staff member in her 80s who said, ‘Please don’t take away my remote work,’ and a 24-year-old who said, ‘I want to come into the office.’ I think that just goes to show you that the name of the game is flexibility.”
Employees will also have a sense of belonging if they feel they have a future with an organization. To that end, Ward recommends reskilling workers to meet modern IT demands and better retaining workers by showing them they can grow at their current organization.
Governments Can Change How They Evaluate and Develop Talent
Agencies could also take a step back and think about what they’re looking for in candidates. For a long time, a four-year degree was required for just about any job. But more organizations are moving away from this philosophy, removing degree requirements for entry-level positions. This widens the field of candidates, which could help address workforce shortages. It also opens opportunities to hire people in underserved communities who are otherwise qualified but who may not have the resources to pursue a degree.
“Let’s talk about skills-based hiring. Is a degree really required? It’s time for us to think about how many candidates we’re turning away,” Jammer said. “Don’t get me wrong, education is important, and we want people to get degrees. But what about mothers who have left the workforce and are looking to re-enter? What about individuals who have been taking care of a family member who is ill?”
Organizations instead may look for certifications or specific job experience. Agencies can start internship and apprenticeship programs to train potential employees and give them the necessary experience to thrive there. Agencies can also create more opportunities for experiential learning by partnering with universities to create classes relevant to what agencies are looking for.
“It’s a partnership between the employer and the university,” Jammer said. “So, if I’m looking for cybersecurity, I’m going to partner with that class and provide a couple of projects. It’s a larger pipeline for my internship program.”
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