In case you haven’t heard, one of the unexpected consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic disruption has been a massive number of people quitting their jobs. Dubbed the “Great Resignation,” this mass exodus in the workforce has led to labor shortages in many sectors along with rising salaries.
Some of this activity is directly related to the pandemic—workers in the service industry that have been displaced by shutdowns but buffered by pandemic assistance payments, have been able to delay their re-entry to the workforce and look for different or better jobs. However, in other sectors, these resignations seem to be driven by a general mass re-assessment of work by employees that have been working from home or have been furloughed.
According to Fortune, the quit rate has hit an all-time high, although this trend has not affected every sector equally.
All this turnover exacerbates an already big workforce gap in the cybersecurity sector. The U.S. Commerce Department estimates there are about 464,000 U.S. cyber job openings, but not enough new, qualified workers to fill them, according to an article in the Washington Post. Moreover, with cyber-attacks increasing significantly during the pandemic, the need for qualified cybersecurity staff continues to grow.
Staff turnover has also generated new vulnerabilities, as many companies find that former employees have left with company data or may still have access to password-protected applications or networks.
For MSPs, this creates opportunities for business growth while also posing some hiring challenges.
MSPs that provide security services have already seen first-hand how small and mid-sized businesses have struggled to face new cyber threats with an IT staff that has been stretched thin. Unfortunately, current employment trends are only going to make that problem worse.
While large companies may be able to handle their security needs internally, other companies will increasingly turn to vendors to provide automated security tools and services like XDR (Extended Detection and Response) and MDR (Managed Detection and Response). As a result, SMBs will need a managed services provider that can help them utilize these tools and educate their staff.
MSPs can also help companies with a high degree of staff turnover to better lock down their infrastructure during the onboarding/offboarding process.
MSPs are also going to face their own hiring challenges. Like their clients, they will be competing for a shrinking pool of qualified candidates. There are few opportunities to expand the field of potential new hires that could be beneficial moving forward.
For example, companies could institute training programs to help create a home-grown team of cybersecurity experts from different departments within the organization. Likewise, MSPs can help their employees learn new skills to address this rapidly expanding market opportunity.
There could also be an expansion of diversity in the hiring base¬—that includes reaching out to a wide variety of educational institutes and hiring employees with a more diverse set of backgrounds and technical skills that may be applicable in cybersecurity. This has the additional benefit of bringing a fresh perspective to security challenges that could help improve responses to these rapidly evolving threats.
Many of the employees who have recently resigned positions were mid-career professionals. According to the Harvard Business Review, there was a 20 percent increase in resignations by people between 30 and 45. In addition, hundreds of thousands of women also left the workforce over the past year. These former employees are typically looking for new opportunities for growth that they could not find in their previous positions.
This is a vast pool of potential employees with a professional background that can leverage their soft skills in cybersecurity positions, according to Forbes.
Savvy MSPs can seize this moment. Help clients weather workforce upheaval by providing the automated software and managed services they need to keep data and applications safe, even when they may be short-staffed in the IT department. MSPs can also help grow the pool of available cybersecurity talent by investing in their employees and hiring/training professionals from non-traditional backgrounds.
It isn’t clear how long the volatile labor market will last, but MSPs can now take advantage of the opportunity to grow their businesses and workforces.
Nathan Bradbury is Senior Manager of Systems Engineering for Barracuda MSP, a provider of security and data protection solutions for managed services providers.