How to Maintain Cybersecurity When Your Teams Are Understaffed

As the shortage of cybersecurity professionals grows, many organizations face shrinking teams. Security is essential, but how can you maintain it when your office is understaffed? While there’s no immediate fix, many long and short-term solutions are available.

Is There a Cybersecurity Skills Shortage?

Although studies predicted the workforce gap to be 1.8 million employees by 2022, the actual number is much higher. The lack of new professionals in the industry was relatively predictable, but factors like stress and excess workloads influenced the stagnant job growth beyond what many expected.

As of 2022, the shortage of cybersecurity workers totals 3.4 million people worldwide. The steep increase represents a need for new faces and a decline in current workers. Cybersecurity skills are scarce, meaning the issue will likely continue for some time. While the long-term solution is more employees, many organizations need faster solutions to maintain their cybersecurity while understaffed.

How to Maintain Cybersecurity In the Long Term

No one can solve the employee shortage overnight, but owners and managers can take steps to mitigate it. Hiring and retaining employees is crucial to maintaining security in the long term.

1. Retain Current Employees

Although most businesses look to new graduates or applicants as the solution for understaffing, employee retention may be more significant. Currently employed individuals have skillsets tailored to their exact position, which makes them invaluable in a worker shortage.

A global study found one-third of cybersecurity professionals are debating leaving their jobs within the next two years because they feel burned out from workplace pressure. With the lack of available candidates, many organizations cannot afford to lose so many workers.

Shifting the focus to retaining them could help with the gap in the workforce. To do so, they need incentives. Since around 60% of employees stay where they’re employed based on their health care, increasing their current benefits might be a good idea. Although most things may carry a high initial cost, it’s likely cheaper than losing out on valuable talent.

2. Streamline the Hiring Process

On average, filling a cybersecurity specialist position can take up to 42 days. The new hire also often takes nearly 12 weeks to reach the same level of productivity as the rest of the team. The process is time-consuming and doesn’t typically increase security right away. Streamlining the hiring process can ensure candidates onboard quickly and more efficiently.

You could loosen some of your hiring requirements, automate training or require fewer interviews. While it’s usually nice to find the most qualified person for the job, choosing someone with soft skills and a solid resume might be necessary. You can always build on their skills once they’re in the role, as it at least removes some of the workloads from the other employees.

3. Consider Hiring Temporary or Remote Workers

While cybersecurity jobs don’t typically default to temporary or remote roles, alternatives may be necessary when an organization is understaffed. They each come with their own challenges, but they alleviate some pressure on current staff to maintain cybersecurity.

In addition, there may be benefits to hiring differently. For example, people who work from home are 47% more productive than in the office. An employee who can handle a larger workload and help with understaffing brings double the benefits.

4. Figure out How to Draw Candidates

Attracting candidates to cybersecurity roles relieves the workload of the rest of the team. Hiring new workers is easier said than done, but it’s a vital part of permanently fixing the issue of understaffing. Review the hiring process and track where potential hires are showing interest and moving forward.

It’s also possible to incentivize applicants with a better salary or more vacation days. You can justify the increased cost because a data breach costs $9.44 million on average in the United States — much higher than a slight bump in pay.

How to Maintain Cybersecurity In the Short Term

Although hiring more workers is the obvious solution for understaffing, some organizations may need other options. They must increase the support their staff gets. Optimizing productivity and efficiency is crucial to maintaining security in the short term.

1. Optimize Employee Productivity

If you can’t increase the size of your team, it might be most beneficial to increase their productivity. Productive staff can better maintain cybersecurity, giving businesses more security with fewer employees.

The challenge, then, is determining how to increase their efficiency. Since many professionals are stressed or burned out, fixing that might be the answer. Employees are 20% more productive when they’re happy because they’re willing to put in more effort throughout their work day. Optimizing your current team may be as simple as making them content.

2. Allow Flexible Schedules

Employees must address concerns promptly, but that’s not always possible when there’s a shortage of workers. To combat this, team leaders can let employees work alternative schedules.

It allows them to tackle their workload when they’re able and most productive, which can lead to better security maintenance. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers outlines more flexible schedules as one of the most impactful actions an organization can take to recruit and retain workers.

3. Prioritize Tasks

Since a smaller team won’t be able to get as much done in a workday, prioritization is crucial. All aspects of cybersecurity are equally important, but security relies on putting the essential tasks first. Team leaders or managers should determine what is most critical and direct employees to work on those things.

4. Utilize Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence may be one of the best solutions for an understaffed cybersecurity team because it can automate vital jobs and maintain security with little help. Combined with traditional methods, it can detect 95% more threats than humans. It could relieve staff of a large workload, making tackling the more important security concerns easier.

In addition, an organization can reduce its operating expenses by up to 20% using artificial intelligence. A less-expensive alternative contributes to a long-term solution because those savings can funnel directly back into hiring more workers.

Maintaining Cybersecurity Despite Understaffing

The need for cybersecurity professionals affects many industries. Security is essential, but they’re all trying to hire from the same small pool of candidates. Ultimately, permanently fixing the issue relies on increasing hiring and retention while supporting the current staff as much as possible.