The cybersecurity talent pipeline is facing the same challenges as many industries. A strong job market and low unemployment mean that many well-qualified professionals aren’t actively seeking new jobs. As a result, cybersecurity needs to look to the latest generation entering the workforce, Gen Z. Gen Z is a unique generation, which makes the ability to recruit and retain them much different. They have new ideas about work and that it should be more than a job and provide them with purpose and fulfillment—a trending topic in the world of HR known as meaningful work.
In this post, we’ll examine the Gen Z demographic, what matters to them, the concept of meaningful work, and how cybersecurity leaders can use this information to connect with a new generation of workers.
All About Gen Z and Their Entrance into the Workforce
Gen Z describes individuals born between 1997 and 2012. They currently make up almost 21% of the U.S. population. The oldest of this group have entered the job market, with many more to come in the next few years.
Gen Z is described as the most racially and ethnically diverse generation. They are also digital natives who have had a device in their hands most of their lives. This demographic has also been through many major events during their young lives, including the war on terror, a major recession where they witnessed parents and family members lose jobs, and the pandemic.
All these factors shape how they view work and what’s important to them. They are often adamant about work-life balance, flexibility, autonomy, and having modern technology as part of their job. In addition to these expectations, they also want to work for organizations that share their values. In fact, 77% of Gen Z said this was important in response to a survey conducted by Deloitte. Another thing they value highly in an employer is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), which 87% agreed was critical when considering jobs.
Gen Z also cares about company culture. Cybersecurity should be very culture-focused, which could entice them. Overall, they want to work for a company that cares about their well-being.
Work for them isn’t about a “grind” or purely a transactional relationship. They desire meaningful work, and if it’s not present, they’ll have no problem moving to the next opportunity. Long gone are the days when employees worked for a single company their entire lives.
As a cybersecurity leader, ingesting this information about Gen Z may give you pause. Yet, they have some key attributes that make them attractive as workers beyond technical skills.
How Gen Z Workers Can Benefit Cybersecurity
Gen Z had a big head start on technology aptitude. It’s been part of their lives forever, and they’ve been early adopters. Beyond these skills, cybersecurity leaders are placing more emphasis on people skills, which is the central message in my book, The Smartest Person in the Room. These can be very hard to develop in older workers that have been in the industry for years.
The nature of Gen Z’s life experiences naturally predisposes them to value being communicators and collaborators. The stereotype of this group as never putting down their phones and being detached in communication isn’t accurate. They do love tech and spend lots of time on social media, but it’s not their entire personality.
Since they sincerely care about the world around them, they also understand the value of having strong interpersonal skills. Some might not be as confident in soft skills, but they won’t “fight” you on realizing the need to develop them as older generations may. As a result, they may be more amenable to participating in exercises, programs, and activities that will help them cultivate better people skills.
All these things make Gen Z an attractive group for cybersecurity careers. The onus of making your industry and company appealing has a lot to do with meaningful work.
What Is Meaningful Work?
Meaningful work is a newish concept in the world of HR. Its definition is somewhat flexible because “meaning” is subjective to an individual. The idea is universal in that it means that an employee believes the work to be important for the greater good and is part of something. As a result, workers are motivated and engaged in what they do.
Another aspect of meaningful work is that employees can use critical thinking skills and be problem-solvers versus taskmasters.
Both align with a career in cybersecurity and what Gen Z wants in a career. In the end, meaningful work is good for workers and businesses.
For example, employees who engage in meaningful work from their perspective may positively impact their mental health, something Gen Z is serious about. Healthier employees typically have fewer absences than their depressed counterparts. They’ll also be more engaged in building a strong cybersecurity culture and collaborating to do great things.
An environment of meaningful work supports retention, as well. The attachment that occurs in this situation delivers tangible benefits. Companies can see 50% less turnover and a 56% increase in job performance.
It can also deter burnout, which can be a problem in cybersecurity. It’s a high-stress field with many risks, threats, and stakeholders. If you have a team that feels the work is meaningful, that you and the organization value them, and is a culture that’s inclusive, you have an advantage over others. As a result, you’ll be a more attractive option for those entering the field.
So, how do you promote your company as one that delivers meaningful work?
Attracting Gen Z with the Promise of Meaningful Work
There are a few key strategies to consider when recruiting Gen Z and using the angle of meaningful work. First, it’s essential to know that Gen Z is proactive in their job search. For those in college, a quarter of them began job searching in the first two years. Second, they seek internships to get experience for the future and test out a field to see if it’s a good fit. Taking this into consideration, here are some ideas.
Partner with Universities and Community Colleges to Find Talent
Get to Gen Z while they are still learning by creating relationships with educational institutions. It’s an excellent way for students to become aware of your company. This can lead to mutually beneficial internships. The first impressions that Gen Z has about your company will matter, so talk about culture and how much you value interpersonal skills as much as technical ones.
Add Meaningful Work to Job Descriptions
Most cybersecurity job descriptions are dry and standard. It looks like a computer wrote it! Gen Z will not respond to this, as they value authenticity. Be honest in how you position your roles. Yes, it’s important to talk about technical skills, but you can also include that meaningful work is part of your organization and that you provide an environment where people can learn and grow.
Tap Your Current Gen Z Employees for Referrals
If you already have Gen Z workers on your team, talk to them about referrals. Ideally, if they are happy with the company and the work, they’ll be up for this. A referral is better than most applications for both parties. For you, it’s a sign that your employee vouches for them. For the candidate, they’ve heard about what it’s really like to work for you and weren’t discouraged by what they learned.
Once Gen Z becomes part of your group, you have another consideration that makes or breaks. How will older generations react to them?
Is Your Team Ready for Gen Z and Meaningful Work?
If you’ve made meaningful work a priority, then your current employees know this. However, it’s not going to matter to all of them. Some are still stuck in old perceptions about cybersecurity. Their “meaning” is that they are the smartest, most capable technical people. If that’s your current predicament, there will be some friction.
In a way, you have to prepare them for the entrance of Gen Z, which will require that they work on their people skills. Hopefully, they’ll realize this process benefits them in many ways. However, it involves change, and resistance is inevitable. Through the Secure Methodology™, which I developed in my book, you can find a seven-step guide on how to transform these outdated mindsets.
They’ll be helpful for all your employees, regardless of their generation. The way they respond and their effort will vary. Ultimately, you’re trying to work as a cohesive team that respects each other, cooperates well, communicates clearly, and can find meaning in what they do.
The journey ahead will be challenging at times. You have a chance to make a real difference in the lives of your employees and your company’s ability to manage risk and mitigate threats. Use the Secure Methodology as a blueprint to do that. Get the entire message by reading my book and check out the Secure Methodology course, as well.