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The Hidden Costs of Losing Security Talent

One person's exit can set off a chain of costly events.

Companies know that security talent costs money and good people are hard to find. But what they don't always consider are the hidden costs of losing an experienced security analyst.

According to Simone Petrella, founder and CEO of online training firm CyberVista, an experienced security analyst commands an average annual salary of about $100,000. And when that analyst leaves a company, it typically takes eight months to replace that person and almost four months to train a replacement.

That's nearly a full year of productivity lost, she says. Then it's always possible the company could lose a second employee because that person became overloaded while the new hire was getting up to speed.

"We recommend that companies invest in their existing people," Petrella says. "They understand your institutional priorities, what the company is trying to accomplish. Most companies haven't really tapped into the people who have been furloughed or laid off from other industries because of the pandemic, and while that has some untapped potential, [companies can] grow existing people through developing skills and retooling them."

According to the US Department of Labor, a bad hire costs at least 30% of the employee's first-year earnings. For a security analyst, that's $27,000-plus, according to the SANS Institute.  

Ryan Corey, co-founder and CEO of online training site Cybrary, says companies also lose money on staffing when they don't chart a clear career path for their employees.

"Every cyber professional has recruiters calling them all the time. That's just the way it is because there are not enough people to fill the available jobs," he says. "When people feel boxed in, they will leave. They have to know what the path is to the next level."

Another issue: Companies don't handle diversity well, adds Ron Gula, a board member at Cybrary.

"By diversity I mean diversity in employment backgrounds," he says. "Companies may want to hire a pen tester because they have security experience, but they should also be looking for people who have experience in accounting, a legal department, or other types of jobs."

Finally, companies don't fund cyber departments well enough, either, Gula says.  

"Too often there's a lack of leadership, funding, and a vision for what the department could be," he says. "Sometimes they outsource and have a bad experience and then move forward with a skeleton crew."  

CyberVista's Petrella says she works with companies on developing their recruiting and retention strategies, as well as how to upskill the people they recruit.

"Companies have to 'own' the strategy or else it won't work," Petrella says. "The top cutting-edge companies are thinking this way, but most companies don't know what they have and don't have job descriptions clearly defined."