How your Business can Overcome the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

10 minutes

The cybersecurity skills gap and talent shortage pose a significant risk to organizations wo...

The cybersecurity skills gap and talent shortage pose a significant risk to organizations worldwide, especially as the level of cyber threats increases and the demand for IT security specialists reaches an all-time high. This guide explores the depths of the cybersecurity talent shortage and skills gap, dissecting the challenges businesses face according to recent industry studies.

Once we’ve addressed the staffing challenges of cybersecurity, we’ll present you with valuable steps to help you overcome the skills gap and talent shortage, including the need to diversify your talent pool, upskill your existing workforce, and leverage technology advancements and automation.

Addressing the staffing challenges of cybersecurity

In addition to the latest cybersecurity trends of 2024, the IT security space faces a daunting hurdle regarding the ever-expanding skills gap and talent shortage. As threats become more sophisticated, the demand for top cybersecurity specialists has never been more sought after. 

However, a noticeable lack of individuals with the specific skill sets and deep knowledge to combat evolving threats poses a risk to organizations and the global cyber and IT infrastructure. 

The Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) reported that 71% of businesses revealed the cybersecurity skills gap directly impacted them, a significant increase from the 57% recorded in their previous study. This shortage is one of the most significant challenges of cybersecurity and stems from issues such as increased workloads, lack of new hires, and burnout.

Breaking down the responses from the ISSA study:

  • Increased workload for cybersecurity teams (61%)
  • Unfilled job posts (49%)
  • Burnout rates among staff (43%) 

Alarmingly, 95% of respondents said the cybersecurity skills gap and its associated impacts have shown no signs of improvement over the past few years, with 54% asserting that the situation has only worsened - a 10% increase on the 2021 study.

Respondents also highlighted application security, cloud security, and security analysis and investigations as the areas where the cybersecurity skills shortage needs the most attention. Additionally, 60% of respondents believe their organizations could do more to tackle the cybersecurity talent shortage, with 36% believing they could do much more.

The ISC2 2023 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, a not-for-profit member company for cybersecurity specialists, presents a further analysis of these skills and talent challenges. Their survey of over 14,000 IT security professionals revealed a global cybersecurity talent shortage of 4 million people, representing an increase of over 12% from 2022. 

Despite a close to 10% increase in the global number of cybersecurity professionals, reaching a workforce of 5.5 million in 2022, 92% of surveyed professionals admit to skills gaps within their organizations. 

Breaking down those who admitted an IT security skills gap within their company:

  • 44% had difficulty in locating individuals possessing the necessary skills
  • 43% noted one or more substantial or crucial cybersecurity skills gap
  • 42% identified challenges in retaining employees with sought-after skills

Additionally, 67% of respondents said their organization had a cybersecurity talent shortage. This shortfall of talent stems from cost-saving cutbacks such as budget reductions, layoffs, and hiring freezes - as the ISC2 report highlights:

  • 47% of workers have experienced cybersecurity-related cutbacks
  • 71% were impacted by these cutbacks with increased workloads
  • 57% believe this compromised their ability to respond to cyber threats

Layoffs appear to intensify these skills gaps, with 51% of organizations that have had cybersecurity layoffs experiencing significant skills gaps compared to 39% of businesses that recorded no layoffs.

Taking a proactive stance in addressing the IT security skills gap is crucial, especially as the demand for cyber expertise intensifies. To address the staffing challenges of cybersecurity, organizations must consider innovative recruitment strategies. 

Steps you can take to overcome the cybersecurity skills gap

As the cybersecurity industry experiences a skills gap and talent shortage, companies must find solutions to ensure they have the workforce to combat the rising level of cyber threats. Thankfully, we can support you with this. From diversifying your talent pool to upskilling your existing employees and turning to technology advancements and automation, here are the steps you can take to overcome the cybersecurity skills gap.

Diversify your cybersecurity talent pool

The first step you can take to overcome the cybersecurity skills gap is to diversify your talent pool. Here, we mean broadening the scope of your search beyond traditional qualifications and experience and turning to candidates with varied backgrounds and transferable skills. Doing so can bring your IT security team a wealth of untapped potential.

  • Focus on transferable skills

With the current skills and staff shortages, it's crucial to recognize how transferable skills can be developed via on-the-job experiences in other tech-related roles. These skills allow the ideal candidate to seamlessly transition into a cybersecurity job, contributing to the development of your internal IT security expertise. 

For example, the skills developed in troubleshooting and solving tech-related issues for customers, such as those gained by individuals operating on a company support desk, can translate seamlessly into cybersecurity. The ability to identify and address issues, combined with customer-facing skills, provides a strong foundation for aspiring talent.

Additionally, these skills are transferable to cybersecurity and can be crucial in supporting areas such as pen testing, quality assurance, and product development. Prioritizing these transferable skills in your future talent search can broaden your talent pool and boost the overall skill set of your IT department.

  • Consider the attitudes of your candidates

Of course, technical qualifications are important for finding the people you need to join your IT security team. However, when diversifying your talent pool, you should also place emphasis on the attitudes of candidates during the cybersecurity recruitment process. Remember, not everyone has the privilege of earning a degree or tech-related qualification. Still, it doesn't mean they're not capable of making an impact on your business - especially if they have a passion for cybersecurity. 

The right attitude can make a candidate a strong cybersecurity specialist. It's essential not to discount prospective talent solely based on a lack of specific technical qualifications or experience. Skills can be taught, but a positive attitude and the ability to adapt are intrinsic qualities that go a long way to contributing significantly to the success of a cybersecurity professional and your business.

Consider candidates with a passion for IT security, be it entry-level talent or those looking to transition from a similar tech-related role. Again, these people can pick up skills, but their passion is something you cannot teach - and you cannot ignore. Individuals who are passionate about IT security and want to tackle the challenges of cybersecurity head-on are the types of people worth investing in if you want to grow your company and close the skills gap. 

  • Rethink your job ads

You should reconsider how you frame job advertisements to attract more diverse candidates. Shifting the focus from rigid qualifications to personal attributes can be an excellent way to encourage individuals from underrepresented groups. 

Highlighting the importance of a candidate's mindset, problem-solving abilities, and interpersonal skills can make cybersecurity jobs more accessible to a broader talent base.

  • Attract candidates with paid internships

Another step you can take to attract a more diverse talent pool to help close the cybersecurity talent shortage and skills gap is to consider offering paid internships to aspiring IT security professionals. Paid internships can act as a means of introducing untapped talent from underrepresented communities and backgrounds to the field of cybersecurity. 

Internships can provide hands-on experience and technical knowledge to your future talent, serving as a pathway for diverse talent to enter the industry and kickstart their cybersecurity careers with your business. 

It's worth noting that embracing inclusivity and diversity in your talent pool is not just a response to the skills gap and talent shortage; it's a strategic move that fosters innovation, creativity, and resilience within your business. By tapping into a broader range of backgrounds and experiences, you can strengthen your IT security team and position your business for success in the ever-evolving tech space.

Upskill your existing workforce

When addressing the cybersecurity skills gap within your business, investing in upskilling your existing workforce is another impactful strategy. Of course, some organizations don't have the internal resources or the know-how to train their current workforce when it comes to upskilling. This is fine, and it's not essential for companies to create their own extensive in-house educational programs. 

Instead, they can empower employees to develop foundational technical and cybersecurity skills through online courses and outsourced programs. As well as an opportunity to upskill your existing workforce, this training can also be used to reskill your current IT security team. 

For context, the following platforms offer accessible and valuable training options:

  • Coursera
  • CompTIA
  • ISC2 
  • ISSA
  • edX
  • Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
  • National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS)

By prioritizing training and development, you can address the cybersecurity skills gap and keep updated with the evolving threat landscape. Upskilling your existing workforce will simultaneously support your employee retention strategy, as mentioned earlier. It can also help attract top candidates to your business who see the value you can bring to their careers with the training opportunities you offer. Additionally, it fosters a positive cycle of growth within your organization.

Another benefit of upskilling your existing workforce is how it impacts employee retention. Employee turnover can be costly, often stemming from boredom or a perceived lack of career advancement opportunities. Not only could you lose a talented team member, potentially to a competitor, but it can also cost your business financially. It can range from 33% to 200% of the departing employee's salary to replace them. 

However, upskilling can bridge the cybersecurity skills shortage and enhance employee retention, presenting a win-win scenario for your business. If an existing staff member sees an opportunity to upskill from their current role into an IT security job they've been eager to transition into, they'll be more inclined to remain with your business rather than look for opportunities elsewhere.  

While upskilling your existing staff is an excellent step to closing the skills gap, it's essential to recognize that addressing the cybersecurity talent shortage within your organization is a gradual process. You should view training and development as long-term investments, understanding that building talent takes time but can be immensely valuable for your employee retention and your ability to keep your business protected from emerging cyber threats.

Utilize technology advancements and automation

Another step you can take to help close the skills gap and talent shortage of cybersecurity specialists is to turn to technology advancements and automation.

In the ongoing battle against cyber threats, technology advancements and automation are emerging as crucial tools to prevent various emerging cyber threats. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration is recognized as invaluable to cybersecurity, with 73% of respondents in a survey by UK-based company Integrity360 seeing AI as vital for incident response. Automation through AI can be pivotal in alleviating the burden on cybersecurity teams by reducing reliance on human resources for repetitive tasks. With 57% of organizations already adopting automation and an additional 26% planning to do so, it’s clear that automation is on the rise. 

Adopting automation tools can help close the cybersecurity talent shortage and allow existing security professionals to channel their expertise into tackling intricate and complex security challenges that demand human judgment and critical thinking.

Machine Learning (ML) is also heralded as a game-changer in cybersecurity operations. Its capacity to identify anomalies, analyze vast data volumes, and respond to cyber threats allows organizations to enhance their threat detection and incident response capabilities while staying ahead of emerging threats.

Adopting cybersecurity automation platforms with low or no-code interfaces is also pivotal to simplifying complexity in cybersecurity. Automation AI and ML Solutions offering the ability to code using standard formats ensure accessibility for users with varying IT security skill sets. 

Additionally, no-code automation options through easy-to-follow tutorials and playbooks make cybersecurity more accessible to talent with limited skills or those transitioning into an IT security role. This inclusive approach makes automation a collaborative effort, enhancing efficiency and adaptability while also helping to assist with the ongoing cybersecurity skills gap.

Of course, AI and ML’s ability to rapidly analyze data proves invaluable, freeing the time of skilled security professionals to focus on more strategic tasks. However, caution is advised against solely relying on these automation technologies, especially among talent lacking strong IT security skills.


While aiding cybersecurity talent, AI and ML coding tools present a potential risk of increased security vulnerabilities, emphasizing the need for individuals capable of safely utilizing automation technologies.

Ultimately, a balanced approach is recommended when using automation tools to help close the skills gap in cybersecurity and keep your business secure. Here, we mean that repetitive, low-risk tasks could be automated, allowing your IT security talent to focus on irregular, high-impact investigations. However, these automation tools should be closely monitored with a human touch to ensure they operate efficiently and avoid contracting any security vulnerabilities. 

The final word on the cybersecurity skills gap

Overcoming the cybersecurity talent shortage and skills gap is a critical step for businesses facing the ever-evolving level of cyber threats. The alarming statistics from studies conducted by ISSA and ISC2 highlight the urgency of addressing this challenge. Thankfully, as mentioned in this guide, your organization can employ a multifaceted approach to navigate these skills and talent gaps.

Firstly, diversifying your talent pool by recognizing and prioritizing transferable skills, considering candidates' attitudes, and rethinking job advertisements can broaden the horizon of potential cybersecurity specialists. Offering paid internships also further facilitates the entry of diverse talent into the field.

Secondly, upskilling your existing workforce through accessible platforms like Coursera, CompTIA, ISC2, and others is a strategic move that addresses the skills gap and enhances employee retention. This long-term investment helps build a skilled and loyal team, crucial for protecting against emerging cyber-attacks.

Lastly, leveraging technology advancements and automation, particularly through AI and ML, is essential in augmenting cybersecurity capabilities. While automation can alleviate the burden on cybersecurity teams, a balanced approach is advised, with careful monitoring to mitigate potential security vulnerabilities. By taking these steps, your business can position itself to thrive against the challenges of cybersecurity.

In tackling the skills gap and talent shortage, you should also recognize the importance and value of cybersecurity recruitment. Learn more about this by reading our guide on How IT Recruitment Agencies Can Benefit Your Business. Alternatively, scroll below to see how we can support you directly.

Specialists in cybersecurity recruitment

If you're looking for support in closing the cybersecurity skills gap in your business, we are here to help. Our specialist cybersecurity recruitment team has the expertise to connect you with the best talent in the competitive market. By partnering with us, we won't just supply you with the people you need; we'll guide you through the hiring process to help you overcome the skills gap and cybersecurity talent shortage.

Contact us today to discuss your specific cybersecurity recruitment needs and find out what it means to partner with us.