Community engagement is one of those phrases we hear frequently. We share that we’re involved and that we give back, but what does this really mean for the bottom line of workforce management? After several years in the cyber security community I can tell you it means a lot, not only to your bottom line but also to your retention, recruitment, and training efforts.
When I talk about community engagement, I’m not talking about bake sales, but large-scale technical and information security organizations that are completely volunteer run and have existed for over 25 years.
After being involved with several organizations, I noticed that my co-volunteers were not only developing their volunteer responsibilities, but also evolving their careers. I asked myself: were these just anomalies, or was this representative of the community as a whole?
We globally surveyed information security and cyber security professionals who volunteer to learn more about what they gain from volunteering, how they’re supported by their employers, and what would make them move to a new company. Of our participants, 82 percent were full-time employees and more than 80 percent were supported by their employers. The participants tended to be in their careers for at least 10 years, in their mid to late 30s, and volunteered at least 10 hours a month.
In the technical communities, it’s constantly reported that professionals also need non-technical or “soft” skills, but there are rarely training opportunities in the workplace to develop these skills. Survey participants reported that the key skills they learned through volunteering were: Teamwork, 81 percent; organizing, 79 percent; communication, 75 percent; and planning, 74 percent.
Information security and cyber security tend to be industries with a lot of negativity, however, 94 percent of survey participants shared they felt they had a positive impact on the community through volunteering. It can also be difficult to find fulfillment in the workplace, but participants shared that 98 percent of them felt fulfilled because of their volunteer commitments.
The most common benefit that participants received from employers was paid time off to volunteer. This usually means 3-8 days a year depending on the type of organization and whether it’s local or global. More than 56 percent stayed with their current employer because of support for community engagement, and over 97 percent said that support for community engagement would encourage them to move to a new organization.
What’s great about supporting community engagement is that resources can be allocated from different departments such as human resources, training, and marketing, which can benefit the company as a whole and support key areas spanning recruiting, branding, and career development.
How can you start? Survey your employees to find out which organizations and conferences they already support and which ones they would like to be involved with. You’ll be surprised at the wealth of information you gather and the level of community engagement currently going on. Get involved, show your support, and reap the benefits of community engagement—you may be receiving benefits already without even knowing it.
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