High Turnover Rate for Cyber Security Professionals

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Executive Summary

Cyber security has become one of the major concerns for the government of Oman and other regional countries over the recent past. As shown in the paper, there has been a rapid shift from the analogue to the digital world of information management. The problem is that as many people shift to the digital platform, they are becoming targets of cybercriminals who target their finances or critical data for selfish personal gains. The government has the responsibility of protecting the cyberspace from such criminals. The challenge that it has been facing is that some of its highly talented experts in this field rarely work for the government for long. This study aimed to investigate the high turnover rate for cyber security professionals at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and propose ways of addressing the problem. The researcher used secondary data sources to achieve the aim of the study. Factors such as limited career growth, poor pay, rigid management structure, limited integration, and failure to involve workers in decision-making processes were identified as some of the main causes of the problem. The researcher recommends that the ministry should address each of these issues effectively to enable it retain its most talented workers.

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Introduction

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has been investing a lot in recruiting and training cyber security experts to help in combating cybercrime in the country. Oman, just like many other nations around the world, has been facing increased cases of online-based criminal activities that target government institutions, corporate entities, and individual citizens (Maqbool et al., 2020). These crimes range from theft of money or crucial information to malicious attacks and radicalization. The ministry has been working with other security agents to ensure that the country’s cyberspace remains as secure as possible. As Moisan and Gonzalez (2017) note, traditional policing strategies can no longer work in combating this problem. It is necessary to involve highly skilled cyber security professionals who can track online activities of these criminals and help trace their physical locations and identity while at the same time making it impossible for them to achieve their malicious goals.

The problem that the ministry is currently facing is the high turnover rate of these cyber security experts. Hu et al. (2020) observe that most of these experts take a very short period working for the government before switching to private practice. Others get hired by large corporations within the country or abroad where they are offered a better salary and opportunity for career growth. Some are even recruited by large criminal syndicates that target governmental or non-governmental organization for specific goals. The government spend a lot of time and resources to train these experts only to lose them when their services are needed the most. The brain drain at the ministry means that it cannot fight this crime effectively at a time when most of the government transactions are moving to the digital platform. It means that the ministry and other public institutions are getting increasingly vulnerable because of the potential attacks.

The primary aim of this paper is to investigate the high turnover rate for cyber security professionals at the Ministry of Communications and Technology in Oman. The ministry is spending a lot of money and time every year to train cyber security experts so that they can help in combating different forms of crime in the online platform. Most of these employees are taken soon after graduating from institution of higher learning at a time when they have limited experience in this field. However, soon after gaining practical knowledge and experience needed to deliver the desired results, they move from the ministry to start their private practice or to work for private firms.

The report will cover various theoretical concepts and frameworks about employee management and retention. These theories will help explain why employees sometimes consider moving from one employer to the other. The analysis will help to explain reasons why there is a high turnover rate of cyber security professionals at the ministry. The paper will then focus on ways in which this problem can be addressed effectively by the management. The ministry cannot afford to lose its top experts at a time when cyber security is becoming a major concern in the country. The paper will discuss ways in which highly skilled cyber security experts can be retained. The report will also provide a personal reflect report, explaining the milestones achieved in this course and future goals.

In this study, the researcher relied on secondary data as the only source of information because of the limited time. This method of collecting data was considered appropriate and effective because of the current COVID-19 pandemic that has limited the physical interaction of people. The researcher had to rely on published sources to collect the relevant data. The researcher used peer-reviewed journals published within the last five years. They were obtained from various online databases such as JSTOR and Google Scholar. Books were also used to provide further information for the study. When selecting each of the sources of secondary data, it was critical to ensure that their reliability and validity are taken into consideration.

Analysis and Contemporary Theory

Cyber security has become the central focus of governments all over the world. As Cogin, Ng and Lee (2016) put it, it is the new frontier in the world of security because of the shift from the analogue to the digital platform of communication and information management. The global society is moving away from the use of papers to a new platform where data is stored in computers and shared through internet connectivity. The transformation has been swift and effective in many sectors of the economy. Financial institutions have created a platform where their clients can conduct various online transactions without necessarily having to physically visit the brick-and-mortar offices. Large corporations currently collect, process, store, and share important data in online platforms. The government of Oman has also embraced the emerging technologies, making most of its services available through online platforms.

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The growing relevance of the digital technology has transformed crime in the modern world. Robbery with violence using weapons such as guns and knives is rare in the modern society. Criminals have learned about the new and huge opportunity that the digital platform offers them. According to Figueroa et al. (2019), it is now easier for them to use online platforms to identify targets and steal money or data from them. These techno savvy criminals often target financial institutions and individuals with the primary goal of stealing money. Sometimes their target is crucial information that they can sell to other parties or use to blackmail their victims into paying them or doing what they want. It is the responsibility of the government to find effective ways of fighting these criminals and protecting individuals, corporate entities, and public institutions.

Current Issue at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology: Case Study

The primary issue at the ministry is that there is a high turnover rate of employees, especially the cyber security professionals who are responsible for fighting online fraud and other criminal activities committed in the online platform. In many cases, these individuals are hired when they have just graduated from institutions of higher learning. The government spends its resources and time to equip them with unique skills with the hope that they will be retained in the public institutions in which they are assigned. Unfortunately, most of them leave soon after completing these costly training. Some get hired in large multinational corporations while others go to the private practice (Field and Chan, 2018). They make such moves because of the desire to get better remuneration or career growth.

The mass exodus of highly skilled cyber security professionals from the ministry to private practice has a massive impact on the institution. One of the main effects of the trend is the reduced capacity to deliver on its mandate. When individuals who are expected to perform specific tasks quit, there is a gap created. The few who choose to remain may not handle all the tasks that were to be shared with their colleagues. It means that the overall performance of the organization will drop significantly, leaving the country exposed to attacks from cybercriminals. The level of innovation will also be significantly reduced at the ministry because of these problems. After gaining new skills, these experts are expected to work as a unit to find new ways of achieving their goal.

When they leave prematurely, the ability of the institution to innovate new ways of undertaking their activities is significantly compromised. It takes a lot of time to recruit and train others to have such skills. There is also the loss of time and resources when these individuals leave. The management will also be affected by such high rate of turnover of their experts. During recruitment, there is always the expectation that such workers will remain loyal employees for many years. When they leave prematurely, there is a disruption in the normal running of activities within the institution.

The government is aware of the existence of this problem and its impact on the ministry’s performance. It is clear to the relevant authorities that it is no longer tenable for the government to continue hiring and training individuals in this field only to lose them soon after. The trend has significantly compromised the capacity of the ministry and other relevant government organs to fight crime committed in the digital platforms. Identifying reasons why these individuals are quitting their jobs is the only effective of addressing the problem. The leadership of this ministry must determine why its skilled employees often prefer working for private companies. Each of these reasons for high turnover rate will need to be assessed and their solutions determined. It is important to look at the problem from different points of view to find a comprehensive approach of addressing it. The following are some of the issues that may be attributed to the high turnover rates for cyber security professionals at the ministry.

Management Issues

The management policies and strategies that this ministry uses have partly been blamed for the high rate at which employees quit to work for private entities or to start their practice. As Udum (2017) explains, the management is expected to create an enabling environment for employees that motivates them and increases their levels of satisfaction at work. The following are some of the specific management issues that have partly created the problem at this ministry.

Rigid Organization Structure

Having a rigid organizational structure is detrimental to the success of an organization. According to Gile et al. (2018), a rigid organizational structure limits creativity and innovativeness of employees. They are always expected to behave in a given way at all times without deviation. Many employees resent working in such an environment. They feel that their views do not matter and cannot be taken seriously by those who are in power. In a rigid organizational structure, information always has to flow hierarchically, from the senior most officer to the junior workers and back. In such a system, distortion of information, especially from junior officers is always common. A highly skilled employee will feel suffocated in such an environment and can easily opt to explore other opportunities. The desire to gain some form of independence and to work in an organization where their views matter can easily push them to quit their jobs even when they are paid attractive salaries.

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Management Style

The management style at this ministry has been an issue that has partly contributed to the high turnover rate of highly skilled experts. The ministry embraces a top-down leadership approach with a high-power culture. Decision-making process is centralized at the top management level. It means that junior officers have to regularly consult with the top management unit whenever they want to make important decisions. It takes long to get such approvals, especially when trying to address an urgent issue within the firm. The management has deliberately failed to decentralize power through delegation of some of the responsibilities.

Employees have to wait for instructions from the top management to act in a given way. Rasool (2019) explains that centralization of power slows operations and limits creativity within a firm. When employees have to constantly consult with their superiors whenever they want to try something new, they will eventually give up because of the complex process. Their unique skills will be less useful if they are not offered an environment where they can think and act freely without the fear of intimidation from their superiors. Given opportunity, such employees can easily move to other organizations where they believe their skills can be put to use to enhance their career growth.

Lack of Clear Leader’s Vision

The problem at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has partly been blamed on lack of a clear leader’s vision at the top level of management. It is the responsibility of the top leader to provide the necessary guidance that is meant to maintain a pool of highly satisfied employees within the ministry. However, there have been claims that most of those who hold this highest office in the ministry lack concern and commitment towards employees. They feel it is normal for some of them to consider moving to private practice when opportunity arises. As such, they have failed to put in place measures that can help minimize employee turnover (Roome, Raven, and Martineau, 2014). When these experts raise concerns about the workplace environment and issues such as their safety and security, the ministry takes time to address them.

Sometimes they are promised that specific actions will be taken, but nothing happens soon after that. Lack of a clear vision by the top leaders also creates a situation where the ministry is not sure how it should handle its experts. Cases where individuals are assigned tasks which are not in line with their specialty is common. Babapour, Gholipour and Mehralian (2018) explain that mismatching one’s skills with job can be a frustrating experience for employees. They will end up performing not because they lack the capacity or commitment but because they are given an assignment that is not in line with what they know. Every time they perform poorly, they become demoralized. Such employees also get affected when they fail to practice what they learned. It limits their ability to achieve career growth (Sumah and Baatiema, 2019). Such individuals may easily consider starting a private practice or working for non-governmental institutions.

Human Resources Issues

The problem that the ministry faces can also be attributed to human resource issues. The minister in charge of the ministry may not have time to supervise all the activities. As such, there are different departments, which are assigned different roles. The human resource unit has the primary responsibility of recruiting, hiring, training, and retaining employees. It spends a lot in the training of employees within the department but has failed to retain some of the best talents because of the following reasons.

Employee Training and Development

It is expected that employees should be taken through regular training as a way of developing their skills and creating a path for their career growth. However, reports indicate that this department has failed to fulfill this responsibility effectively. Most of these employees are taken through training when they have just been hired from colleges so that they understand what is expected of them. After that, there is no effort that the management makes to ensure that their skills are sharpened further through regular training. Those who want to go for further studies have to do so at their expenses. The lack of commitment by the ministry to empower its employee has been a demoralizing factor, especially taking into consideration the fact that non-governmental entities and commercial companies are investing in their workers. These employees develop a fear that they may experience stagnation in their career path. In such cases, the best cause of action is to switch to other companies where they are assured of the desired growth.

Lack of Motivation

The human resource department is expected to motivate employees as a way of ensuring that they are retained within the firm. As Mozzaquatro et al. (2018) observe, employee motivation may take different approaches in an organizational setting. One of the best ways of motivating employees is to ensure that they are given attractive remuneration that reflects their input in the firm. These financial issues are discussed in this section below. Lykou, Anagnostopoulou and Gritzalis (2018) note that sometimes the human resource department can use non-financial strategies to motivate employees. One such strategy is to publicly recognize employees who register impressive performance. Such public recognition creates a sense of pride among employees. It makes them feel valued and respected even when such an initiative does not involve a financial reward. Employees will remain committed to their work knowing that the management understands and appreciates the effort they are making. Motivation may also come in the form of promotion. Employees who register impressive performance within the ministry should be promoted to higher ranks. It creates an assurance that these experts can achieve career growth within the ministry without having to work for private entities.

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Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and innovation are critical in promoting career growth among employees. However, the two can only be inculcated in an environment where employees can work freely without the fear of being intimidated by their superiors. In an innovative environment, there must be an understanding that mistakes are normal as long as they are not deliberate and are to try something new. When the management is too strict and emphasizes the need to follow instructions provided by the top management, creativity will be reduced. Employees will avoid trying new initiatives because of the fear of consequences of making mistakes. The ministry has failed to empower its employees to make them creative in their respective places of work. Dawson and Thomson (2018) explain that one of the best ways of promoting creativity and innovativeness is to maintain regular training of workers. Through such initiatives, they learn new practices that can enable them to perform their tasks more efficiently. They become confident enough to try new initiatives of solving problems that they face at work. Lack of creativity and innovation within this ministry is part of the problem that has led to the loss of some of the highly talented cyber security officers.

Financial Aspects

It is important to note that financial aspects such as salaries and incentives also play a role in ensuring that highly talented employees are retained within the firm. According to Linkov et al. (2019), an overwhelming majority of people go to work regularly because of the need to meet their basic needs. As such, salary is one of the major factors that define the ability of one to remain loyal to a specific employer. When a firm fails to offer attractive remunerations, chances of retaining its highly skilled employees will be significantly low. The ministry has failed to use this strategy to attract and retain some of the highly skilled cyber security experts in the country.

Processes

Processes within an organization can also affect the ability to retain talented employees. The problem that the ministry is currently facing may be attributed to the current attendance system and the appraisal system, as discussed below. The management must find a way of addressing these issues effectively.

Current Attendance System Not Flexible

The attendance system within an organization should be as flexible as possible to create room for creativity within an organization. In the current business environment, employees can work from home or even when they are in a vacation as long as they deliver expected result. In the field of cyber security management, most of these employees are expected to work on online platforms. When the management creates an environment where employees have to report to work regularly, their creativity and even the level of satisfaction will be reduced significantly. The ministry should create a flexible attendance system that focuses more on performance than physical presence within the firm.

Appraisal System

The appraisal system is another critical factor that the management should consider when focusing on retaining some of its most talented employees. The appraisal process should focus on promoting consistent growth among workers instead of punishing underperformers. The management can consider using McGregor’s participation theory to appraise the performance of employees and promote growth within the firm. McGregor proposed two theories that define the perception that managers often have towards their employees. The first one of theory X that holds a pessimistic view towards employees. It assumes that employees dislike work and would do everything within their powers to avoid responsibilities. As such, they have to be given constant direction and supervision to ensure that they perform as per the expectations of the management (Yin et al., 2019). They have to be controlled and sometimes even threatened to undertake their duties.

The lack of ambition and incentive at work forces the management to use various forms of rewards to encourage them to concentrate on their assignments. Although sometimes a manager may be justified to hold such a view towards some employees, it is not the right perception when handling highly talented experts. The perception encourages managers to use coercion as a way of making things happen. Such strategies may discourage self-motivated employees, especially those who feel that they understand what they need to do, and as such, do not need to be subjected to constant scrutiny. This perception towards workers may be part of the reasons why some of these experts are leaving the ministry to work for private entities. They want to work in an environment where they feel they are trusted and given the freedom to make important decisions on how to undertake various tasks.

The second concept of McGregor was theory Y, which embraces an optimistic view of employees. Some of its fundamental assumptions are that workers are often happy to undertake their responsibilities without constant supervision and that they should be involved in decision-making processes (Fernández-Caramés and Fraga-Lamas, 2020). They are self-motivated and do not require any form of coercion to complete their tasks. They often enjoy working on their own with limited guidance if any. These workers find work a fulfilling process and so they do not hesitate to take responsibilities. Such employees are imaginative and creative, especially when they have to address a new problem in the workplace.

This theory strongly suggests that managers should create an environment where employees can make independent decisions based on values and policies of the organization without undue pressure. Managers should only offer guidance to them when it is needed. Weems et al. (2018) state that such a high level of trust can only be created when the management is convinced that employees have the capacity and willingness to work under the least possible supervision. Highly talented cyber security experts tend to be creative and with unique capabilities. They do not need to be micro-managed to undertake their duties. They can only be creative if they are given the space to try new things in their normal duties. These experts are more likely to remain loyal to a company if they are treated with trust and love. They will learn to take responsibilities and self-supervise their activities. The level of satisfaction that arises from trust and support will make it less likely for them to consider looking for other employers.

Critical Review of Literature

Retaining talented employees within an organization is a concept that has attracted the attention of many scholars over the recent past. As Stewart and Brown (2020) explain, the success of a company depends on the quality of its workforce. With this knowledge, many large corporations have been keen on hiring some of the most talented employees as a way of improving their performance. Such workers understand what is expected of them and how they can deliver the best service without necessarily being subjected to regular supervision (Field and Chan, 2018). They can effectively interpret policies set by the top management in relation to their specific areas of work.

When a firm spends a lot of money to train its employees, it must ensure that it limits the rate at which they are lost to other companies. Maqbool et al., (2020) argue that when such employees are lost to rival firms, it becomes difficult for the affected company to maintain the expected performance in its operations. It will not be as competitive as would be required as long as these skilled workers keep leaving. Finding ways of retaining such workers has become an issue of great interest to many human resource management scholars and practitioners. It has become necessary to find ways of explaining why employees would consider quitting a firm after working just for a few months or years.

Understanding Factors That Promote Employee Turnover

The need to retain talented employees within an organization is an issue that has attracted the attention of many scholars over the recent past. As Syed and Kramar (2017) note, a critical review of the existing literature can help in understanding views of different scholars on a given issue. In this case, the main focus is to understand factors that make it possible to retain employees within a given firm. According to Dawson and Thomson (2018), lack of employee satisfaction has always been cited as one of the main reasons why workers often consider quitting their job in specific organization. The same reason may have led to the regular exodus of these talented workers from this organization. It is necessary to understand the possible reasons why these workers are not effectively motivated at their workplace.

One of the factors that often cause employee dissatisfaction is lack of proper integration in the workplace. Field and Chan (2018) argues that in the current globalized society, it is common to find a workplace that is highly diversified in terms of race, religion, gender, age, and many other demographical classification. Many employees expect to work in places where diversity is viewed as a source of strength instead of being an issue that causes division and conflicts. Maqbool et al. (2020) believe that when an individual realizes that they are marginalized because of the difference in their background, they may develop fear. Some may feel that when radicalization becomes more intensified, they can easily become targets. As such, they will consider quitting their jobs before they face the possible threat of an attack from some of their radicalized colleagues.

People like working in an environment where their views and opinions are given consideration and respected as much as possible. According to Maqbool et al. (2020), highly skilled workers know what they should do and may have different strategies of completing their assignments in the best way possible depending on the forces they face at specific times. The same argument is supported by Cho, Yoo and Lim (2019) who hold that such employees would want to be given opportunity to participate in important decision-making processes. When they are denied such an opportunity, they tend be withdrawn. They develop a feeling that the management does not consider their skills and experience as something essential to the success of a firm. Dawson and Thomson (2018) believe that such an employee would start looking for the available employment opportunities where they believe their interest will be taken care of effectively. They will consider quitting their jobs because of the feeling that their current employer does not value their unique capabilities.

Many corporate entities in Oman and other Middle Eastern countries are keen on attracting some of the most talented employees as a way of enhancing their performance in the face of increasing competition. According to Stewart and Brown (2020), many firms operating in the region understands the significance of having a team of highly skilled employees as a way of gaining competitive edge over rivals in the market. These companies are willing to offer attractive remunerations to those who have the right skills and experience in various fields. Rasool (2019) believes that cyber security professionals working for the government are often easily attracted to opportunities offered in these private entities. They realize that they will not only have better pay but also a better opportunity for career growth. These entities also offer them an environment where they can think and act freely, putting into effective use their unique skills.

Frameworks/Strategic Tools That Help to Analyze the Issue

The ability of the government to address this issues depends on its willingness to understand the source of the problem and address each one individually. The rate at which cyber security experts are leaving public institutions to work for corporate entities or start private practice is an indication that there is a major problem that is yet to be addressed. The leadership of this institution has failed to analyze the problem and determine its potential causes. It is necessary to use various models that can help in a comprehensive analysis of this issue.

Price’s Framework of Turnover Determinants and Intervening Variables

One of the best frameworks that can be used to assess this problem is Price’s framework of turnover determinants and intervening variables, shown in figure 1 below. The framework identifies various independent variables and intervening variables that affect the dependent variable, which is employee turnover. As shown in the figure, one of the factors that define employee turnover is pay. When workers feel that they are poorly remunerated, they will consider moving to another employer that offers a better opportunity. It means that pay is one of the possible factors why employees are leaving the ministry for private practice.

Integration is another major factor that is responsible for the high turnover rate of employees within a given institution. People prefer working in an environment where they are respected irrespective of their gender, age, race, or religious beliefs (Georgescu, Iancu and Zurini, 2019). It means that leaders must create an environment where integration is considered a critical component of management. Lack of proper integration may push some of the loyal employees to consider opportunities in other organizations. Public entities often find it difficult to develop policies where everyone feels comfortable despite their diversity. The problem may be attributed to the complex process of developing policies in this sector (Kleitman, Law, and Kay, 2018). When a highly talented individual feels that they are facing discrimination based on race or religious differences, they can easily consider going for private practice.

Instrumental communication is another factor that may determine the likelihood of an employee considering leaving an organization. This form of communication refers to sharing information regarding daily activities in the workplace, especially among colleagues (Millett, Dos-Santos and Millett, 2019). It is normal for an individual to consult with his fellow workers on how to address a given task or what is expected of them. Sometimes such communication may be about private life. Having an environment where employees can communicate freely amongst themselves is critical. It enhances the bond and unity, which in turn, improves the overall performance within the firm. When the communication is lacking, conflicts easily arise, and teamwork becomes something that cannot be easily realized.

Formal communication is also critical in defining the level of employee satisfaction and their willingness to stay within a given firm. Organizations are currently using different strategies to pass information from the highest office to the lowest and back. Many people prefer open-door communication policy in the modern society (Veksler et al., 2018). They want an environment where they can easily share their views with senior officers and address issues that affect them without feeling intimidated. An organization with a rigid communication structure where information has to pass from one office to the next in hierarchical manner will be less desirable to such highly talented employees. They will feel that their views cannot be easily considered even when they can bring about positive change.

Centralization has been identified in this model as another independent factor that may affect the ability of cyber security experts to work longer for government institutions. According to Schabacker et al. (2019), many government institutions have centralized management structure where major decisions have to be made or approved by the top leadership. Such management structures tend to delay creativity and innovation because it takes long for the management to approve new projects. Some employees may consider such an environment as one that limits their creativity and career growth. They will prefer working for an organization where their ideas are easily considered for implementation.

Price’s Framework of Turnover Determinants and Intervening Variables
Figure 1. Price’s Framework of Turnover Determinants and Intervening Variables (Mahesh, 2017, p. 4).

The model shows that the above independent variables have a direct impact on the intervening variable, which is employee satisfaction. When their expectations at work are met, these employees will be satisfied and are less likely to consider pursuing other opportunities. However, when they feel ignored and are dissatisfied, they are more likely to consider opportunities that may arise from various other entities. It means that these factors directly influence employee turnover rate. The model helps in understanding some of the possible reasons why there is high turnover rate of employees at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Oman.

Hom and Griffeth’s Alternative Linkage Model of Turnover

The model above has identified job satisfaction as a major factor that defines the rate of employee turnover within an organization. The alternative linkage model of turnover developed by Hom and Griffeth provides a further explanation of the path that it takes when an employee is dissatisfied at work (Veksler et al., 2020). Such an employee will experience withdrawal cognition or unexpected utility. They will develop a feeling that they are not in the right place and that their ability to experience career growth is limited. The desire to remain at their current place of work will be lost as they go through various experiences that increase their levels of satisfaction.

The next step in this framework is job search as they look for a place where they can feel comfortable and respected. For a government employee, chances are high that they will likely consider working for a private company where they feel their needs and expectations can be met. When they find various alternatives, they will weigh the options to find the most desirable alternative. The aim of comparing alternatives is to ensure that they avoid past negative experiences. The framework shows that when an employee finds an alternative that offers them the best environment for career growth and attractive remuneration, then retention will be realized. In many cases, employees would prefer to remain within a given firm if it meets their expectations. Figure 2 below identifies these stages as discussed in this framework.

Alternative Linkage Model of Turnover
Figure 2. Alternative Linkage Model of Turnover (Mahesh, 2017, p. 4).

Fishbone Model (Ishikawa) of Analyzing Problem Cause

The Ishikawa model, also known as the fishbone model, is one of the effective ways of explaining the cause of a problem. As Azmi (2019) explains, this model classifies the potential causes of problem into various classes as shown in the figure below. The environment is one of the common causes of a problem. At this ministry, the environment created by the leadership is less conducing for career growth because of its disregard for integration and employee wellness. Another potential source of a problem is the material. According to Syed and Kramar (2017), many government employees often complain of lack of resources they need to undertake their duties effectively. Cyber security experts need sophisticated tools to combat online crimes effectively, but in many cases they lack these tools. People are identified as another potential cause of a given problem in an organization. According to Stewart and Brown (2020), highly talented employees need the support of their colleagues to achieve specific goals. In a diversified environment, lack of integration means that a section of the workforce will feel secluded, a fact that can easily make them consider quitting their job. The model identifies the method as another potential issue within an organization. The rigid leadership structure that the ministry uses to guide its workers is a major cause of concern to many of them, as Azmi (2019) observes. It is also necessary to look at machines as potential cause of problem within an organization. Cyber security experts rely on advanced technology to monitor and fight activities of cyber criminals. Lack of these essential tools may discourage them and make them consider working for other firms. The last potential cause of a problem in an organization is the measurement. Syed and Kramar (2017) argue that the measurement that the management uses to assess the output of its employees may motivate or demotivate them, depending on various factors. The ministry has failed to put in place measures that can help encourage its workers to improve their performance as a way of enhancing their career growth.

Fishbone Model/Ishikawa (Stewart and Brown
Figure 3. Fishbone Model/Ishikawa (Stewart and Brown, 2020, p. 73).

Theories and Techniques Appropriate Addressing the Problem

Managing employee turnover rates within an organization requires the management to start by identifying the potential causes. Understanding the potential causes of the problem makes it easy to find a lasting solution. Jalali and Kaiser (2018) explain that it is possible to use some theoretical models to explain the problem and to find a lasting solution to the issue. In this section, the focus is to discuss some of the theories that the leadership at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology can use to contain the current problem that it is facing.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

When trying to retain talented employees within an organization, it is important to start by understanding their needs. According to Veksler et al. (2020), when the needs of employees are understood, it is easy to develop programs and to enact policies that they will find friendly in their workplace. Maslow’s pyramid of needs, shown in figure 3 below, helps in classifying these needs. At the bottom of the pyramid are psychological needs such as food, warmth, water, and rest. These are the very basic needs without which an individual cannot survive (Azmi, 2019). It is the responsibility of the management to ensure that all employees, irrespective of their position within the firm, can meet these needs. As the cost of living continues to increase, the firm should ensure that its workers can afford to meet their basic needs to ensure that they are settled in their workplace. It is not easy for an employee to concentrate at work when they cannot afford to have a decent meal regularly.

The level in the pyramid includes the safety needs, which are also classified as basic. Once the need for food, water, and shelter are met, one would have safety and security needs. Employees prefer working in an environment where their safety and security is guaranteed (Schabacker et al., 2019). It means that occupational health and safety needs should be prioritized by the management. Their health should not be compromised because of the nature of the work they do. Security is another major issue that the management must take seriously. Some of the criminals that these experts fight in the online platforms are dangerous individuals who can easily harm them or their family members. These cyber experts working for the government should be given an assurance that they cannot be tracked downed and kidnapped by these criminals. Having a sense of peace will give them the confidence to continue working for the government without fear.

The next level in the ladder has belongingness and love needs of an individual. At this stage, all, if not most, of the basic needs have been met. The individual will have the desire to be accepted by peers in the organization. They will demand respect and love among their colleagues and senior members of the management. As Veksler et al. (2018) observe, it is at this stage when it becomes necessary to fight racism and other forms of radicalization. An individual should not feel excluded or rejected because of their race, religion, age, gender, or any other form of demographical classification. Instead, an environment should be created where everyone would feel loved, cared for, and respected. The management may need to embrace an open-door communication approach where junior employees can easily express their views and engage the top leaders when it is necessary.

The fourth level in the ladder is esteem needs, which also falls in the class of psychological factors. A feeling of accomplishment and prestige are some of the main needs in this class. Weems et al. (2018) explain that those who have these needs are highly accomplished individuals who have gained knowledge and experience within a given field. They are the elites in their field and have the capacity to perform better than their peers. These are the employees that the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology is losing to private players. To ensure that they are retained, the leadership of this ministry should ensure that they are held in high regard and their hard work not only rewarded but also recognized. They should be made to feel that they are important to the organization and that their presence is creating the desired impact. If possible, they should be given prestigious position within their department as a way of enhancing their level of satisfaction.

At the top of the pyramid are the self-actualization needs, often referred to as self-fulfillment needs. According to Yin et al. (2019), the majority of employees may have these needs, especially the young ambitious experts who feel that they still have a lot to achieve in their career. At this stage, one has a feeling that they have realized their full potential in their life and career. They feel that they have done all that was expected of them and achieved the best outcome possible. These individuals only need appreciation from their colleagues. In most of the cases, they are high-ranking managers who are approaching their retirement. They feel that they have helped the organization to achieve its vision over the years. As such, they see their new role as that of being a mentor who only needs to guide others on a path towards their success. The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology does not face any major threat of losing such employees. To the contrary, it is the responsibility of these top managers to ensure that a conducive environment is created to help retain cyber security experts.

Maslow’s Theory of Needs (Stewart and Brown
Figure 3. Maslow’s Theory of Needs (Stewart and Brown, 2020, p. 75).

Conclusions

Oman is making a steady progress towards fully embracing the digital approach to information management. The emerging technologies have made it easier for people to communicate, manage data, and conduct various transactions through various online platforms. However, there is a major threat that those who use these online platforms constantly face. Techno savvy criminals are currently using their cyber expertise to target vulnerable individuals and entities to steal critical information or money from them. They are using sophisticated strategies to achieve their selfish goals. The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has the responsibility of protecting individuals and corporations in the country from any attacks by cybercriminals. The ministry has been keen on hiring experts with the capacity of combatting cybercrime in the country.

The problem that the ministry faces is that most of these highly talented employees rarely take long working for the government. A significant number spend months or a few years working for the government before being poached by corporate organizations in the country or the region. Others consider going to private practice where they are assured of greater opportunities for career growth. The study has identified various reasons why these experts consider leaving the ministry to focus on private practice or to work for corporate organizations. One of these reasons is poor leadership strategies within the ministry. The management has failed to understand needs and expectations of these employees. They are not involved in making important policies even though such changes affect them significantly. The leadership has also failed to create an environment where these individuals would feel comfortable working for the government.

Human resource issues were also identified as major issues that affect the rate at which employees leave an organization. Issues such as employee motivation, creativity and innovativeness, and career development were identified as being important for workers. The government has failed to address these issues, which explains why there is a high turnover rate for some of the best employees. These experts are expected to help the government fight cybercrime that is becoming a major concern to the country. When they are lost, the capacity of the government to win the war against this new form of crime become significantly compromised. The fact that the leadership of the ministry is not worried about this trend is a more worrying trend because it indicates that measures are yet to be taken to address the problem.

Recommendations

The government of Oman needs to ensure that it retains its highly talented cyber security experts as a way of effectively fighting online crimes. The paper has identified various weaknesses which have made it difficult for the government to stop the mass exodus of these employees. Based upon the findings made and the conclusion above, the following are the recommendations that the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology should consider to achieve the desired the goal of retaining talented employees:

  • The ministry should consider having employee empowerment program that should be conducted after every two years. It should involve training of employees to enable them acquire new skills in this industry. Upon completion of the training program, they should be promoted to higher ranks within their department. Although it is a costly process, it will enhance skills of these workers, offer them career growth, and limit their desire to leave.
  • The government should prioritize integration programs at all times in the ministry. The leadership should create policies that will ensure that people are respected and embraced by all irrespective of their gender, race, religion, age, or any other demographical classification. The benefit of this initiative is that it will enhance employee engagement and level of satisfaction. It is a less costly initiative compared with that of regular training.
  • The management must redefine its communication and employee engagement policies. Embracing an open-door policy within the ministry will make it possible for junior employees to express their views regarding the normal running of the organization. It creates a platform through which they can participate in decision-making processes. These workers will feel respected and appreciated by the employer, which in turn, will reduce their desire to look for other opportunities outside the organization.
  • The ministry should consider offering cyber security experts competitive remuneration as a way of retaining them within the firm. The study found out that a significant number of these professionals go to private practice or corporate entities because of the poor pay in government institution. If the government is keen on retaining these employees, it should be ready to offer them competitive salaries based on what private companies offer.
  • Regular assessment of the workplace environment and employees’ satisfaction is a critical but less costly strategy of meeting expectations of workers. When assessing the workplace environment, of interest should be to understand issues that affect performance of these experts and how they can be addressed. The assessment should then focus on the level of employee satisfaction and ways in which it can be enhanced to help in improving their performance.

Reflective Report

When conducting this research and over the course of the project, I have learned a lot about human resource management in the public sector. The report has enabled me to understand the fact that government entities have the perfect opportunity to attract some of the best talents in the country in different fields. The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has the best opportunity to recruit some of the most talented cyber security experts in the country. The majority of students often look forward to working for the government upon their graduation. Soon after they are hired, they realize that they do not have access to career growth as they had anticipated. They are subjected to an environment where there is stagnation and limited room for creativity. The study enabled me to understand the fact that many highly skilled individuals do not like working in a places where there is limited creativity and innovation. They want to challenge their current capabilities and the only way of doing so is to try something new. The rigid management structure in these public institutions limits the development of such innovative ideas among workers.

It is important to note that during the process of collecting data for this project, I encountered some challenges that affected my learning experience. The current COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the global community limited my ability to interact with some of these cyber security experts who are currently working for the government and those who had worked for the ministry in the past. I strongly believe that one of the best ways of understanding the actual situation within an organization is to interview individuals who have gone through the experience. I wanted to interview these individuals to understand their reasons of leaving the ministry and steps that the government can take to reverse the trend. Unfortunately, health experts within the country have suggested that physical interaction of people should be as limited as possible to limit the spread of the virus. It meant that I had to rely on secondary data sources to inform the study. Despite these challenges. I learned a lot and I am not in a better position to provide advice to the leadership of this ministry on how it can address the problem that is compromising the ability of the government to fight cybercrime. My personal development during this course, and specifically when conducting this research can be explained using the following models.

Kolb’s Learning Cycle

This theory identifies four main stages of learning that one goes through. The first stage is concrete experience. When one encounters a new experience, there will be a reinterpretation of the existing experience. One would start questioning their current knowledge based on the encounters that they have. In this case, I had believed that most of the highly skilled cyber security experts prefer working for the government. I believed that these public institutions offer the best opportunity for growth, which makes them attractive not only to fresh college graduates but also experienced individuals who have been in the industry for years. I believed that the government offers the best growth opportunities. However, the new experience gained through this project enabled me to understand how restrictive these institutions are and how individuals prefer working for private entities. The experience clearly explained how the government is currently struggling to retain some of its most qualified employees to enhance its capacity to protect the country’s cyberspace.

The second stage of the experimental learning cycle is the reflective observation. At this stage, one is expected to review and reflect upon the experience, trying to identify the possible existence of inconsistencies (Syed and Kramar, 2017). It is common to find cases where what has been learned through a given experience reaffirms the existing knowledge. However, sometimes the new knowledge significantly contradicts beliefs that one has been holding for a while. In this particular case, there was inconsistency between the experience and the knowledge that I had held for a long time. It was apparent that government institutions do not offer wide opportunities for growth as I had previously believed. It became apparent that those who opt to go for private practice or work for private companies have a better opportunity to achieve career growth.

The experience changed my perception towards working for the government. I also learned why it has been increasingly difficult for the government to win the war against cybercriminals. The government is investing in recruiting and training some of the best talents in this field but nothing is done to ensure that they remain committed to working for the government. As such, they leave after a short period, which leads to massive brain drain. It means that the government is constantly struggling to meet the expertise of these criminals, some of whom are experts that the ministry trained but was unable to retain because of unfavorable working conditions and poor pay.

The third stage of the experimental learning cycle is abstract conceptualization. As Stewart and Brown (2020) explain, at this stage one has learned from experience and develops a new idea or modifies the existing abstract concept. In this case, I had to develop a completely new perception towards working for the government. The experience gained from this study demonstrated that when one is keen on achieving rapid career growth, public institutions may not be the best option. One is likely to stagnate for a while because of lack of commitment from the government. Many cyber security experts use the ministry as a stepping stone to gain experience as they move to the private sector soon after. From the government’s perspective, it is clear where the source of the problem is and what can be done to retain talented employees. Initially, I believed that attractive remuneration was enough to retain these workers. However, the study has identified numerous factors that also have to be considered to make them happy and contented.

The last stage in this model of learning is active experimentation. At this stage, one is expected to apply the knowledge gained from the learning experience into actual practice. In this study, I intended to provide a practical guideline to the Ministry of Communication Information and Technology on how to address the problem of the high turnover rate for cyber security experts. The investigation has revealed fundamental weaknesses of the current human resource approach at the ministry, which has led to the rise of the problem. The study has also outlined steps that can be taken to ensure that this problem is addressed effectively. In the recommendation section, I have outlined what the ministry should do to ensure that this problem is solved effectively. The recommendations are practical and based on the research that was conducted. Figure 4 below identifies the stage in the learning process.

Kolb’s Learning Cycle (Stewart and Brown
Figure 4. Kolb’s Learning Cycle (Stewart and Brown, 2020, p. 59).

Rolfe et al.’s Reflective Cycle

Rolfe and his colleagues developed a simple framework that one can use to for self-reflection. It is based on three simple questions that one has to answer in details to demonstrate the new knowledge gained based on a given experience. The three questions are what, so what, and now what, as shown in figure 5 below. The model can help in assessing the new knowledge that I gained from this academic project.

Rolfe’s Reflective Cycle
Figure 5. Rolfe’s Reflective Cycle (Syed and Kramar, 2017, p. 78).

The first question focuses on describing the situation, its consequences, achievements, response, feelings, and possible problems. The learning process enabled me to understand the primary source of the high turnover rate for cyber security professionals at the ministry. I realized that the problem is caused by poor leadership that is reluctant to create an enabling environment for these experts to achieve career growth. In most of the cases, these individuals leave because they feel their career growth will be compromised if they continue working for the government. They feel that their interests are ignored and that it is only through the private sector that they can succeed.

The second question focuses on discussing the new knowledge gained and necessary improvements. The report indicates that if the current trend continues unchanged, the government will continue losing its talented cyber security experts to private entities. Fighting online criminals and protecting the country’s cyberspace will become increasingly difficult if appropriate measures are not taken as soon as possible. As such, the top leadership of this ministry is advised to take specific measures that will help in retaining employees at work. These measures are meant to improve the workplace experience and to make employees contented so that they do not consider moving to private entities.

The last stage in this self-reflective model is the identification of what needs to be done to help improve future outcomes based on the learning experience. When conducting a future research, I intend to emphasize the need to collect primary data. In this study, the inability to interact with the current and former employees of this ministry limited the ability to collect primary data. However, it is expected that the current pandemic will be managed soon, and future studies will not have to be done facing some of the current challenges that I faced. For the ministry, the leadership has to redefine the workplace environment and introduce necessary changes that will enable it to achieve the desired goals. The recommendation section of this report identifies what the government needs to do to address this problem.

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