In a Crisis: Cold Talent Automation versus Warm Talent Key Success Factors

Rob Hornbuckle, CISSP - ISSMP, CISM, CRISC, CISO and VP, Allegiant Travel Company

Rob Hornbuckle, CISSP - ISSMP, CISM, CRISC, CISO and VP, Allegiant Travel Company

Crisis at Hand

This spring, as the world fell into crisis, business leaders were hunting for costs savings in order to weather what may be the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Low hanging fruit in this instance might be outstanding contracts, vendor agreements, payment terms, and redundancies.  Primed to succeed are those who’ve built collaborative relationships inside and outside of their organization.  Organizations who carefully consider how to optimize their position within a post-crisis market will inevitably solidify their stronghold.

Approaches to Talent Retention

While optimizing decision making for a post-crisis market, careful attention must be paid to talent retention.  Talent is a critical competitive advantage, particularly within fields that are highly skilled, require creative latitude, and experience negative unemployment, such as within information security.  Cost cutting utilities for workflow have helped ease the talent gap over the past decade, specifically AI utilities or cold talent.  Most companies have focused crisis cost cutting measures on warm talent through furloughs, pay cuts, hour reductions, and layoffs.  This one sided approach to aligning talent to temporary business needs may neglect the key success factors of warm talent which span such skills as creative latitude, judgement, and self-awareness.  These are skills that strategically benefit the overall organization.  Building a team with these warm talent skills is both pain-staking and time consuming.  Conversely, cold talent can be acquired at the flip of a switch, once installed and configured.

"Right-sizing cold talent to preserve warm talent will require buy in from both the teams they directly impact in the short term and from a flexible, dynamic thinking leadership team"

Risk Neutral Decisions

When balancing warm talent with cold talent, leadership will need to rely on the collaborative relationships they have built with their team.  It is critical that team members are not over taxed to the point where they inadvertently expose the organization to unacceptable risk levels.  It is equally critical that enough warm talent is retained to process through the cold talent work product.  Otherwise, the organization would again be exposed to unacceptable risk levels.  This balance between warm talent and cold talent illustrates that a metered approach to talent management is likely to result in the most risk neutral decision.  In the response to crisis, it is worth considering the preservation of warm talent in order to create the conditions for a successful competitive advantage when ramping up post-crisis.  In order to accomplish a business aligned approach, leadership will need to rely on the collaborative relationships they have built with their peers within leadership.

Aligning Talent for Strategic Advantage

Leadership must be dynamic in their thinking when considering how to optimize warm talent and cold talent to their strategic advantage both during crisis and post-crisis scenarios.  Pushing back against the decades long march towards automation is a bold and perhaps unpopular move.  Right-sizing cold talent to preserve warm talent will require buy in from both the teams they directly impact in the short term and from a flexible, dynamic thinking leadership team.  However, aligning resources to both short-term and long-term goals is more important than ever as we emerge from this crisis.  Post crisis, companies that right sized their cold talent will have retained their warm talent strategic advantage, allowing them to leverage easily obtained cold talent to outpace their competition.  Competitors will find themselves on the sidelines toiling with needing to hire again in an infosec labor market that is not favorable to management.

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