Competencies and Professional Development
In this section, we report on competencies that respondents are currently most proficient in, along with competencies they believe will be important to develop in the next five years. Additionally, we report on professional development opportunities offered directly by institutions and the extent to which individuals are encouraged to pursue these opportunities.
Respondents are most proficient in analytical and problem-solving skills. We asked respondents to identify the three competencies that they are currently most proficient in, along with the three competencies that will be most important for their career in the next five years. We asked about the following 10 competencies:
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
- Leadership practices, characteristics, and styles that have the greatest impact on others
- Building relationships, communicating, networking with key stakeholders
- Continuous learning and adaptability
- Management of departmental costs and resources
- Program strategy development
- Project management
- Team/staff development and mentoring
- Technical knowledge and skills
- Using data for decision-making and planning
Respondents said they were most proficient in analytical and problem-solving skills (54%), building relationships, communicating, networking with key stakeholders (46%), and continuous learning and adaptability (43%). Respondents were least proficient in using data for decision-making and planning (10%), management of departmental costs and resources (13%), and the application of leadership practices, characteristics, and styles that have the greatest impact on others (18%).
Proficiency in particular competencies was somewhat similar among different position levels. Interestingly, the top three competencies respondents were most proficient in did not vary greatly based on position level. C-level executives, directors, managers, and staff all identified analytical and problem-solving skills as one of the top two competencies they are most proficient in (see figure 11). Moreover, C-level executives, directors, and managers all identified building relationships, communicating, and networking as one of their top two competencies. The main differences were that C-level executives were the only respondent group to identify program and strategy development as one of their top three competencies, while staff were the only respondents who did not identify building relationships, communicating, networking with key stakeholders as one of their top three competencies.
Building relationships will be important in the next five years. We also asked respondents to identify the top three competencies they believe will be important for their career in the next five years. Respondents said that building relationships, communicating, networking with key stakeholders (54%), continuous learning and adaptability (40%), and leadership practices, characteristics, and styles that have the greatest impact on others (34%) would be most important in the next five years. The competencies that were seen to be the least important for the future were management of departmental costs and resources (15%), technical knowledge and skills (20%), and project management (21%).
Those in leadership roles identified leadership competencies as being important in the future. When looking at competencies that will be important in the next five years, some similarities and differences emerged based on position level. C-level executives, directors, managers, and staff all identified building relationships, communicating, and networking with key stakeholders as being one of their top three important competencies for the future (see figure 12). By contrast, only those in leadership roles (C-level executives, directors, and managers) identified leadership practices, characteristics, and styles that have the greatest impact on others as being a top future competency, and only C-level executives identified program and strategy development as an important future competency.
AI-related knowledge and skills emerged as a needed competency area. Respondents were asked what other competencies will be important for the future. In their open-ended comments, many identified specific technical skills and knowledge surrounding AI. Other knowledge and skill areas identified were cybersecurity and privacy specific topics such as regulations and compliance, data governance and management, and IT knowledge and skills.
Understanding of AI technology applications in the cyber domain, specifically the efficacy of these applications and the potential attack vectors associated with business AI solutions.
Leveraging artificial intelligence and understanding how to protect constituents from the malicious use or misuse of AI tools.
Acceptance of LLM/GenAI/ML tools and how to support those embracing them.
Continuous learning. I'm still not sure if anyone can or should try to "get our arms around" AI.
Prompt engineering for generative AI. Adapting to generative AI.
Learning about AI is seen as a growing necessity, but the verdict is out on its impact on productivity. While AI knowledge and skills emerged as a needed competency area, we found that many respondents were neutral about AI's ability to improve their own work efficiency and productivity. Almost half of respondents (49%) said that they neither disagree nor agree that AI has improved their work efficiency and productivity (see figure 13). Only 20% agreed that using AI improved their work efficiency and productivity. Thus, while many highlighted the importance of developing AI-related knowledge and skills, many are still on the fence when it comes to leveraging it for productivity and efficiency. This may stem from there being currently a stronger focus on AI-related threats, risks, and ethics within the cybersecurity and privacy fields. Unclear is the extent to which personnel have had the chance to fully learn and test AI for their own personal and team uses at work.
Cybersecurity and privacy roles are evolving. Respondents were asked to identify how roles are evolving and/or what new roles may be needed in the future. In their open-ended comments, many noted that in addition to privacy becoming an increasingly important and growing area, cybersecurity and privacy are becoming more intertwined, wherein lies the possibility that the two areas become more unified over time. Currently, we do have evidence to suggest that the two fields collaborate consistently. We asked respondents how much cybersecurity and privacy personnel collaborate with each other, and 59% said that they collaborate a lot. Several other themes emerged from the responses:
- An expected evolution of roles amid a growing emphasis on compliance and regulations
- An increase in the diversity of roles (i.e., roles are starting to require stronger technical knowledge, and there has been an increase in specialized roles)
- A rapid expansion of roles in both disciplines to areas that extend beyond IT services
Mentorship is the professional development area with the greatest opportunity for growth. We asked which professional development opportunities are provided directly by respondents' institutions, and a majority indicated that their institution provides support for conferences and networking (76%), technical skills training (68%), and soft-skills training (61%) (see figure 14). The least provided were mentorship opportunities (37%).
We also asked participants to indicate the extent to which they are encouraged to pursue development opportunities in the same areas. The area that respondents reported being most encouraged to pursue was technical skills training (30%), while the area they felt least encouraged to pursue was mentorship (31% said they are not at all encouraged to pursue mentorship opportunities) (see figure 15).