How Employee-first Awareness Training Boosts Your Defenses

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An organization needs to be committed to putting employees first and utilizing quality training programs that are linked to its strategic objectives to protect its assets. An organization is left unnecessarily vulnerable to a data breach when their employees are poorly trained in security awareness.Employee education can be a business tool. Proper security awareness education can transform your employees from a high-risk vulnerability into an extra layer of security, an enhanced human shield around your network.

Importance of involving employees in cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is not an isolated department within the organization anymore. All employees need to be involved in practicing safe online behavior. As an employer, you have two options:

  1. You could view your employees as a weak link, a vulnerability you have to constantly keep your eye on to limit their actions.

2. You could provide the necessary support to train employees so that you can trust them to report malicious content and strengthen your defenses.The second option is going to pay off in the long run by building a more cohesive and trusting information security culture within the company.The objective of any security department is to protect the information and systems that support the operations and assets of the business. This is a multi-faceted, ever evolving challenge. You have a lot better chance of defending the organization when you have hundreds or thousands of trained employees across the company on board to support this objective taking extra precaution online.

Why is “employee-first” an important mindset in training?

Many organizations include in their values that they are a customer-first organization or an employee-first culture. When it comes to selling a product or service, a customer-first organization usually procures feedback and product ideas together with its customers in order to develop a product that their customers truly enjoy using. Without any market research, software developers will guess what customers might find useful based on their limited customer interaction and likely develop a product that there is no need for in the market.In corporate training, it´s the same story. Oftentimes organizations forget about the end user, employees, and their approach to training doesn´t align with their corporate values or is too focused on a compliance checklist. Training is frequently organized without research into user interaction and it often doesn´t focus on promoting learning and participation. Employees who complete security awareness training should develop relevant new skills that will help them do their job better while shielding the organization from risk.

Training that motivates employees

To deliver an effective security awareness training program, it´s important to consider what motivates employees: practical and personalized content that is interactive, minimally disruptive, and also recognizes and rewards participation and achievement.

Practical and personalized content

Training has to be relevant and personalized for employees to see value in taking time to engage in it, and these are ways you can improve your content:

  • Update it frequently to reflect the types of attacks currently targeting organizations Employees will be able to apply the training immediately.
  • Adapt training to an employee´s cyber skill and knowledge level Delivering a more personalized experienced adds further value for the employee.
  • Personalize it based on an employee´s language, department responsibilities, and coworkers These are all factors that can increase engagement levels.

Interactive learning

Another component that improves employee receptibility of training is making it interactive and engaging.An active learning approach involves two-way communication between the learner and the teacher/training tool. In the workplace, this approach is more appreciated and proven to be more effective. Simulations and practice with real examples are going to provide a higher level of interaction and engagement than a video that ends in a quiz on key definitions or a classroom lecture that doesn´t involve two-way communication or feedback.

Minimally disruptive

Employees have a job to do and their time is valuable too. Training can be seen as an inconvenience and something that wastes their time if not delivered effectively. It is important to prioritize frequent, short training moments instead of long training sessions. Employees should be minimally disrupted by security training throughout their work week.

Receiving recognition

Continuous participation and improvement in training should be rewarded. Even though training is mandatory in most cases, it´s important to try to make the process as rewarding and fun as possible.Tip: Consider making mini quarterly competitions between departments and gamifying your security awareness program to reward employees for doing a good job and reporting threats, for example with gift cards or extra vacation days to top performers.

How to begin implementing an employee-first training

Now that you understand the differences of an employee-first approach, it might be a good time to start your vendor search. You need to make sure you choose a vendor(s) that aligns with your company´s objective of people-first security training. It should also include some or all of the components of training mentioned above.Those components encourage participation and give employees practical experience that prepares employees how to react when they receive real attacks. Investing in a training solution that nobody uses does not make an impact on employee´s behavior. When you assess new vendors, consider also whether they provide support for onboarding and communication efforts.

Communication is always key

People are usually not a big fan of change, and when you implement a new security awareness training program, effective communication is a key part of its early adaptation. You don´t want to surprise employees without explaining why you are implementing something new. If you are focused on a people-first approach, you should align your communication efforts with that mindset to make the transition to a new solution easy and seamless for employees.

  • Start the conversation with internal communication at least a few weeks before the training begins.
  • Get different departments on-board to help with communication efforts. i.e. marketing, HR, etc.
  • Once the training is rolled out, send several messages through different channels to explain to employees how to enroll in training and what to do during the first weeks.
  • Encourage supervisors with step-by-step information about how to get their team on-boarded.
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