With the threat of data breaches and cyber attacks persistently looming over organizations, investing in effective cybersecurity programs has become a priority for companies of all sizes. We’re no longer under the false impression that cyber attacks are only directed at large corporations and well-established businesses. In fact, it’s clear by now that smaller enterprises are more vulnerable, with previous reports showing 43 % of cyber attacks target small businesses.

Not only that, but a growing number of companies is becoming widely aware that human error is a major vulnerability factor. Verizon’s 2018 report has shown that human error lies at the heart of 17% of the investigated breaches, further emphasizing the importance of implementing cybersecurity training for employees.

But training can vary from company to company, and that’s where the catch lies. If not equally ineffective as having no training at all, relying on outdated or demotivating training methods will certainly result in security gaps and hamper your efforts to cultivate a company-wide culture of cyber-vigilance. To help you embrace the most effective methods and develop an effective cybersecurity training program, we’ve rounded up a few key points.

Evaluate the weakest links

Rather than just taking up standard procedures, take your time and collaborate with cybersecurity workers to design a training program that’s able to reflect your company’s most pressing needs. Naturally, your courses will need to focus on the most common types of cyber attacks and you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you’ll need some kind of context to develop the right framework for the training. In order to develop a highly effective course, it’s best to start your process by examining your current security situation.

Are there any gaps in your security system? Could your weakest link be in payment processing, document security, inter-office emails, etc.? Evaluate your weak points and use that knowledge to center the start of your course development.

Don’t teach your employees what they already know

This is extremely important. Teaching your employees what they already know, for the sake of starting from the top, won’t only be wasting everyone’s time, but it can be seriously demotivating. Any type of training needs to be dynamic and provide value in order to keep the participants engaged, invested, and eager to learn more. And if you’re just putting everyone through the same old basic course, you’ll be hampering the progress and potential of the employees who are already more advanced in cybersecurity.

At the very first stages of the course development, work closely with the cybersecurity training experts to evaluate employee awareness and cyber-literacy. You might find that it’s best not to send everyone to the same training, but rather to offer different courses for different levels to ensure maximum efficacy. If that’s the case, make sure to encourage an environment of support where the more advanced employees will also be trained to answer questions and help the others when necessary.

Get specific and find personal examples

Personal examples are one of the most powerful training tools out there. Pull out specific examples for all the threats and instances you’ll be presenting. Encourage employees to share the examples they have heard of and which they find particularly interesting. There are high chances that employees will have more personal cybersecurity instances to share – whether it’s about retrieving stolen devices or their experiences with phishing emails, having employees participate with their own stories and concerns will certainly enrich your course.

But don’t stop there – discuss with the participants how each example could translate to your enterprise and help them tie their own experiences back to how they can protect company data.

Pay attention to new employees

Evaluate each new employee’s cyber-literacy and level of awareness during the onboarding process so that you can begin proper training as early as possible. In fact, it’s best to make cybersecurity training an integral process of joining the company and use your evaluation to help you determine the best approach to training the new members.

Make sure to follow their progress closely as they integrate into your team and if you’ve hired someone with a solid cybersecurity foundation, discuss with them how they can contribute to your ongoing program with their past training experience or knowledge. For example, if they’ve participated in an extensive cybersecurity training program in their previous company, they could be able to give you some basic pointers and insights into what works or doesn’t work.

Create drills to sharpen awareness

To make training effective as well as fun, make it real-time with simulated cyber attacks oriented at different departments. These types of exercises are the best way to practice vigilance and ensure you’re prepared as a company in case of an actual attack. They’re also vital to tailoring your course as a continuous company effort. Evaluate the response to the drill each time and use that knowledge to adjust your ongoing course.

The takeaway: How to not make training a tedious ordeal

All in all, cybersecurity training can’t be today what it was during its inception way back in the nineties. Threats are not only more common and prioritized in the current atmosphere, but they’re more complex and cybercriminals stand at the forefront of technological innovations. Modern-day cybersecurity experts have a lot to keep up with; they need to be inquisitive and their training needs to be dynamic so that they may become true experts in their field and design highly effective courses.

Likewise, this principle extends to the course participants themselves. While your employees certainly aren’t expected to harbor the same attitude and skill set as cybersecurity professionals, the point is that they also need to be trained dynamically. Engage them with examples and dynamic online courses and emphasize cybersecurity awareness as a continuous team effort.  Encourage curiosity, provide incentives for motivation, and most importantly, make sure you’re not approaching training as an annual ordeal where you’ll shuffle employees into a stale classroom environment.

Author Bio: Natasha is a web designer, lady of a keyboard and one hell of a tech geek. Natasha is always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs and share her knowledge about IT, digital marketing and technology trends. To see what she is up to next, check out her Twitter Dashboard.