How to Build an Effective Employee Cybersecurity Awareness Training Program

An employee cybersecurity awareness training program is key to protecting your business against cyber risks. Get 5 key tips for building an effective training program in this post.

When people talk about cybersecurity, the first things that come to mind are firewalls, antivirus, anti-malware, and other sophisticated digital tools. The human element is often overlooked, but no matter how advanced your tools are, one employee’s mistake could be costly. 

Companies should ensure that their employees have the right cybersecurity awareness, behavior, and knowledge by having a cybersecurity awareness training program in place. Here are some key points to keep in mind when building an effective program.

1. Develop a program that’s both compliant and relevant.

If your company is required to comply with regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, PCI-DSS, and SOC2, your training program should include courses to help your employees understand and comply with them. A negligent or unknowledgeable employee could accidentally violate a regulatory requirement, which could result in fines. 

The training program must also be designed to address relevant threats faced by the company. This way, employees won’t be oversaturated with information, some of which may be irrelevant. While companies face universal issues like phishing, malware, and risky employee habits, different companies might face different risks. 

For example, if your company does not deal with protected health information, then training around HIPAA will not be the best use of time. Target the most relevant cybersecurity topics for your business and design the training program around them. You should also customize training based on your employees’ roles. Your sales staff should have a different training program than your developers, who might need a specialized course on secure development.

2. Don’t just stick to lectures.

While classroom-style lectures are the traditional teaching method, everyone learns differently. Use variety and creativity like videos, quizzes, role-playing, and online training courses to make security awareness training fun, engaging, and relevant. Gamification, which incorporates socialization and incentives, can be an effective method to increase participation in security training.

3. Have a regular training schedule.

Cybersecurity awareness training isn’t just a one-day course, a once-a-year event, or a part of the onboarding process. Cultivating awareness and fostering safe security habits among your team is a continuous process

You could do an annual company-wide awareness campaign while also conducting immersive sessions on a regular basis or using ongoing online training courses. If you continuously train your employees, they’re going to be well-equipped to recognize and react to cyber attacks. 

4. Measure training effectiveness.

The first step to measuring the effectiveness of your training program is to establish a baseline. Gauge your employees’ initial levels of cybersecurity awareness with a questionnaire. Then track whether they’ve improved or not with regular assessments such as quizzes after every training session/course. These assessments will also be useful to prove that your training program is effectively mitigating cyber risks in order to comply with various security regulations.

Another approach is to conduct simulations. For example, you might simulate a phishing attack. If employees fall for the attack, you’ll know that they need additional training around phishing. You can then make improvements and conduct another round of training and simulations. Rinse and repeat until your employees no longer fall for the simulated attacks.

5. Monitor overall key cybersecurity metrics.

Not only should your organization measure training effectiveness through direct assessments, but you must also regularly monitor key metrics such as the number of cybersecurity incidents and near-misses. These metrics will show whether your company is safe or at risk, and will reveal further information about areas where employees need additional training and even which departments need specific training. As your training program improves, the number of incidents and near-misses should decrease, and other key cybersecurity metrics such as time to detection should improve.

Why is cybersecurity training important?

While cybersecurity tools and solutions are vital, empowering employees with security knowledge is key to protecting against cyber risks. A negligent or ignorant employee is a dangerous one. By incorporating these best practices listed above into your training program, you’ll help your employees avoid becoming the weakest link. Want to get started with your training program today? Get a risk-free 30-day trial of Zeguro's cybersecurity training solution plus our full Cyber Safety platform.

Zeguro is a cyber safety solution and insurance provider for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), offering a comprehensive suite of tools for risk mitigation and compliance, as well as insurance premiums that are tailored to the size, sector and profile of a company.
Learn more →

Get the Guide
Ellen Zhang
Written by

Ellen Zhang

Digital Marketing Manager

Enthusiastic and passionate cybersecurity marketer. Short-story writer. Lover of karaoke.

Sign up for the latest news

Oops! Please make sure your email is valid and try again.