We know that compliance doesn’t necessarily equal security and that training employees is vital to preventing cyber attacks. But a poorly trained worker is the same as one not trained at all, and in too many tech companies, training isn’t exactly exciting or inspiring. As Stu Sjouwerman explores, there are simple-but-effective methods to get everyone on board for security compliance training.
Several high-profile companies this year — Cisco, Microsoft, Mailchimp and most recently Uber — fell victim to social engineering and phishing scams, even though most of these tech companies have the best cybersecurity teams and infrastructure on the planet. The reality is that businesses can deploy all the security tools they want, but human behavior will always remain the weakest link.
Thankfully, there’s a way to manage this. Studies show security awareness training can reduce the susceptibility to phishing, and most cybersecurity regulations mandate organizations to impart some form of security training to employees. That said, we all know that compliance training is often dull and uninspiring. In fact, employees who receive poor training are almost indistinguishable from those who have received no training at all. So how can organizations do better with cybersecurity training? Here are five tips that can help:
1. Get leadership buy-in
If you want employees to care about your training, you must first get leaders to care about it. Engage leadership by talking about historical incidents that resulted in near-misses. Share stories from your industry and how effective training saved the day. Present the plan but don’t just present it without options, recommendations, timelines and deadlines. Instead of using technical mumbo jumbo, speak in a language the business comprehends. Metrics on average attendance, frequency, completion rates, phish-prone percentages, number of incidents, incidents reported by employees, etc., can help build a strong pitch, spark interest and participation from leadership teams.
2. Focus on reporting and visibility
It’s critical that security and compliance teams track and report training activities, as this can demonstrate progress and build trust and visibility into the program. Have a firm due date in place for training and report people who do not complete in time. When managers encounter team members who do not complete their training, ensure you document it, including the reason why they did not complete it. Try creating tailored dashboards for different groups, managers and leaders and report at periodic intervals. Use tools that can allow self-service to see who has completed training, who has not completed and who are repeat offenders. Present your key observations at leadership meetings to build visibility so they are aware of the progress and the challenges.
3. Gamify your program
Gamification is one of the best ways to make training more engaging and effective. Studies show that employees who receive gamified training feel more motivated compared to those that receive non-gamified training. Gamifying a program is easy. Badges, ribbons, points or challenges can go a long way in motivating employees. Break people up into teams, use dashboards or leaderboards to highlight and display user progress and create competitive spirit amongst participants. Provide exclusive advantages, a gift card, a meal coupon, a preferred parking spot on campus, etc. Employees that complete their training early can gain entry to a raffle, a door prize or a giveaway contest.
4. Mix up your content
If you do the same thing every year, don’t expect a different result. It can be annoying and demotivating to go through the same information and format. Make the content more engaging by making it more personalized using real-world examples that are relevant to the employee’s roles and responsibilities. Mix up content using classroom exercises, phishing tests and simulations. Try using focus groups with participation from influential staff who may not necessarily be leadership but whose voices are trusted and respected within the organization. Finally, don’t forget to measure results, look for improvements based on feedback and fine-tune the program using content that best fits your audience.
5. Standardize systems and approach
A standardized systems approach can go a long way to making things simpler for users, which is going to have a direct impact in terms of engagement, participation and completion rates. In other words, you don’t want people using multiple systems. If there is a link to the policy somewhere, you should link that policy within your training. If the system supports single sign-on, participants can easily bounce over to that, read the policy, attend training, take the quiz and get the completion credit. Brand the program so that it looks professional, authentic and feels like a critical part of the organization.