What Makes A Security Awareness Training Program Successful?

security awareness training program

Security awareness training programs nowadays can only realize their full potential if (and only if) they are shared and appropriately communicated. According to the Human Development Report presented by UNDP, the central issue of our time is human participation. Human participation requires open and continuous communication. Only then will populations, whether your employees or coworkers, get motivated to participate and commit to achieving success.

No matter how intimidating it may sound, unless people don’t become the driving force for their learning and growth, no cybersecurity inputs and security awareness training programs will bring lasting changes. 

Therefore, security awareness trainings should consider the traditional knowledge and attitudes of the targeted audience. If your targeted audience doesn’t feel relevant, they will continuously consider cybersecurity an administrative burden instead of a growth and learning opportunity.

Communication Is Central To Effective Security Awareness Training

Why are security awareness training programs in place? Are they in place to mark and check the job scope boxes of security awareness officers? NO. They exist to shape and condition an employee’s behavior towards cybersecurity risks; thus, driving a behavioral change among a specified and targeted audience.

Driving change, however, is not easy. Humans always resist change. However, with cybersecurity, leaders get an advantage that the employees will not withstand the changes required by an awareness program. Nevertheless, they might still take it for granted because these programs are primarily dull, ineffective, repetitive, and do not respect their individualities. 

But let’s pause that thought for a second and think about how to fix this.

It’s straightforward: Organizations need to step away from the generic training modules and give the CISOs liberty to make security awareness relevant to their employees.


Since we have already established that we are using security awareness training programs to drive a behavioral change, we must also anticipate that people need confidence for a change to occur. So, let’s hit back to the introductory human psychology here. Humans feel confident about what they know and understand, i.e., breaking the barriers of illiteracy. 

Organizations make security awareness training programs challenging for their employees using mandatory training, formats that are not engaging (videos, slides), and one-size-fits-all training. Consider, for example, employee A knows 100% about passwords; however, employee B knows 0%, and still organizations mandate the CISOs to use the same training because there’s only one. These practices encourage an unhealthy employee response towards security awareness training that is disengaging and lacks mobility and understanding. 

Communication Breaks Illiteracy Barriers

Consider a training module focusing on strong passwords. As a security awareness officer, you have already added the NIST’s protocols, anatomy of a strong password, use of multi-factor authentication, password manager, and whatnot. But have you said why an employee, who is a non-tech person and has never faced any incident of stolen credentials, should adopt a habit of an idea that says, “all your passwords are weak, change them?”

You can read out loud the lengthy presentations and make these employees watch a 15-minute long video. However, if the video does not reflect his day-to-day activities, these employees will not care about your guidelines. And most probably, they will take it for granted, and that’s how a potentially dangerous insider threat emerges.

So how to prevent this from happening? 

All you need is to make the same security awareness training relevant to that person. Explain why he should change his passwords after every three months. Give examples and provide tools and solutions instead of simply talking about the risk. Additionally, you can use simulations and activities that reflect real-life scenarios so that users can relate to situations rather than an instruction manual.

Answer their questions, even if the question is something so basic like “what are the special characters that I need to use in my password?” These little things will encourage active and open communication, thus building a sense of identity and relevance to the security awareness training program.

It helps your employees dissolve the literacy gaps, empowering them to find common grounds with your issue and recognize essential benefits they can yield from an action to settle for implementation.

During our recent Front Lines event, Dick Wilkinson (CTO, ProofLabs) said that “you have to shift away from the generic topical aspect and get it (security awareness training programs) relevant to the user.” (see the full panel here) And we couldn’t agree more with that since tailored awareness and developmental approaches work better than generic ones

Communication Builds A Proactive Cyber Defense

A significant level of user participation is required for an effective security awareness training program. Remember that, to enrich the learning experience, the content you give must add something fresh and vital to the table, rather than merely repeating points made in earlier learning modules.

It means that your training solutions must first and foremost engage and motivate employees to participate. And for this, several communication tools are used.

Communication tools are an essential component of a successful security awareness training program. They contribute to the success of all training programs by increasing employee engagement, raising awareness, and delivering a more in-depth learning experience with which the employees feel relevant and, therefore, adopt the habits.

Once your employees start adopting the security habits, you get one step closer to creating a cyber-ready workforce. In this way, you turn your weakest link into the most substantial asset, therefore, proactively creating a robust cyber defense using communication tools and open conversations. 

Communication Builds Cyber Hygiene Leading To A Security Culture

It is proven repeatedly through surveys, reports, and whatnot that human error is either a direct cause or, at the very least, enabler of a cyberattack. Whether it’s an employee clicking on a link given in a phishing email, a receptionist letting in a cybercriminal, or a manager approving so many privileges, it all results the same.

Security leaders need to develop a proactive cyber defense by turning this weakness into a strength to combat this. And how can we do that? By building a security culture.

Building a culture in any organization is not a one-and-done thing. Let alone security culture, which itself comes with a variety of challenges. But to make the matter easy, let us give you a quick tip:

You can use security awareness and developmental programs to enhance security knowledge gradually and improve user behaviors. These behaviors can include everything. From reporting a phishing email to using advanced security tools, security awareness trainings can drive changes that matter.

What needs to be done is to use a tailored approach to make security stuff relevant to your non-tech employees. It is not only to ensure that your receptionist doesn’t let in a cyber-spy. It is about eliminating human error at all levels because, guess what, even a departmental leader can be non-technical. Still, they have access to loads of data that, in most cases, is not even recoverable.

Final Words

It is imperative to use content that your employees understand, engage, and feel relevant.

Consider yourself participating in training which only focuses on the fact that computers are dangerous. Then, when you leave training, you go back and start working on the same hazardous computers. That doesn’t make sense? Or does it?

Having that said, we pretty much land down on the same argument that focuses on communication. Through communication, you can only dissolve the literacy gap, help your employees gain confidence in security awareness training programs, and help them realize that it’s for their benefit – and not an administrative burden. 

Since Right-Hand Cybersecurity focuses more on solutions than on problems, we come with a solution to all this ourselves. Did we tell you about our recent product, Ally, as part of our commitment to fix security awareness? Why don’t you give it a try? 

We offer bite-sized security training to keep your users engaged using a tailored approach digestible to a non-tech worker. So, schedule a demo with us today; let’s fix security awareness issues together! 

Right-Hand Cybersecurity

Right-Hand Cybersecurity

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