How to Design an Effective Cybersecurity Awareness Training Program for SMB Employees

Understandably, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have difficulty prioritizing cybersecurity. They are often concerned with more vital things, like making payroll or keeping the company afloat.

But here’s the thing: your organization has a high chance of being targeted by online criminals. SMBs are more likely to be targeted by cyber-criminals than large enterprises because they often have weaker security measures. Additionally, their data is just as attractive to hackers as larger companies, if not more so.

Employees are often considered the weakest link in a company’s cybersecurity strategy. Still, you can turn them from your weakest link to your most vital asset with some training and attention.

The following are a few best practices for designing an effective cybersecurity awareness training program for SMB employees:

1) Understand Your Organization’s Security Culture

By taking this approach, you can gain insights into your business’s unique characteristics and the current level of employee understanding of cybersecurity risks.

Determine the level of risk associated with employees’ security behaviors, including whether and how these behaviors pose potential threats to your company’s operations or assets. Some attacks a small business can face include DDoSbotnetphishingransomware and other malware attacks.

Your goal is to identify vulnerabilities by looking at how employees behave rather than assuming they follow protocol based on what they say they do. This will help you determine what needs improvement and potential barriers and how to overcome them.

2) Create a Cybersecurity Training Project Plan

Once you understand what you need and what resources are available, it’s time to put together a project plan. This plan should include information on the skills and knowledge that your staff needs to learn and the attitudes that they need to adopt.

Determine the training objectives, such as the knowledge and skills that employees need to demonstrate to advance cybersecurity awareness efforts within the organization.

And then, break down each objective into smaller components, such as particular topics needed for achieving the goal, such as data classification policies or email phishing threats.

3) Execute the Cybersecurity Training Project Plan

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for cybersecurity training. You may need to try multiple options until you find one that works best for you. It’s important not to skip any steps along the way, as each is crucial to achieving your end goal. Some tips that you might want to keep in mind at this stage:

  • Initiate proper communication with employees about the training program.
  • Onboarding/orientation training for all new employees must include cybersecurity.
  • Select or develop a learning management system (LMS) to facilitate the delivery of training materials.
  • Create engaging content that relates to your employees’ roles and responsibilities. 
  • Cyber-threats are constantly evolving in innovation and complexity. Make sure your content is accurate and up-to-date.

4) Assess Employee Learning

Once you’ve completed your cybersecurity awareness training program, you’ll want to assess its effectiveness in improving employee knowledge of cybersecurity threats and best practices.

Employees should be able to demonstrate their new knowledge through clear action items specific to their job roles and improved cyber-aware behavior.

Evaluate each employee’s knowledge of and compliance with company policies before and after cybersecurity awareness training. You can do this by using assessments in your LMS, surveys, interviews and other methods.

5) Adjust and Update as Needed

As with all technology, cybersecurity threats constantly evolve, so you should regularly update your cybersecurity awareness program.

Adjust your cybersecurity awareness training schedule based on results from employee assessments. For example, suppose your employees struggle with a particular concept or policy. You may need to offer additional resources or repeat the relevant training session more frequently until employees can demonstrate mastery.

After you’ve assessed employee learning, you’ll have an idea of what parts of the curriculum were helpful for them and what could have been improved. Use this information to adjust or update your materials.


Designing an effective cybersecurity awareness training program for your company’s employees is a balance of ease and thoroughness. On the one hand, you want to keep it simple enough that they will all be able to complete it quickly and have time to get back to their work. On the other hand, you want them to learn as much as possible so that they can stay safe from cyber-attackers and keep your business protected from data breaches.

The most important thing is to make sure all of your employees are on the same page: every employee needs to know how to identify malicious links and phishing emails, spot a fake website, use strong passwords and more.

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