When many employees think of workplace education, they envision tedious presentations, thick handbooks full of corporate jargon and dreary training videos that look like they were produced 20 years ago. Education is often seen as a chore — a box employees have to check to get their managers to stop bothering them. But this way of working is a missed opportunity for everyone.

Employees want opportunities to learn on the job. Professional development has never been more important as the global economy becomes more competitive, and the digital transformations that many companies are undergoing require a whole new set of skills. For example, cybersecurity awareness is critical as cyberattacks become more frequent and destructive. It’s also a skill that will help employees advance their careers and defend themselves at home. Digital transformation has opened a wide range of new attack vectors, and all employees share responsibility for keeping the company safe — companies should give them compelling incentives to do so.

These are the reasons companies have to cultivate cyber-awareness in their workforce, which means they need to be capable of seizing employees’ attention with engaging educational content and driving long-term behavioral change. This won’t just ensure that companies are taking the necessary steps to defend themselves from cyberthreats — it will also give employees practical skills that will protect them at the office and at home.

How Do Your Employees Learn?

The first step toward building an effective cyberawareness platform is understanding how busy adults learn. Many corporate learning and development (L&D) programs offer stale content with abysmal acting, poor production values and dry instruction that employees are bound to forget a few minutes after they stop watching. This confirms employees’ biases about company training and makes it less likely that they’ll pay attention to future content.

According to a July 2021 survey conducted by Gartner, nearly 60% of human resources (HR() leaders said “building critical skills and competencies will be their number one priority in 2022.” This is all the more reason why companies have to establish training platforms that actually work. First, it’s vital to remember that your employees are professionals with full schedules, which is why the most effective educational content is concise, convenient to access and easy to digest. Because employees want practical information, your content should be based on real-world scenarios such as data breaches and other cyberattacks that have actually taken place.

These are essential elements of engagement, especially for adults. Educational content has to be relevant, succinct and memorable for employees to retain the information they learn and it should be updated as circumstances change (which is particularly true when it comes to the ever shifting cyberthreat landscape). If companies give employees compelling reasons to learn, training will be viewed as an asset instead of a burden.

Reframing Education in the Workplace

There’s a significant disconnect between employees’ desire for professional development opportunities and their disdain for many of the training programs offered to them. While 77% of workers say they’re ready to learn new skills or completely retrain, just one-fifth of employees say they would recommend their organization’s L&D programs. Meanwhile, only 52% of employees say their companies provide the right amount of training.

The evidence that employees want to learn at work is overwhelming, but it’s clear that existing L&D programs aren’t cutting it. This is why companies need to reframe workplace education. Rather than forcing employees to undergo training and punishing them if they fail to do so, show them that training will benefit them personally and professionally. Demonstrate how training will help them do their jobs, provide recognition when employees prove what they’ve learned and explain why skills such as cyberawareness will make them more secure at work and at home.

When companies tell their workforces that training is just a box they have to check, employees will do the bare minimum just to get it out of the way. This won’t just lead to employee disengagement — in the context of cybersecurity, it will also put your company at risk by helping cybercriminals deceive and manipulate your workforce. An engaged and well-trained workforce is indispensable to any company’s digital workplace.

How Mission-driven Learning Spurs Cultural Change

Building and maintaining a healthy company culture is more crucial than ever as the labor market remains extremely tight and turnover rates continue to pose a major problem for HR teams. A recent PwC survey found that 72% of employees and company leaders say that “culture helps successful change initiatives happen.” Companies can use their L&D programs to foster a healthier culture by bringing employees together around a shared mission and empowering them to put what they learn into practice.

The end goal of any security awareness program is to effect sustainable behavioral change, which will ultimately create a culture of cybersecurity. There are many ways to develop this culture, and education is a central part of the process. For example, company leaders should be open with employees about how cyberattacks work, the damage they cause and what channels should be used to report suspicious activity. This will reinforce your defenses against cyberattacks while simultaneously instilling a culture of transparency in which employees feel like stakeholders who are invested in the success of the company. Positive reinforcement works better than the threat of punishment, and educational programs are ideal vehicles for motivating and encouraging employees.

For too long, employees have viewed training as a reluctant necessity — despite the fact that an overwhelming majority say it’s an important part of their professional lives. This presents a major opportunity for companies that understand how to implement workplace L&D initiatives that employees will embrace. Beyond the immediate advantages, engaging educational programs will show employees that you’re invested in their professional success and committed to developing a healthy and productive workplace culture.