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The Law of Scheduling (or The 5% Rule)

There are two ways to deliver security awareness training: Scheduled or On Demand. Scheduled is what you think of for traditional training. A specific time and specific place are set for people to attend the training, such as an onsite presentation or a scheduled webcast. On Demand is training that allows people to take it when they want to, such as with Computer Based Training (CBT).

The challenge I'm seeing many organizations run into with Scheduled training is in this day and age people simply do not have the time or a stable schedule to attend scheduled events. People have very busy calendars that often conflict, such as business meetings, last minute conference calls, project deadlines, meeting a partner or vendor, being sick or on vacation. Even more challenging can be connecting with part-time employees or contractors. As a result, most organizations I work with see at best a 5-10% show up rate for any Scheduled training event. Obviously if the training is required the numbers increase, but even then it can be very difficult to get people to show up.

In addition, once people sign-in, they often simply leave a couple minutes later. A far more effective approach is when organizations provide training that people can take on their own schedule, when they want, and how they want. By being flexible to peoples' needs, you are far more likely to engage and have people take the training. Some of the most successful examples I have seen include the following.

  • Online video training. Not only do videos allow people to access training when they want, but most videos also have bookmarking capabilities, so they can pause when they want and come back at a later date. This is no different then how many other online education programs work, such as Khan Academy or Coursera.
  • Blogging is a tremendous way to update people on the latest threats, technologies, and trends or remind them of key points taught in the past.
  • Podcasts are a powerful way to reach people as they can listen to training while commuting.
  • Newsletters are an inexpensive but simple way to reinforce key points.

There really is no limit to how you communicate, just keep in mind the value of On Demand training. The more flexible you make your training, and the easier it is for people to access it, the more likely you are to engage people and ultimately change behavior.

Lance Spitzner is the Training Director at SANS Securing the Human program. His job and passion is helping organizations around the world build high-impact awareness programs. For free resources on building awareness programs visit the Securing the Human website.

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