Corporate training has probably the worst reputation imaginable.
We used to work with a large technology solutions company, and in one of our first conversations, we got some pretty shocking news.
Most of their employees were skipping mandatory security training. On a regular basis.
In fact, with each new training program they conducted, they were seeing fewer and fewer attendees.
It was only after speaking face-to-face with some of the team members that we started to understand what was going on.
First of all, the training was way too one-sided.
It was typically one trainer standing in front of a bunch of bored employees, running through an overstuffed PowerPoint presentation.
Attendees didn't have anything to do besides listen and take notes.
And second, the training was far too general-purpose, or 'one-size-fits-all'.
Training wasn't helping them solve actual real-world problems. It was full of theory and guidelines, and didn't help them build their skills at all.
You know what the root of both issues was? The training wasn't helping team members do their jobs better.
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The most important thing to keep in mind when training your team is this: your employees need to care about the skills they learn.
Whether your team needs skills to take on a new project or streamline an inefficient process, training needs to directly impact how your employees work.
Employees don't want to learn skills that they can't apply in the workplace. What they can't apply, they simply won't remember.
According to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2022, these are the top 3 motivations for employees to learn:
All 3 of these are tied to their career goals, because ultimately, that's what people are working towards.
As a team leader, you need to ensure that your business objectives align with your employees' career goals. That's how you get the most out of your training program.
Ultimately, training needs to make business sense, both for your employees and your organisation.
If your team cares about the skills they're learning, they'll apply them at work. And when they apply those skills, you get that fabled boost to performance and productivity.
Quality training is a win-win for everyone involved.
As you go deeper into any subject, it's natural to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
For any professional, revisiting the basics can help them find new ways of solving problems, particularly in rapidly evolving tech industries.
It's important to note that this doesn't mean you should waste time retraining employees from scratch.
It's usually enough to just briefly revisit basic concepts before moving on to the advanced stuff.
Hands-on learning has proven to be the single most effective way to acquire new skills by a wide margin.
Numerous studies point to how learning by doing not only helps you remember more information, but improves their problem-solving abilities.
It has another major benefit: students don't get bored. The more your employees get to actively use their brains while training, the better they're able to learn.
Make them do exercises, solve relevant problems, and train your team like pilots: with a flight simulator.
As a team leader, your job isn't just to oversee your team's tasks, but to be a good mentor. When employees face a roadblock while training, you need to be there for them.
Establish strong, honest lines of communication between you and your team so they feel comfortable approaching you. Being a leader is often less about ordering people around, and more about being a guide for your team members through uncertainties and challenges.
It really helps to understand your employees' personal challenges and grievances, recognising them as individuals rather than a 'family'. By acknowledging their individual strengths and weaknesses, you can help guide their growth as professionals, without losing sight of your common goal as a team.
Nothing puts someone off training as much as having to learn something they'll never use. Nobody likes attending meetings where they have nothing to contribute. Why would they want to sit through hours of training that's irrelevant to them?
Remember: people only learn and remember skills that they can immediately apply in the real world.
For example, don't force your DevOps engineers to sit in on a Kubernetes Security training program meant for your security team. They're not going to care, and you're just wasting their time and your money.
AppSecEngineer has you covered, though. We've got courses for security engineers, cloud architects, DevOps engineers, and developers. You can pick the most relevant courses for each team, and you'll never see those new skills going to waste.
I mentioned earlier that your employees' strongest motivation to learn is tied to their career goals.
It's in your organisation's best interests to support your employees in achieving those goals. Internal mobility—new jobs, mentorships, gigs—is a proven way of increasing employee retention and reducing costs.
Both for team morale and your organisation's long-term growth, you should reward your employees for acquiring skills and showing initiative. It shows them you care, and that you're invested in them as people, not just 'human resources'.
It's not enough to simply get your team through a training session and call it a day.
To really get the most out of it, you need to check in with your team after they've completed a few sessions. Ask them their thoughts on the training, whether they're finding it interesting, and what could be done to improve the experience.
This might seem like a pointless step, because 'training is training', right? But getting feedback is crucial to understanding what parts of the training worked and what didn't.
Maybe this particular training didn't have enough hands-on exercises, which bored your team into not paying attention to the material. Maybe it was too basic, or general-purpose, or simply not relevant to your team's specific use case.
It's unlikely that you'll get any real, honest feedback from your team unless you specifically ask them for it. Make it clear to your employees that you want their honest opinion (and that they won't get into trouble for being critical).
Not only will this help you develop better training programs for your team, it's also a great way to build trust between yourself and your employees.
This one really ties the bow neatly on this list.
You need to keep track of how your employees are performing on the training over time.
Who's doing the best? Who's lagging behind? How does performance change from one course to the next?
Combined with the feedback from your team members, these data points will give you a complete picture of what works in your training and what doesn't.
AppSecEngineer for Teams offers detailed analytics where admins can view how each individual team member is performing. You can even assign courses to specific teams or individual members and track their progress.
Use this information to refine your training strategy and get more out of each subsequent training program.
Ultimately, training is never a one-and-done affair.
Especially with how rapidly and constantly industries are changing today, employees need to be updating their skills constantly.
Take the time to create a more involved, systematised approach to training and see the results for yourself.
There's truly no limits to what you and your team can achieve with a solid training plan.
If you're ready to take your team's application security training to the next level, let us give you a demo.
Or if you'd like to try out the platform for yourself first, get started with your own free account.
Aneesh Bhargav is the Head of Content Strategy at AppSecEngineer. He has experience in creating long-form written content, copywriting, producing Youtube videos and promotional content. Aneesh has experience working in Application Security industry both as a writer and a marketer, and has hosted booths at globally recognized conferences like Black Hat. He has also assisted the lead trainer at a sold-out DevSecOps training at Black Hat. An avid reader and learner, Aneesh spends much of his time learning not just about the security industry, but the global economy, which directly informs his content strategy at AppSecEngineer. When he's not creating AppSec-related content, he's probably playing video games.