Posts

Many of us have watched films set in New York, where well-heeled characters live in Madison or Park Avenue apartment buildings managed by a highly engaged security concierge team that always greets them by name and occasionally steps in to help solve whatever narrative challenge they may be facing. It’s the stuff of fantasy—mainly because very few of us will ever be able to afford the luxury rent or prices that it takes to live in one of these elite buildings home to the ultra-wealthy.

But the point is that part of the resident experience is having that kind of high-touch concierge service on offer, at all times, delivering personalized service. To some, it’s just as important as the design of their living quarters or the number of parking spaces they have to store their collection of vehicles. Not every condominium property manager can deliver quite that level of service, of course, but they can create a unique environment for their residents.

An engaged, respectful and proactive security concierge team is critical to ensuring the protection of a property and the people living in it—and that should always be their primary responsibility. The COVID-19 crisis, with its numerous and varied building-access and health and safety restrictions, underscored the value of having well-trained and responsible security professionals at the ready. But in going above and beyond while doing their jobs, security concierge personnel can also provide added value to a residential community.

They can help improve tenant/owner attraction and retention. They can indirectly help drive up property values. They can make a building or complex a far more desirable community in which to live, which is the goal of any property management firm or of condo owners who are always eager to see a spike in unit valuations or monthly rents.

So, what does it take to build a highly engaged condominium security concierge team? These are five of the key ingredients:

Effective recruitment

Choosing the right security firm is important for many reasons, but none more so than their approach to employee recruitment, onboarding and retention. Put simply, the service a security firm provides is only as good as the people who are providing it. Every security firm can deploy guards at a high-rise property, but the better ones put time and effort into carefully selecting their security professionals, in particular the ones who comprise security concierge teams. More than anything else, these professionals need to have experience and expertise in customer service— along with a client-focused attitude—to be successful.

Ongoing training

One of the many reasons why guards become disengaged is because they don’t receive adequate training in the onboarding phase. They often don’t have a full grasp of what their job entails or what they’re expected to deliver. Even when they are trained, security firms often rush the process and fail to set their concierge teams up for success. Speak to your security provider, ask questions about how they train their guards—including practical or technical considerations such as fire panel or security system operations and emergency procedures—and how they’ll provide training customized to the needs of your residential community.

Strong communication

It’s important for security companies to maintain strong communications internally to ensure their guards are updated on important information relating to the property where they’re stationed. A basic guard huddle at shift changes can help concierge teams share information, which should also be logged in daily reports and conveyed to the security provider’s management team electronically—and, when necessary, the building’s property manager. Even more crucial are a concierge team’s ability to communicate effectively with residents. They are the frontline service providers at any condominium and need to be able to intake, direct or address resident concerns. They also need to be friendly and attentive to deliver the kind of sunny service experience that should be the objective of any reliable security provider.

Performance expectations

It needs to be made clear to security concierge teams that the expectation is for them to create the kind of residential atmosphere that they might want for themselves or their families. That means working with your security provider to customize key performance indicators that can be measured and benchmarked over time. Concierge personnel that meet those lofty expectations should be rewarded with longer-term placements, which is also the ideal scenario for stability-loving residents who tend to appreciate seeing the same security personnel in their building lobbies from day to day.

Management accountability

The only way to enforce these expectations is by requiring full accountability. The best way to do that is to ensure that your security provider’s management team are on the ball, inspecting sites, providing necessary support to their concierge security teams, meeting residents themselves, interacting with the property manager or board and generally building a strong understanding of that specific community and its needs. When gaps emerge, those managers should take action before you even know there’s a problem.

If they work hard to motivate guards, treating them well and readily providing constructive feedback, you can rest assured that your concierge security team will likely stay fully engaged on the job—and your residents will keep smiles on their faces.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

With only specific industry exceptions, the days of your entire staff sitting in the same office—or in boardrooms taking meetings—at once, are largely gone. Nowadays, knowledge-economy workforces are becoming increasingly mobile, as employees continue to seek greater flexibility to work from home (or wherever they choose). The tacit agreement is that even though their hours may fluctuate, employees’ work will be done and delivered according to specifications. In many cases organizations are beginning to do away with formal hourly work expectations altogether.

Indeed, remote working—also known as telecommuting—has become commonplace across industries, save those where employees must be physically present in a work environment to do their jobs, such as manufacturing or retail. Many leading employers, in particular technology firms, have leveraged flex-time and remote work to attract, retain and engage top talent. They really had no choice. As the likes of Facebook, Google, Apple, WeWork and other Millennial-friendly employers changed the labour landscape over the past two decades, even small and medium-sized organizations found themselves needing to match benefits and perks to compete

Then they began to understand the security issues that emerge when employees are essentially given the reins to manage their own IT risk, but in most cases without the training and expertise needed to do it properly.

Security data tells a tale

An Ipsos poll for data security firm Shred-It released last year underscores the challenges facing organizations that seek to provide worker flexibility, while also trying to mitigate escalating security risk. Fully 82 per cent of the C-suite executives at enterprise-sized organizations and 63 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners polled felt greater exposure to a data breach when employees work off-site. The majority of large organizations (89 per cent) and SMEs (50 per cent) report offering workplace mobility, and most executives and business owners feel that that offering the option to work remotely is becoming increasingly important.

Still, slightly more than half of SMEs say they have formalized data-management policies for off-site employees, while only 27 per cent train their employees on key data protection concerns such as public Wi-Fi usage. Just 38 per cent say they have protocols to govern the handling of confidential information. That compares to large organizations, 93 per cent of which report having formal security policies for off-site employees, while just fewer than half say they train employees on the use of public Wi-Fi—a major data-management vulnerability. Fifty-three per cent of off-site employees working for large companies say they allow friends and family to use company-issued electronic devices, and the same number say their devices could face interference at home or in public spaces. That’s shocking when you consider that some of these employees could be handling everything from sensitive industrial information to customer financial data. Regardless, it means many are exposed to hackers or other cyber malfeasants looking to cause trouble.

One of the greatest challenges that organizations face in allowing members of their team to work remotely is a lack of control. As the Shred-It survey underscores, when anyone in a household has wide open access to sensitive information when a laptop is simply left unattended, that’s a major problem. And that’s just one of many potentially troublesome scenarios.

Wi-Fi a major risk exposure

Far more likely are Wi-Fi-related security incidents stemming from the use of unsecured networks at coffee shops or in other public places. While many of us assume that no one would bother to attempt to peer into our devices while we sip a latte and surf the Net, the reality is that an open Wi-Fi network is essentially an open door to an unprotected device.

Let’s not forget that phishing scams or outright hacking are also major sources of risk that are too often ignored. In many cases, we find that some employees will be less vigilant while working off-site, often letting down their guard and engaging in risky online behaviour. Why? Because we’re all human, and when we don’t think we’re being watched by the boss, we’ll sometimes cut corners and ignore protocols.

That underscores the argument for providing employees with VPN (virtual private network) access when working off-site, and requiring them to use it when logging on to their device. The problem, of course, is that enforcement becomes a challenge when employees are out of sight. Many use their personal electronic devices to conduct work business, and don’t password protect them (or at least not adequately). That leaves both personal and business data at risk of exposure which, again, is amplified when using free Wi-Fi networks.

Why employee training and policies matter

Ultimately, the onus is on organizations to have policies in their workplace manuals that address data security and management, while providing (and enforcing) protocols that must be followed at all times. Rules should state clearly that any breach of these policies could be cause for discipline or termination. Employees also need to be properly trained to understand and identify potential security risks, and in using the security tools they’ve been provided. I’m not only referring to safeguarding phones and laptops. Many employees also use USBs or portable hard drives, or even travel with hard copies of sensitive data, that can just as easily be stolen.

Every employer wants to provide greater flexibility and work-life balance to their staff. But it has to be clear that remote working arrangements are a privilege, while company-wide security is a shared responsibility—not to mention an essential element of its long-term survival and success. It’s only when security becomes part of an organization’s culture that it can be consistently and effectively enforced.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security