SJUK Exclusive: A commitment to continuous improvement

July 13, 2022

Security Journal UK speaks exclusively with Arevika Stepanian, Board Director for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, ASIS UK.

How did you initially get involved within the security industry?

My journey in the security industry commenced back in 2017 which, I have to admit, was a role I fell into by accident, as opposed to as a conscious career choice.

When applying for a position with STM Group, I was drawn to the specific job responsibilities and the culture of the company. However, it was a decision made without any real understanding of the security world or how it operates. Five years later, here I am, talking to others looking to enter the industry and spreading the word about the opportunities and limitless possibilities within our challenging, but exciting and fulfilling, sector.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenges facing the UK security industry currently?

The industry faces many challenges which are common to any service sector. As far as I can judge, recruitment and retention of quality personnel has always been an issue for the security industry. Finding quality staff, both with the necessary skillsets, but also with the right approach and attitude, is a constant challenge.

Ensuring the recruitment of ‘round pegs for round holes’, by narrowing individual role profiles, is a key issue. However, once staff are embedded as ‘internal customers’, it is essential that they feel valued and valuable in the work that they undertake. In essence, the industry (and organisations operating within it) need to provide those staff the tools that they need to do the job being requested of them. Customers can help or hinder such an approach by determining whether cost, or quality, of service delivery is a higher priority on their buying agenda.

What appealed to you about the ASIS UK Chapter that made you want to get involved?

Founded in 1955, ASIS International is the world’s largest membership organisation for security management professionals, with a global network of 34,000 active members and over 250 Chapters of which the UK Chapter is one of the largest. I travel a lot around the world and the opportunities of becoming a member and networking with fellow security colleagues from various countries was the biggest appeal from a long list of benefits.

In addition, the Board of Directors at STM Group were active members of the ASIS UK Chapter for many years, having highlighted the benefits of networking and attending high profile professional events in the UK and across Europe. As a result, in 2019, I was encouraged by the Board to join the Association for Personal Development as well as to be able to access the latest industry news and trends, across the world.

Little did I know that I would, one day, become an ASIS Board Director, a role of which I am extremely proud – and which I am also very grateful to the STM Board for. This one opportunity has already offered me endless opportunities for professional growth.

Can you please tell us more about your role as Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the ASIS UK Chapter?

ED&I has always been a core value that I strive to uphold in everything I do, both inside and outside of the workplace. My role as a Director of ED&I is to support the Chair and Board in an effort to improve the representation of all minorities in the security industry, at all levels, whilst providing support, fostering opportunities and helping eradicate prejudice and discrimination.

It is a journey where I hope to continuously improve in my role and be able to expand the strategic ED&I goals of our association in order to make a positive impact both on our members and also the security industry in general. It is not an easy task, but I am enjoying every bit of this challenge!

What are your main objectives in this role?

There are so many to list, but some of the primary objectives include:

  • Increasing diversity among the membership
  • Inform, drive and support ongoing organisational change and improvement
  • Attend, lead and develop local and regional meetings, relating to the D&I agenda. One of our recent successful examples includes the ED&I Event ‘Beyond Differences’, held at the Emirates Stadium on 22 June as part of the ASIS Summer Seminar. We were lucky to cover a variety of topics, including the recruitment of young professionals, promotion of inclusivity within workplaces, supporting LGBTQ+ employees. Importantly, this also included understanding hidden disabilities and the importance of mental health, which was eloquently shared by former Chelsea and England Centre Forward, Kerry Dixon.

Moving towards genuine diversity and inclusivity is by no means a quick process. Instead, it should be seen as an ongoing journey. It means practicing a diverse and inclusive mindset where different perspectives in the workplace are sought, whilst providing an environment where each person is valued for his/her/their distinctive skills, experiences and viewpoints.

ED&I is not just for human resources to champion; it is a challenge for everyone in the organisation. No matter what their role in an organisation might be, everyone should always stop and think: Who is being left unheard in my institution or workplace? What personal actions can I take? Am I challenging myself enough to promote inclusion at work, on an ongoing basis?

How did your time as a Young Professionals & Women in Security Groups Committee Member influence your move into this new role?

It has had a huge impact on my decision to take on this role. I was very lucky to join the Young Professionals Committee, originally led by the fantastic Richard Brooks, who is the current Board Director for Young Professionals. Being part of a committee of nine individuals, led by a person who is so passionate for this topic, was truly inspirational. I learned a lot about the association, was able to engage and network with its members and be introduced to the Board informally via Richard. I later joined the WiS committee, led by another equally inspirational Board Member, Suzanne Collins, and was able to better understand not only the industry challenges, but also its many possibilities.

While I was still a Committee Member of both groups, I became the ED&I Champion – and Chair of VOW Group at STM – taking time to research the topic more and further develop my understanding of the many ED&I challenges. All these different experiences were precursors to my current role.

How important is it to create fair and equal working environments across the industry?

It has been statistically proven that corporations identified as more diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. In addition, according to a 2020 Glassdoor survey, 76% of job seekers (three out of four), and employees, said a diverse workforce was an important factor for them when evaluating job opportunities and individual organisations.

The business case for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion has undoubtedly increased in priority over the last two years, becoming stronger than ever before. Therefore, it is important that organisations embrace the importance of building a more diverse and inclusive environment.

When it comes to ED&I in the workplace, accountability is key. It creates a connection between employees and the senior leadership team who are responsible for delivery. It also embeds transparency, because we are being open about what we are going to do and how we are going to do it.

As an industry, there is still a long way to go – but progress is definitely being made, particularly having experienced the many positive, collective actions which have taken place in the past year.

What would your advice be to other young professionals looking to join the industry?

Keep learning, be visible and attend events. It is critically important to never stand still, aim to learn something new every day and continuously grow. Attending events and networking with industry professionals (within security or outside) enables a broadening of the mind, a better understanding of different perspectives and the building of a solid network which can support you along the journey.

In addition, be sure to always remain positive and take every opportunity to volunteer, whether by joining internal groups, becoming a member of associations or helping with specific projects. Make sure that you show initiative, bring a fresh perspective to any matters arising and seize every opportunity which comes your way.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

I see my industry career as a journey, not a destination. I want to continue that journey, completing new challenges, whilst meeting new and interesting people along the way. I have always been driven by a commitment to continuous improvement, which I will aim to apply in order that I might become the best “me” I possibly can. As an integral part of that internal programme, my plan is also to continue to improve representation and inclusion of people with disabilities, diverse educational backgrounds, genders and ethnicities. I am looking forward to the challenges ahead, continuing to learn from experience and life, but with a positive attitude and a winning mentality.

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This article was originally published in the July 2022 edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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