Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 5, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why Keystone Environmental Ltd. was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2021):
- Keystone Environmental helps employees balance their day-to-day responsibilities through a number of alternative working options, including flexible hours, shortened work weeks and telecommuting -- and the company quickly moved many employees to work-from-home arrangements last year
- Keystone Environmental encourages employees to save for the future with matching RSP contributions and lets employees share in the company's successes through profit-sharing and year-end bonuses that are open to all employees
- Keystone Environmental starts new employees with three weeks of paid vacation and considers previous work experience when setting vacation entitlement for experienced candidates
Keystone Environmental celebrates teamwork
In a COVID-19 pandemic version of the irresistible force/immovable object paradox, Keystone Environmental Ltd. had to find a way to reconcile two seemingly incompatible priorities – keeping everyone safe and healthy, and preserving the company’s carefully cultivated team culture.
Many activities, including monthly check-in mentoring sessions where team leaders provide individual feedback and guidance to team members, migrated online alongside more routine workday pursuits at the Burnaby, B.C.-based firm.
Replicating a strongly held core value like teamwork, however, required a different sort of ingenuity. Keystone Environmental, which has clients in the public and private sectors, specializes in environmental assessment, environmental engineering and environmental planning.
The work is often collaborative, and an active social committee also helped promote bonds across departments with a range of fun monthly activities and special events. What’s more, senior members of the staff, including president Raminder Grewal, had an open-door policy where employees could wander in at an apt moment for a chat, work-related or not.
Project engineer Matthew Barker says he’d never experienced that sort of accessibility until he started at Keystone Environmental in 2016. He adds that what attracted him was how the firm’s environmental work aligned with his values, but he quickly came to value the informal interactions and mentoring opportunities with his more experienced co-workers.
Working from home has generally gone smoothly, Barker says, but he began to miss the casual yet stimulating encounters that were the workplace norm. “If you lose those feelings of connectedness with your colleagues, then everybody’s just working for the dollar.”
Enter the roving iPad, one of Keystone Environmental’s solutions for replicating one-on-one face time among co-workers. Employees at home can log in via their devices to drive the wheeled apparatus around the office, which has remained open throughout the pandemic, to find who they’re looking for.
“It looks even funnier than it sounds, but it works really well,” says Barker, adding he’s happy the firm’s working so hard to maintain its sense of cohesion.
While Keystone Environmental encourages employees to work from home, it also ensured its office is safe for those who choose to be there. This includes implementing stringent COVID-19 health and safety protocols and daily health checks.
Recognizing that the prolonged pandemic and the associated isolation were taking a toll on people’s mental health, the company also implemented an Employee and Family Assistance Program to ensure that employees and their families can get the support they need to get throughout the health crisis.
According to chief operating officer Ray Bertani, the company believes in taking a holistic approach when it comes to its employees, putting as much emphasis on mental and personal well-being as it does on professional development. This, along with the company’s promote-from-within policy, has resulted in many long-serving employees.
Employee tenure milestones are commemorated in personally significant ways as well, with awards tailored to the individual employee. This has included family trips to Disneyland, New York City and Hong Kong and enrolling employees in art classes and race-car driving schools, to name just a few examples.
For Grewal, these gestures just make sense. “Our strength is our people – they allow us to succeed,” he says. “We want them to understand we really appreciate what they do for us.”