There is no question that Raminder Grewal, President of Keystone Environmental Ltd, is a change agent. Being named on Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 Under Forty and receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 are a testament to his dedication, leadership, and hard work. “I always make sure to give things my all, I don’t want to do anything half-heartedly,” he states.
With an aptitude for math and physics, Raminder pursued engineering at the University of British Columbia. In his first year, engineering professionals were brought in to the University to talk about their respective fields. “A geological engineer spoke about environmental engineering being a growth field and the concepts interested me, so I decided to pursue geological engineering with an environmental engineering option,” he recalls.
In 2000, Raminder began working as an environmental engineer for Keystone Environmental, an engineering consulting firm of 75 employees located in Burnaby, BC. It wasn’t long before he initiated positive change within the firm. “I was exposed to emergency response in a previous job and noticed that Keystone Environmental was not exploring this area on a regular basis,” Raminder says. “I brought up the growth opportunity we had to pursue working in this area and Keystone encouraged it.” The firm succeeded in gaining a long-standing client who has retained Keystone Environmental for emergency responses for small and large fuel spills, some exceeding 20,000 litres, and has fallen within the Contaminated Sites department’s top ten client base.
Raminder became the youngest department head in Keystone’s history, responsible for half the firm’s revenue. Under his lead of the largest department, Contaminated Sites, Keystone’s revenue grew by 30 percent. “I made sure to put in my time and meet deadlines, put in the extra effort, and help others when needed,” he explains. “My approach was not to tell people what to do, but to work together as a team.” When discussions about succession planning began, he was introduced to TEC by Keystone Environmental’s CEO, a 10-year TEC member.
Raminder joined TEC’s KEY Forum in 2010 and soon realized that regardless of the industry, people management is one of the most challenging issues companies face. In recognizing the importance of hiring employees who are a good fit with a company’s values and culture, Keystone Environmental implemented the organizational practice of hiring people right out of university and promoting them from within the company. “It’s hard to find good people with experience; we train new hires in our processes and find their individual career path within the firm. This has really helped us with hiring the right people and with succession planning.”
Through TEC, Raminder learned more about the demographic of Keystone’s new hires; Generation Y in the workplace. The firm has since moved away from using desktop computers, providing project managers with laptops to work from home and maintain a better work-life balance. Raminder notes that the average turnover for an individual from Generation Y is two years, but most Keystone employees have worked with them for over four.
To further improve employee retention and succession, Raminder also worked with the HR manager to remodel Keystone’s organizational structure. The new structure implemented team leads, each with seven to eight employees reporting directly to them. This allowed more time for employees to discuss their career goals and objectives through individual monthly meetings. “Our turnover has since lowered. My personal view on the restructuring is that everyone feels more connected through the individual meetings and active communication,” Raminder says. “It has even happened where during monthly sessions our employees have shared new ideas with such great value that we have made sure to implement them.”
As a leader, Raminder places a high level of importance on recognizing people for their hard work, spotlighting them for bringing in new client projects, and congratulating them on successful projects. His best piece of business advice is to “lead by example; people will follow your lead if you are able to put yourself in the trenches and help out those who need support.”