Every building needs a firm foundation with strong footings and solid construction— an axiom architecture, engineering, and construction firm The Haskell Company knows well and applies to its organizational structure, too.
“In talent management, the foundation consists of attracting, developing, and retaining talent,” says Chief Human Resources Officer David Thaeler. “At Haskell, we think of development and engagement as the groundwork upon which we set our foundation. If we place our foundation on silty and shaky soil, our foundation is going to be compromised. Training and engagement are the bedrock of our culture because we are in the people business, and development, growth, and the personal and professional success of our team members allows for Haskell’s success.”
That sturdy foundation has propelled Haskell to #1 on the 2023 Training APEX Awards list. In October 2018, Haskell set the vision for its road to 2025 and aligned six pillars to support that vision. Haskell’s strategic pillars serve to create both a customer and team member experience of signfficance, success, and satisfaction, says Chief Executive Of- hcerjim O’Leary. These pillars include:
- Provide Team Members with the BEST Job of Their Lives
- Drive Operational Excellence
- Grow Program Management, Consulting, & Design Services
- Optimize Intellectual Capital, Technology, and Innovation
- Expand Diversity & Inclusion
- Achieve Meaningful and Profitable Growth
“For 55-plus years, the company has grown and diversified,” O’Leary says. “A key reason for our enduring success has been alignment to the Haskell core values and investment in the development and engagement of our team.”
In 2021, Haskell adjusted its original “Expand Diversity” pillar to “Expand Diversity & Inclusion” to ensure an inclusive and equitable environment where everyone feels valued and respected. The “Haskell Together Diversity Suite” is a blended, four-part interactive training, with each component building on the other:
1. Haskell Diversity & Inclusion: This self-guided module offers realistic scenarios and guidelines for creating an inclusive, respectful workplace.
2. Cultivating a Diverse Workforce: This foundational diversity offering is a 60-minute instructor-led training (ILT) designed to get team members thinking about diversity and its impact on them and those they work with.
3. Bias and Microaggressions: How to Elevate Your Consciousness: The 60-minute instructor- led workshop takes a deep dive into microaggressions and unconscious bias, how they are inadvertently acted out, and their impact on the workplace.
4. Know Your ABC’s: Allyship, Belonging, and Creating Equity: Added in 2022, this 90-minute, scenario-based ILT asks learners to shift their mindsets about diversity, inclusion, allyship, and belonging. Participants hear and act out situations where belonging and allyship are needed or put to the test.
“This series is not the only diversity training at Haskell, but rather a streamlined, foundational approach to level the playing held for our team members in terms of understanding diversity and inclusivity and their impacts at Haskell,” says Director of Learning, Development & Engagement Brooke jones-Chinetti. “Despite Haskell’s workforce growth of more than 30 percent, 89 percent of our colleagues have participated in these optional courses, which has increased 10 percent in the last year.”
The impact is reflected in Haskell’s Gallup engagement scores:
- Female team member engagement is 21 percent higher than Gallup’s U.S. Workforce average. African-American team member engagement also increased and is 25 percent higher than the U.S. Workforce average.
Additional business impacts include:
- Haskell maintained female and minority director and above at 25 percent of senior positions; internal promotions in this category increased 5 percent to 32 percent, with female and minority managers increasing 2 percent.
- Haskell increased overall diversity to 52 percent last year from 51 percent the prior year, with 66 percent of new hires being diverse. This significantly leads peer companies, which, on average, have less than 35 percent diverse employees.
Engagement and Wellness
Like most companies, Haskell continues to balance a split workforce, with some employees in-office, some remote, and some at jobsites. “Engaging team members—both in office and remotely—is a huge focus for our organization,” Jones-Chinetti says. “Our bi-weekly virtual instructor-led (vILT) Engagement Open House Program analyzes Gallup engagement survey data utilizing ‘Q12 Insights’ to prepare participants with the science and research behind Haskell’s results compared to the Gallup database and recommendations for action items.”
Supervisors spanning the enterprise, from engagement professionals to senior and HR leaders, do a deep dive into specific QI2 Insights to review Haskell’s results, share resources, promote success stories, and seek inspiration to resolve areas of opportunity. “The open discussion forum enables leaders to communicate between business units, form common bonds, and learn from each other while providing insight into trends and opportunities to align support,” Jones-Chinetti says.
A key aspect of engagement at Haskell is employee wellness—including physical, mental, and emotional health. “For Haskell, taking care of our people includes an imperative to address the high mental health issues—suicide rates in the construction industry are among the highest of any profession—and ensure our team members have resources to enable success,” Jones-Chinetti says.
Haskell’s Stress & Resilience Trio provides three blended offerings, each combining self-paced learning with a 60-minute vILT: “Managing Burnout,” “Grief & Loss,” and “Resilience Together.” Jones- Chinetti points out that “these kinds of programs are not the norm in our ‘be tough or go home’ industry culture.” Together, these classes increase team members’ understanding of important concepts such as:
- Recognizing signs and symptoms around burnout and inviting dialogue around mental health—for leaders and team members alike
- Understanding how grief and loss often are mislabeled
- Building resiliency over time
- Acknowledging stress, burnout, grief, and psychological pressure’s impact on team members, and ways to combat them
All modules have customized resource playlists (think Spotify) in Haskell’s learning management system (LMS), allowing for further research through articles, podcasts, and short videos.
“These three courses are critical to Haskell’s mission of caring for team members in every business unit and provide a roadmap for sustainable success,” Jones- Chinetti says. “Results from this program contribute to the following outcomes directly tied to providing our team members with the BEST job of their lives and their professional success: Amid the Great Resignation, our voluntary turnover decreased to 12.1 percent, reaching our target of remaining at less than a third of the industry turnover average of 36.8 percent. Additionally, we maintained our engagement score around the statement, ‘Someone cares about me at work’ (4.37). This score is 10 percent higher than those in our industry; our Field team member scores are 18 percent higher than those of our industry.”
New Skill Framework
With employee development high on its priority list, Haskell is investing in its New Skill Framework for job-specific training. “Our Learning and Development group and Operations have formed a partnership to roll out basic training for each of our job functions and families,” Thaeler explains. “We brought onboard a director of Learning Standards and Practices to ensure our approach is unified across the organization, as well as a director of AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) Operational Training to prioritize and align training. Each of our core groups—Construction, Project Delivery, and Architecture/Engineering— has a designated technical training lead and support structure to get training to our team members efficiently and effectively. We also bolstered support by bringing on three new internal instructional designers. Overall, training staff grew 130 percent.”
From here, Haskell formulated a two-pronged approach to job-specific training across the enterprise: a long-term competency-based approach and an assessment of immediate needs called TrainingNOW. “While we have had a competency-based framework for years surrounding foundational, leadership, and some job-specffic parent competencies, we are deepdiving into all job functions and job families and applying this approach,”Jones-Chinetti says.
In the face of the continuing pandemic and rapid growth from 1,200 to 1,900 team members in the U.S. and 12 countries, the majority of Haskell’s training offerings continues to be delivered in a virtual environment. Technical/craft-related content previously was delivered only in-person at the Superintendents Meeting, which Haskell held twice a year. “This was expensive, there was no routine reinforcement of skills enhancement, and it was challenging to the coverage of jobsites with so many key personnel absent,” notes Director of Field Technical Training Michael McLauchlan. “Blending online training with our annual Superintendents Meeting, we implemented our on-demand Online Technical Training Program, focusing on advanced emerging Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) needed in our industry for technical, safety, and quality processes. We designed a microlearning process to deliver knowledge content and enhanced it with a skill/hands-on component at one annual Superintendents Meeting.”
Microlearning modules run between three and 15 minutes to maximize job site time management. Chunked learning content modules are delivered every three to four weeks based on individual and group core competency targets, allowing a more flexible window to participate. Reinforcement, skills practice, and deeper learning take place at the Superintendents Meeting within two to four months of online knowledge training completion and/or on the job site with Quality, Safety, and subject matter expert professionals in a mentoring-coaching capacity.
Looking to the future, Haskell rolled out its two-part Quality Performance Training Program centered around new quality control software covering every aspect of the company’s construction quality metrics (called “Auditboard”)—from pre-construction and project mobilization to completion.
First, team members learn how to use the software and understand how it tracks their project’s quality metrics in real time. Second, based on established quality targets, the software scoring identifies relevant training for the entire team whenever a metric falls below the established benchmark. This enables skills remediation and course correction in real time through Haskell’s newly branded Quality Performance Course Library (QP-1).
The Future Is Now
For 2023, Jones-Chinetti says, “our leadership brand is at the forefront of our minds.” One major project is a virtual “leadership hub” designed to assist leaders with expectation management, resources, tool kits, and training that will be made available to all Haskell team members.
Ultimately, Jones-Chinetti believes, “Training teams must be strategically aligned to their businesses and work to ask—and answer—‘What will our customers’ needs be five years from now?’ And then they must train their workforce on what they’ll need to know for that future state now.”