Built to Train

Haskell's people-first culture champions the core values of team, excellence, service, and trust.

Architecture, engineering, and construction firm Haskell goes well beyond nuts-and-bolts training for its employees—in fact, one of the company’s 6 Strategic Pillars focuses on putting people first and “providing team members with the BEST job of their lives.”

“Haskell’s culture champions our core values of Team, Excellence, Service, and Trust,” explains Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer David Thaeler. “Training and engagement are core to our culture, because we are in the people business, and development and growth of our team members fosters our success.”

Supporting Haskell’s vision for the road to 2025, the 6 Strategic Pillars serve to create both a customer and team member experience of significance, success, and satisfaction. The pillars include:

  • Provide Team Members with the BEST Job of Their Lives
  • Drive Operational Excellence
  • Grow Program Management, Consulting, and Design Service
  • Optimize Intellectual Capital, Technology, and Innovation
  • Expand Diversity
  • Achieve Revenue and Earnings Among the Top Quartile of Peer Companies

“Specific to the first pillar is creating careers that matter by attracting, developing, and investing in the best talent,” says Brooke Jones-Chinetti, director, Learning & Team Member Engagement. “The fourth pillar aims to create ideas that matter. The interplay between these two pillars creates an innovative and collaborative environment for all to thrive and succeed in.”


Taking care of Haskell’s team members, contract partners, and anyone working on a project site is the company’s #1 priority, stresses Vice President of Safety & Quality Lance Simons. “Safety impacts every single aspect of work, and it will never be subverted in the interest of time or profit. As an organization, we strive to have a zero-incidence environment, and year-after-year, we exceed the industry average recordable incidence rate (RIR). One section of our company has met this goal for 10 years straight—and it also happens to be one of our most dangerous operating units: Haskell Steel Fabrication Operations.”

With long-established training and reinforcement programs—including daily safety kick-off conversations and the Welder Apprenticeship Program —Haskell’s leadership team and on-site quality and safety experts have figured out how to keep everyone motivated and engaged to always be safe while at work (and beyond), says Technical Training Manager Mike McLauchlan.

In addition to 10 years of safe operations—with no lost revenues due to lost work time or claims— Haskell’s Steel Fabrication operations experienced a record year for production, revenue, and contribution in 2018. Production of structural and miscellaneous steel increased 7 percent, and revenues jumped 48 percent to $57.1 million. Sales also reached a record-breaking $95.1 million for Haskell’s Steel Operations, which accounted for $41.6 million in backlog (secured contracts) coming into 2019.

Simons says one of Haskell’s most effective safety-related training programs is “SafeMatters Orientation,” which earned a 2021 Training Top 100 Outstanding Training Initiative Award (see p. 70). This training is required for all Haskell employees, all Haskell trade contract partners (8,300-plus), and client project personnel in the U.S. and 12 countries. Haskell retooled the safety curriculum by dissecting the 90-minute online curriculum into seven chunked Web-based lessons (5 to 10 minutes each), followed by comprehension testing. The new format reduced total course time to 60 minutes.

Since rollout in February 2019, 9,500-plus professionals have completed the training. Results include:

  • The recordable incident rate for first quarter 2019 improved 69 percent to 0.36, three times better than the average construction industry rate (2.7).
  • The work-in-place incident rate (WIP), which reflects safety performance inclusive of Haskell’s trade contract partners, improved 65 percent since rollout and hit a historical low (0.74) through first quarter 2019.

In addition to these achievements, Jones-Chinetti says, Haskell’s contract partners now pay a fee to participate in this training, earning Haskell $180,000 in six months.

Haskell utilizes QR code technology to help facilitate its monthly Safety Focus topics. Each month, the safety team records three to five chunked learning topics (three to five minutes long) on a particular safety topic such as personal protective equipment or fall protection. Team members and contract partners can scan the QR code posted at thejobsite for that month and watch the short videos. Each week, the team incorporates these topics in their safety meetings with “knowledge bumps” that address issues or targets that were part of the training.


The COVID-19 pandemic created the need for even more safety training. At the onset of the pandemic, Haskell developed two courses dedicated to information dissemination and preparedness for a total of 2,600 hours of training. As an essential business, it implemented multiple safe practices designed to minimize the potential for exposure for team members in the office and at job sites. In July 2020, Haskell instituted contact tracing software at each of its locations, and in September 2020, the company began utilizing an app to document and manage daily health screenings and temperature reporting.

Prior to COVID-19, the majority of Haskell’s training was delivered live and in-person. “We provided training on the technology we’d be using in this new, 100 percent virtual environment to lessen the confusion and burden of a new delivery method,” Jones-Chinetti explains. “And we implemented an active learning model where we mixed discussion, collaboration, video, and hands-on exercises.”

Haskell also utilized QR code technology in conjunction with Google Classroom to facilitate field knowledge training to its remote jobsites around the U. S. and abroad.

The onset ofCOVID-19 accelerated the timeline to grow Haskell’s Training team. “We brought on a director of Learning, Development, and Engagement to focus on long-term strategy; an engagement specialist to ensure we are quantifiably collecting team member input and creating offerings that address our needs; and a project specialist to focus on driving structure and content creation,” Thaeler says.


Heading into 2021, Haskell’s L&D team has a strong focus on structure, communication, and user experience, Jones-Chinetti relates. “We’re looking to reevaluate and rebrand our suite of current offerings. We created a new foundational development program that is tailored to rising stars within the organization. “Enhanced Potential through Intentional Coaching” (EPIC) is intended to build participants’ Emotional Intelligence and self-awareness and teach them how to be an integral, impactful participant in winning teams, as well as develop and grow key leadership skills to achieve desired results.”

Potential candidates apply and are chosen through a multifactored review process in which participants are blindly selected based on a rubric to avoid potential bias. EPIC will serve as a potential pipeline to Haskell’s premier “Leadership Series” (LS).

Last year, 33 high-potential employees (“hi-pos”) were enrolled in the Leadership Series, which emphasizes coaching. These hi-pos receive feedback from a facilitator regarding coaching interactions and individualized feedback from peers acting as coaches. Most of these hi-pos transition into future leadership roles.

Future senior leaders (FSLs) are provided with a choice of in-house coaching (Leadership Series) or external programs for individual interview and selection. FSLs make the selection rather than being assigned. Some meetings between the FSL and coach are in person (prior to COVID-19), while others take place by telephone and online. “Coaches challenge FSLs to look beyond work and connect with their deeper purpose—and how this awareness and focus can positively impact their customers, colleagues, community, and families,” Jones-Chinetti explains.

The overall promotion rate of participants in the FSL and Leadership Series programs is 35 percent over the last year—exceeding Haskell’s target of 10 percent of all promotions into leadership roles being participants of the FSL and Leadership Series programs.


In the coming year,Jones-Chinetti says, artificial intelligence (AI) will take on a bigger role in guiding Haskell learners to courses and programs that are best suited for their roles, interests, and learning preferences. Haskell has invested in a platform that will allow for learner “recommendations”— think movie suggestions from Netflix—to generate personalized recommendations for them.

In the last year, Haskell has worked with several solutions within the augmented reality, virtual reality, and AI areas in particular to help ensure COVID-19 safety precautions. They include:

HERO (Hazard Elimination Risk Oversight): A proprietary virtual reality platform designed to reinforce the safety training of field teams by identifying visible hazards in the virtual environment.

SMARTVID.IO: An artificial intelligence safety platform that uses computer vision to analyze jobsite progress photos and identify safety violations and potential hazards. For COVID-19, the solution can specifically identify mask and glove compliance, as well as people gathered in groups to stress where additional training is needed.

In the next three to five years,Jones-Chinetti hopes L&D strategy will pivot from courses and programs to resources and experiences guided by L&D experts who serve as performance consultants. “This holistic approach is infinitely more personalized and effective,” she says. “I also see data continuing to drive decision-making in L&D. I predict the majority of organizations will demand robust analytics and business insights from their learning management systems. We should all be using quantifiable metrics to assess the health and state of our programming, but more so, we should be looking at how it connects to the big picture: sales, hires, retention, etc. It will no longer be ‘a nice to have’ but ‘a need to have’ in order to implement successful HR and L&D strategies.”

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training Top 100 and Emerging Training Leaders.