Training APEX Awards Best Practice: Managers on Track at Union Pacific Railroad

Managers on Track (MOT) was designed to provide first-time managers with the knowledge and tools to understand their role, manage a productive team, work effectively with their supervisor, and organize their team’s responsibilities.

APEX Awards

In 2021, Union Pacific Railroad changed its Managers on Track (MOT) training from an optional program to a mandatory one for all non-agreement employees with direct reports. MOT aims to provide the skills to delegate effectively, increase performance management, and empower nonagreement managers to passionately drive results.

Program Details

MOT was designed to provide first-time managers with the knowledge and tools to understand their role, manage a productive team, work effectively with their supervisor, and organize their team’s responsibilities. The program is divided into two sessions held five to seven weeks apart. A blended learning approach is used to deliver program content, including online tools, reference materials, and classroom events.

As a result of this training, participants gain:

  • An understanding of the multifaceted role of the manager, recognizing new responsibilities
  • Increased awareness of their strengths and opportunities as managers
  • Enhanced insight into the various styles of leadership, including knowledge of their own preferences and the ability to adapt to other styles when needed
  • Critical thinking skills to avoid typical pitfalls of new managers
  • A variety of tools and resources to achieve team objectives
  • Expanded networking and relationship-building capabilities
  • Ideas on how to integrate the discipline of coaching into day-to-day management practices
  • Practice of the six skills associated with managing for results with application to real-world situations
  • A commitment to continued growth and development as managers, leveraging what they have learned

All participants must take the DiSC assessment prior to the first session. Results of this assessment are incorporated into all topics discussed during the program. Participants have the option to share their DiSC assessment with individuals in their cohort, as well as other Union Pacific employees. Managers can use this information to tailor their communications and interactions with their direct reports in order to achieve optimal outcomes.

Following the program, participants may take part in the MOT Book Club, where the group reads and discusses a pre-selected book on management. Participants also receive materials and resources to continue to develop and build their skills.

Results

At the beginning of each new cohort, participants’ supervisors are asked to provide a pre-assessment of the learners’ managerial effectiveness, providing details on their employees’ performance on 15 skills addressed in the training. Skills include setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals, communicating clear employee expectations, and providing feedback in a timely manner. Each question uses a 5-point Likert scale.

Sixty days following the completion of the program, participants’ supervisors receive a follow-up survey asking them to reassess their employees’ performance on the same 15 skills using the same 5-point Likert scale to complete the Level 3 evaluation for this program.

In 2021, each participant whose supervisor filled out the pre- and post-assessment showed an increase in at least one of the skills evaluated. And 80 percent of the participants evaluated had upward progression in the following learning objective: “Provides ongoing follow-up to coaching conversations.” This objective saw an average increase of 30 percent across MOT graduates.

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.