'Watco Way' is Mantra at Watco University

'Watco Way' is Mantra at Watco University

The 2020 Learning! 100 Award for Excellence in Collaboration is awarded to Watco Companies.

Watco Companies, LLC has been a learning company since the first day of operation and has continued to learn and grow over the last 36.5 years. The founder had little experience in operating locomotives and providing industrial switching solutions, and the first eight team members who joined Watco had some experience, but nobody knew it all. However, they knew they wanted Watco to be built on Customer Service and had to entrust team members to learn and develop every day to serve the needs of their customers.

Their ability to do this was tested from day 1 as their Customer wrote into their contract a 30-day cancellation notice for inadequate service. Watco is proud to report they are still serving that same customer today, under that same 30-day cancellation notice. Watco’s success has been through team members learning the Watco Way and practicing it every day. This can only be done through constant learning and development of every team member.

Move ahead 27 years to 2010 when Watco University was founded to provide training and development programs supporting the Watco Culture, Team Building, Leadership, and Management to enhance customer satisfaction and personal goal development.  Watco University utilizes multiple strategies for curricula development and program delivery to provide top notch, and informative training avenues to team members.  Training opportunities are delivered through an Onboarding Program, an Online Training Program, Instructor-Led Training Programs, and Leadership Development Programs. ​

Watco University has developed multiple Instructor Led Training (ILT) courses to help our team members develop both professionally and personally with Watco.  ILT courses are provided throughout the calendar year across the country to provide training and development opportunities to all Watco Divisions and Team Members.

In 2019, Watco University added blended reinforcement learning to its ILT course via a mix of e-learning and video courses. This initiative supported the foundation of learning set forth in the instructor led training sessions by adding “Follow-Up” training programs to its core training programs of Watco Foundations of Leadership, Watco Foundations of Management, and the Watco Team Safety & Improvement Committee Program.  During the follow-up training programs, Team Members receive a monthly email with recommended online courses that support the key topics covered during the instructor led training.  The recommended online courses contain a mix of Watco created online training modules and video courses.  Each follow-up program is a six a month process. 

Coaching Leaders at Watco

Watco University also launched Leadership Development Program with version 5 adding collaborative elements. The Watco Leadership Development Program is designed to prepare team members who demonstrate leadership ability to step into key leadership roles at Watco locations across its divisions. 

Candidates are selected based on a consistent demonstration of positive job performance and key personal attributes determined to be indicators of success within these roles.  The key personal attributes are Integrity, Ability to Teach and Coach, Flexibility, Initiative and Personal Accountability. 

During the initial training phase of the program the participants are assigned a series of training courses that include both Watco online courses and video courses, books, and Instructor-Led Training Courses.  The courses are grouped into core leadership development topics, and each topic is focused on for a period of two weeks.  During this phase of the program, participants are assigned a Coach who is director-level or above on the People Services Team. The coach guides them through the learning environment.  If the Coach identifies that continued development is needed on a topic, the Coach assigns additional training.  The coaches have weekly calls with their participants to collaborate on what they are learning and how they will implement what they are learning in their daily activities as a leader at Watco.  At the conclusion of each two-week phase Participants, Coaches, and Divisional Leaders participate in a group training call where they once again collaborate on what they are learning and how they will implement what they are learning in their daily activities as a leader at Watco. 

Leadership Development Program Coaches

In Phase II of the Leadership Development Program, participants are immersed into on-the-job learning where they are asked to apply the concepts of what they learned in Phase I by exhibiting their ability to lead a Watco Profit Center. 

During this phase of learning, participants are assigned a Coach from the Watco Divisional Leadership Team who directs where their learning will occur and provides them with opportunities to lead and manage team members, to build customer relationships, to create and sustain a culture of safety, problem solving and effective communication.  Participants once again participate in weekly calls with their Divisional Leadership Coaches to collaborate on what they are learning and how they will implement what they are learning in their daily activities as a leader at Watco

At the end of the program, participants who have successfully completed all aspects of the training are ready to move from a supervisory role to a Profit Center Manager role. 

Watco U Grows On-Demand Learning

To expand team member specific training and on-demand opportunities, Watco University has continued to partner with content providers and produce their own internal online.  Since the inception of Watco U Online in 2015, Watco University has increased from having 2 internal Watco specific online modules to over 250.   In addition, many online learning courses supporting learning paths have been launched.  

With the focus on collaborated learning, Watco University has seen record-breaking years for training completions.  Total completions grew 170% in 2019 vs 2018; online completions were up 276% and ILT increased 11.5%.

Watco is a 5-time Learning! 100 Award Winner.

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