A New Career Development Tool at Canadian Pacific

Greg Holsworth

Canadian Pacific, founded in 1881, was Canada’s first transcontinental railway and is one of seven Class I railways in North America. In 2007 Canadian Pacific launched "Career Tracks," a new career development tool for our non-union employees. For employees, Career Tracks is an online resume of what they want to reflect back to the company in terms of their leadership experience and their career goals. Employee profiles include work experience, leadership experience, what volunteering they may have done, their mobility and willingness to move and what they ultimately want of their career. For managers, Career Tracks is a tool to find out what your team wants out of their careers and will identify what development needs they may have.

Career Tracks features a development goal and competency assessment. The development goal is separate from our performance management objectives. We look at it this way: We all have specific performance management objectives to achieve over the year, and Career Tracks can help you develop skills that will allow you to achieve your performance objectives.

The development goal, called the "Career Development Plan" (CDP) is renewed every year, and we encourage our employees to work on one development goal for the year. There may be many items that need to be accomplished to achieve that one development goal, but it is only one development goal at the end of the day. We find that if we extend too far out and try to incorporate two or even three development goals, folks will inevitably fail. Better to wildly succeed at one development goal than fail miserably attempting more.

A critical aspect of the CDP includes the competency self-assessment. We have mapped our leadership competency models to every non-union job so that every non-union employee, and their managers, can rate how they are performing against the leadership competency model for their job. This functions to highlight where an employee has strengths and also where he or she can improve.

In addition to the competency model, we have also included a vast development library that complements and supports each and every competency. So, when you’re looking for a development idea on how to improve (or leverage) a specific behavior tied to a competency, you can easily find what you’re looking for in Career Tracks. There is a writing assistant, a coaching advisor and a learning catalogue available to everyone who has a Career Tracks profile.

Succession planning is another function of Career Tracks, which is used only by the folks in talent management and our company’s VPs. This is the section of Career Tracks that houses all of our talent management information: placement on the nine box grid of predicted future performance vs. promotability; succession nomination information; suggested next roles for individuals in various talent pools; development needs as seen by our senior leaders; retention strategies; and where we think their potential will ultimately take them.

Like all good systems, Career Tracks has a myriad of ways and means to measure our success. Career Tracks has metrics, reports and dashboards (report summaries) that cover most of what we’re looking for and some things we’ve not even dreamt of yet.

Career Tracks is the result of a joint venture with two human resources vendors: SuccessFactors and Personnel Decisions International (PDI). Canadian Pacific was one of the very first customers of both vendors that benefited from this joint venture. Essentially, we’ve purchased the tool and technical infrastructure from SuccessFactors and the competency models and development library from PDI. We find that it is a great match that complements the strengths of the other.

At the end of the day, Career Tracks is a toola great toolbut only a tool. We recognize that the best development plan is actually a robust conversation with your manager about what you want out of your career and how you may go about getting there.

First Published on Human Resources IQ.