Corporate success

Posted: 30 July 2007 | | No comments yet

Initial and advanced training, together with lifelong learning, are steadily growing as being the most important attribute in today’s society. Employees’ social or management skills are, alongside their vocational qualifications, more crucial than ever to a company’s success or failure.

Initial and advanced training, together with lifelong learning, are steadily growing as being the most important attribute in today’s society. Employees’ social or management skills are, alongside their vocational qualifications, more crucial than ever to a company’s success or failure.

Initial and advanced training, together with lifelong learning, are steadily growing as being the most important attribute in today’s society. Employees’ social or management skills are, alongside their vocational qualifications, more crucial than ever to a company’s success or failure.

Since the German railway reform in 1994, Deutsche Bahn AG has changed faster than its State-run predecessors Deutsche Bundesbahn and Deutsche Reichsbahn in the four immediate postwar decades before. This process, which is still ongoing, is being supported and advanced in all qualification measures by means of a suitably coordinated strategy.

‘DB Training’ has been responsible for training services at all levels of the DB Group since 1995, developing to become one of the leading European qualification and consultancy service providers in the transport sector. Its widely varied offering ranges from rail-related technical issues, through to general transport market themes to management and management training courses, consultancy and straightforward vocational training.

With its decentralised presence at 70 locations, DB Training enjoys extremely short routes to the customer. 800 trainers and instructors qualify over 230,000 enrolees a year, both from within the DB Group and from enterprises in the most diverse of industries. Its scope of performance embraces qualified corporate consultancy in all aspects of process and quality management, consultancy in the international transport market and an extensive qualification and further training offering.

The qualification service covers over 1,500 different seminars on topics such as Leadership & Management, Human Factor, Safety Management, Transportation Systems, Vehicle Engineering, Project Management as well as bespoke company seminars that are much in demand throughout the world.

The unit’s proficiency is now also acknowledged and made use of by parties from outside the Group. DB Training generated approximately 15% of its sales revenues through external customers in 2006 – and this is set to grow even further. It furnished high-profile proof of its proficiency last year by coaching 15,000 volunteers for the football World Cup. Helpers trained by the DB Group contributed significantly towards the slogan for the event (‘A Time to make Friends’) being persuasively lived out.

When DB Training came into operation during the mid-1990s, qualification at Deutsche Bahn was too expensive, too theoretical and of exceedingly mixed quality. The DB Board accordingly decided to set up a series of service centres. These were to pool functions with a common alignment under a single umbrella and in this way form medium-size enterprises within the Group.

DB Training has successfully mastered and fashioned this comprehensive change process over the past twelve years. Initial training and qualification procedures at the DB Group today are efficient, practically oriented and innovative.

DB Training is a competitor

For many years, DB Training has been regularly and systematically analysing more than 400 products in terms of the market situation on price and competition. In the cause of professional benchmarking, however, the quality and depth of service delivered by competitors is analysed along with their prices. This guarantees inhouse DB customers market-driven products on terms that are superior to those offered by rivals virtually across the board. Such rivals may be rail system makers or major outside training services providers such as the TÜV and Dekra Academies, or they may increasingly be private train operators and trainer networks.

Whilst services were being standardised, there was also continuous input on the quality of services. Certification to DIN ISO 9001 was first achieved in 1999. The analysis and harmonisation of all processes plus intensive coaching of all staff subsequently became the basis for permanent quality enhancements.

2004 saw a new evaluation tool enter service known as EVASYS. It electronically records all seminar assessments of enrolees and systematically evaluates same. This provides staff, management and customers alike with speedy, systematic feedback on all seminars and training services, enabling them to react swiftly as required.

Most important for a service provider like DB Training, of course, are its customers. Attention is thus always centrally focused on delivering the highest possible level of customer satisfaction. DB Training sees customer surveys as being an ideal means, along with enrolee evaluation, of finding out whether it is on the right track in this respect.

Across-the-board customer surveys have been run since 1998 as a result. DB Training questions management and ordering parties about its services in over 200 structured interviews annually. It is then possible using the customer satisfaction index (CSI) thus arrived at to assess what action needs to be taken to further improve quality in respect of ordering parties, regions and products.

DB Training realised early on how problematic it is offering purely quantitative advanced training geared solely towards learning paths, and the challenges this entails, and repositioned itself accordingly. The main action it took was to engage highly qualified customer managers as consultants along customers’ entire value-added chains, combining strategic corporate targets with operative implementation on the basis of comprehensive consultancy and qualification services. Its customers both within and from the most diverse sectors outside the DB Group are top management, human-resources directors and developers and, indeed, divisional heads, including to an increasing degree at international level.

Vocational training and studies

The DB Group has some 8,000 apprentices and trainees on its books, making it one of the biggest training bodies in Germany. DB Training is responsible for providing demonstrably high-quality initial training to young men and women in more than 20 professions. The spectrum ranges from modern service and office careers through craft trades to initial training for railway professions. Persons receiving training are directly integrated into their place of training and hence, to the fullest extent, into their training business’s value added process. Self-sufficient working is encouraged from the outset by dint of project work performed in the course of practical sessions at the business.

There was a need to come up with innovative alternatives if the economics of vocational training were to be ensured for the future too. The bulk of presence seminars previously run within the framework of in-plant training have now been replaced by a new concept involving customised ‘learning in the network’. Teletutors support and guide those receiving training.

Its high level of vocational training lends the DB Group enduring impetus in two senses: on the one hand, providing up-and-coming talent with first-class training ensures the company’s future viability; on the other hand, good quality also enhances the appeal and reputation of Deutsche Bahn AG as an ‘employer’, which is crucial given that demographic change is leading to ever keener competition for the recruitment of talented new blood amongst a number of attractive employers.

Deutsche Bahn offers ambitious graduates and those with university-access status career opportunities of the first order. The DB Group is a leading European transport undertaking and a globally positioned logistics service provider and, as such, one of the most heterogeneous employers in Germany. Alongside 240 graduates, more than a hundred young people eligible to enter various tertiary-level institutions are being taken on this year to obtain qualifications in trade and management careers as part of a three-year sandwich course at a vocational academy.

The DB Group observes the ‘Fair Company’ guidelines: periods of practical training are remunerated, last no longer than six months and are exclusively awarded to applicants who have yet to complete their studies. The globally oriented DB Group is also increasingly looking abroad in its search for new recruits from academia. With newly graduated engineers currently scarce in Germany, DB AG is now additionally on the lookout for talented graduates in eastern Europe and North America.

Advanced training and retraining: all-embracing solution

Besides vocational training and the recruitment of young academics, for more than 10 years DB Training has also run courses of advanced and further professional training. The focus here is on the needs of inhouse and increasingly also of external customers.

As an advocate of all-embracing solutions, DB Training does not just provide its inhouse and external customers with premium coaching and advanced training courses. Specially qualified Distribution/Sales operatives support customers along the entire value-added chain and devise means of achieving strategic corporate targets with the aid of coaching and qualification measures.

Use is made of the ‘Value Map’ analysis and consultancy tool for this purpose. Armed with this inhouse DB Training analysis tool, qualification managers identify challenges currently facing customers and define measures for the participating staff groups. These may extend beyond training and coaching courses to courses of retraining and process optimisation exercises. The effectiveness of all measures is appraised, with attention always centring on achieving business targets.

The primary business of the Driver Competency division is the initial, advanced and further training of train drivers. As of this year, however, the division is also offering a coherent concept of advanced and initial training for professional motor vehicle drivers in conformance with European directive 2003/59/EC.

Citing these two professional groups, it is possible to clearly illustrate how ‘Value Map’ is employed. Distribution/Sales experts at DB Training have identified numerous existing challenges at the customer’s:

  • Both spheres – road and rail – suffer from a shortage of new recruits. The high growth rates in these transport services are juxtaposed by dwindling numbers of qualified train and motor-vehicle drivers.
  • More exacting requirements for safety and the standardisation of qualifications in the wake of new EU directives.
  • Rising internationalisation pressure due to EU enlargement and the liberalisation of rail traffic.
  • Rising customer aspirations as regards punctuality (just in time) and service.
  • Trend towards all-round operatives who, as well as being able to drive a vehicle, also understand the vehicle’s engineering and have been coached in issues relating to loading and including store supervisor functions.
  • Lack of motivation coupled with high turnover of staff.

Underlining the all-embracing approach to consultancy adopted by DB Training, it was now a question of utilising this analysis so as to develop efficacious measures that would turn problems into opportunities and challenges into attainable goals. It is of the utmost importance to Deutsche Bahn’s qualification provider here that no short-term ad-hoc solutions are sought but that, instead, DB Training remains a constant companion and consultant throughout the change process, one who places the emphasis on sustainable improvements.

It transpired that there was a need both for new appointments so as to raise staffing levels and for making more efficient use of existing human resources.

Targeted measures to combat staffing bottlenecks

First there was a need for ‘FIT teaching’ in respect of all 5,000 train drivers (FIT being a German acronym for ‘specialist/sectoral information in training’). This regular course of advanced training enables enrolees to refresh their knowledge of the German railway regulations and obtain qualified status and a driving licence. It facilitates driving on the German rail network, therefore. DB Training has developed a bespoke Computer Based Training (CBT) setup for the purpose that allows the driver to attend part of the FIT course at his/her computer; be it at a training centre, at home or on the move. At the customer’s request, a special ‘Vehicle Engineering’ module was also incorporated into the FIT curriculum.

Central to all courses for engine drivers is coaching at the simulator, which DB Training provides at eleven different locations in Germany. Simulators make for more cost-efficient training, including in respect of exceptional situations, and establish uniform test conditions. With energy costs soaring, furthermore, DB Training has also developed programs with which energy saving driving can be practised at the simulator.

In a joint effort involving the Driver Competency division and the Promoting Vocational Training business unit, DB Training now runs retraining and initial training courses to the grade of both train and lorry driver. Employment offices provide money for the retraining of those seeking work, while the initial training is run by DB Training.

Further solutions have been drawn up as a means of overcoming the shortage of professional motor vehicle drivers: here, DB Training carries out the expedited basic qualification and advanced training of lorry drivers as set forth in European directive 2003/59/EC. Rounding off its all-inclusive package are training measures relating to materials handling equipment: The ‘forklift licence’ expands staff competencies during loading and unloading.

As demand for cross-border workings steadily grows, so requirements for drivers to acquire language and intercultural skills are also rising. DB Training has devised a training module here that deepens and enhances motor vehicle drivers’ command of foreign languages. Adding country-specific advanced training courses in “intercultural skills” gives rise to a coherent qualification package assembled for transport undertakings by DB Training to reflect rising levels of internationalisation.

Adopting an all-embracing approach in DB Training’s view means considering and optimising process chains at the customer’s. The Consultancy business unit, for instance, analysed how a customer from the logistics sphere can better meet rising demands for punctuality in intermodal workings. This led to a lower number of interfaces and more efficient transport sequences.

Another major project involved certification of a customer’s workforces to ISO 9001. As Europe unites and EU directives become more stringent, uniform safety standards are called for. The customer responded by introducing certification of its workforces. Hence, each and every employee at this company now receives initial, further and advanced training complying with European standards.

Work with customers is underpinned by a close and cooperative value-added partnership – from consultancy through training-needs analyses and training planning to implementation, evaluation, post-processing and training controllership. The customer and its needs are paramount at every stage. Optimising the customer’s interface to DB Training, focusing on core skills so as to harness synergies, and creating a win-win situation are key points of focus.

The wide variety and broad span of training and consultancy measures set out here citing the ‘Driver Business Unit’ fittingly reflect DB Training’s general philosophy: Europe’s leading qualification services provider for the transport market accompanies its customers along their value-added chain in a consultative, coaching and qualifying capacity – in the processing assisting in the attainment of strategic corporate goals and visions.

About the author

Markus J. Kuhn has been Head of Marketing and Communication at DB Training since 2004.
In 2000, he became head of Marketing and Sales at DB AutoZug. Since taking up office at DB Training, Mr Kuhn has advanced the rigorous introduction of the assertive DB Training, Learning & Consulting brand and, by doing so has substantially laid the foundations both for inhouse publicity at DB and for the outward marketing of DB Training’s qualification and consultancy services.

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