How Deutsche Bahn Keeps Employer Brand on Track

WRITTEN BY: Carolien Daalderop

This week we’re speaking to a global mobility company that does so much more than just operating trains. With hundreds of thousands of employees globally, Deutsche Bahn has recently launched a very honest employer brand campaign.

We chat with Kerstin Wagner, Head of Talent Acquisition at Deutsche Bahn. She is responsible for employer branding and recruiting on both the strategic and operational level. She’s working with a lot of nationalities, which results in both a diverse and fun role!

Have a listen to the interview below, keep reading for a summary and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.

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What talent challenges does Deutsche Bahn face?

  • We hire 12,000 to 15,000 people a year, only in Germany. The jobs are very diverse, so we’re looking for different types of talent, from school leavers to academics or data scientists.
  • It’s not one size fits all, when it comes to talent acquisition strategy. So that’s the challenge: you need different approaches, especially because the labor market in Germany if very tight. Demographics show that the talent pool will be shrinking and similar companies will be looking for the same talent, which is also a challenge.

What is the EVP of Deutsche Bahn?

  • The first step was defining the EVP as a baseline for everything in the future. This baseline was the start of the employer branding development, and it includes four values.
  • There’s no tagline, but just the four pillars: Deutsche Bahn is diverse, cooperative, responsible and future-oriented. These are our baselines where we go back to, whenever we’re defining a new employer branding campaign.

Where do you activate your employer brand?

  • We have a 360-degree approach when it comes to employer branding, based on relevance for the specific target groups. Campaigns on television, social media or the Deutsche Bahn careers page all need to be tailored to be relevant for the target audience we’re trying to reach.
  • In April 2017, we launched a new employer branding campaign. There was another employer branding campaign still very successful after five years, but it was time to move on. The new campaign had a wonderful response, although it was a new approach. The stories are about our employees, what they like about working at Deutsche Bahn, but also what they don’t like about it. This results in a very honest campaign.
  • Candidates want to see what’s going on behind the scenes, so what we’re showing them are honest perspectives on different kind of jobs. That was our approach, honesty over ‘shiny words’. This campaign resulted in a high number of applications where candidates have the same attitudes and values as Deutsche Bahn.

What’s your best source of hire?

  • Our most successful sources are online channels, where it’s possible to really measure the performance.
  • We are currently working on our employee referral program, this is a project that could be stronger.
  • Recruiting events or days, where candidates can meet us in person, are also very important sources of hire to us.

Top tips for Employer Brand Managers?

  • Know your target audience and offer accessibility to possible candidates. For instance, Deutsche Bahn organized a recruiting week where candidates could set up an interview from 6am to 10pm. It sounds a bit crazy, but it was super successful. We were able to hire 1,000 people out of roughly 4,500 people who were interviewed.
  • Put everything under one roof. You have to have employer branding combined with recruiting. In my opinion, operating in only one of these fields won’t work. These two fields should be interlinked and in cooperation with each other.
  • Be brave and innovative. Try out new things, approach a challenge in a new way.

How do you measure ROI?

  • My measurement is: can I fill the vacancies? The faster I can fill my vacancies, the higher the ROI’s on my employer branding are spent. We measure all of our activity during campaigns, so we can see a performance.
  • In a bigger sense, we also measure the employer performance in rankings, especially from Trendence, a German ranking platform.

What’s next for your employer brand?

  • An employer brand is linked closely to a company brand, so that’s something we have to look into a bit more. We also have to think about our own company, so we might need to change things, in order to tell the employer branding story better.
  • It will also be way more individual. Actually, I think we’d end up with having a separate employer branding campaign for each and every job.
  • Deutsche Bahn will definitely work on the individualization next year. We’re currently working on a completely new format, so we’re very excited to launch some new things!

Connect with Kerstin on LinkedIn.


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