How I helped DB employees manage change and saved IT departments time with a guide

Coaching, monitoring and supporting the digitalization process »Endgeräte für alle« at DB Fahrzeuginstandhaltung GmbH

Background

DB changed its strategy towards digitalisation.

With “Endgeräte für alle”, around 59,000 employees were equipped with a digital device.

On 27 March 2018, the Bahn AG Group decided to implement the „End Devices for All“ initiative as a step towards the strategic reorientation towards „Digital Rail“. The aim was for all employees to be connected and able to use Deutsche Bahn’s internal services. Therefore, around 59,000 employees were equipped with a digital end device (tablet or mobile phone) as part of the project. I joined at the beginning of November 2019 as a „working student change management“. Two months before the official end of the change management program. However, I continued to support the process until the end of February 2020.

Together with various department heads, I supervised several events for the handover and introduction of the digital devices. On average, 12 employees took part in an event. Thus, I was jointly responsible for the rollout process in the Chemnitz and Dessau factories. The Dessau factory is one of a total of 13 factories of DB Fahrzeuginstandhaltung GmbH, which is one of the most efficient full-service providers for rail vehicles in Europe. Around 7,000 employees in the 13 factories offer optimized solutions for the maintenance of vehicle fleets.

Challenge

IT departments had to deal with numerous requests from employees, after handing out the devices.

Too many questions left open

The largest of all the DB Fahrzeuginstandhaltung GmbH factories is the Dessau factory, which also includes the smaller factory in Chemnitz. Around 1,200 specialists work there in various workshops. A large number of employees with a lot of knowledge and experience in the field of railway engineering, but who have difficulties in dealing with new technologies. The employees were trained in the handover events, but often not enough for those with little technological understanding. At the events, the equipment and the various services were set up together with a trainer and the department heads.

The department heads and coaches were trained in advance according to the train-the-trainer principle, which usually works well with a little understanding on the side of the staff. However, some of the older generations did not have this understanding and some staff were even confronted for the first time with the new technology. The railway’s internal services also still offer a lot of potential for improvement in terms of user-friendliness. As a result, the IT departments had to deal with numerous requests from employees, which led to delays in other projects.

© Volker Emersleben/
Mdiathek Deutsche Bahn AG)
Solution

A guide shall help cover FAQs and reduce the burden on the IT departments in the factories.

An information guide for initial orientation shall provide guidance

Additional information material that answers the most frequently asked questions and can serve as a kind of guide was the project manager’s idea for a solution. A sort of „digital first aid“ that serves as a primary point of contact. This information material should be placed at the loading lockers where the employees have access to it. The information material must be robustly designed and must fulfill the safety regulations of the workshops. It should also be changeable in case something needs to be handled differently.

Design process

The instructions shall have the same format as the phones and resemble color cards from the paint shop.

My goal was to find a format that staff would want to use

The change management project was already close to its official end when there were still many questions. Therefore, a communication tool had to be created that would offer help even beyond the end. Problem points and frequently asked questions were collected in personal discussions and interviews, which served as the basis for the development of the FAQ guide. The content was developed between the project manager, another working student, and me in several web conferences. When the content was finalized, I thought about what formats the staff would be comfortable with.

I remembered color cards from the paint shop and decided to use these and the mobile phone format as a model. I then presented the concept of the guide in a web conference using a paper prototype and tested the finished prototype with the staff in a training session. Unfortunately, due to bureaucratic channels, the production of the guides happened after my time at DB. But it is now completed and the guides have been handed out nationwide in all factories and even outside the vehicle maintenance department.

Results

The guide was so well received that several editions have been published all over Germany.

Even the DB executive Board was impressed

Due to the good response, the costs for the professional printing of the guide were covered. The DB board also gave positive feedback. Several copies have now been published internally at DB all over Germany. From my point of view, the project has high social relevance. Many companies in Germany are currently facing the challenge of the digitalization and the question of change management at work, which also includes older employees. The guide was a useful solution in this project and at this time because the whole process was already so far advanced. It would be even better to involve designers from the beginning to design a digital onboarding process. A well-designed onboarding process saves costs in the long run and makes change easier for everybody.

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