Becoming the Most Employee-Centric Company

Deutsche Bahn — 2018

Pascal Heynol (Becker)
May 14 · 5 min read

Kicking off multi-year efforts for DB’s vision of full employee focus. Drawing insight from support staff and user research with diverse target groups, we presented a redesigned career experience and strategic changes to internal processes.

Role: Project and Design Lead


Deutsche Bahn is one of the biggest mobility companies in the world. With over 300k employees, they are also among the biggest employers worldwide. DB recognized that people are their biggest asset. That’s why they aim for their self-proclaimed vision of “Becoming World’s Most Employee-Centric Company”.

In order to kick off company-wide efforts throughout departments, DB approached us with the goal of improving the application experience for new hires.


In order to deliver on the request, I had to

  • make an action plan to reach a validated solution
  • staff a team with the right skills and expertise
  • understand applicants, generate and share insights
  • direct meaningful action from insights
  • deliver and communicate results to the client effectively

For better team planning and client communication, I structured work into three phases: 1. Research, 2. Insights & Ideas, 3. Execution

1. Research

After reviewing previous surveys on the topics and usability tests of the website that they had conducted, we found that we were missing crucial insight into the actual situation. In order to understand the big picture, we needed to look at the application experience from multiple perspectives.

  1. Applicants for a job at DB
    DB offers email, phone and live chat support on the existing career portal. Support agents also offer help over social media. We conducted interviews with support agents and analyzed requests and interactions on all channels.
  2. People generally looking for a new job
    We conducted multiple 2h focus groups with 6 participants each, split by segmented by DB’s three main employee target groups. These groups differ in their demographics, education, aspirations, and behavior and may require individualized solutions.
  3. Hiring managers and recruiters inside DB
    Ethnographic research allowed us to get to know the ways of working of the people responsible for hiring within DB. We learned what was important within their workflow, and where there were inefficiencies we could address.

2. Insights and Ideation

We identified eight key insights and factors that had the biggest impact on the applicants and came up throughout all target groups. Summarizing each topic with a short description, concrete examples, and a conclusion helped clearly communicate priorities to the client and define a strategy going forward.

With the raw data from our research, I mapped out the full applicant’s journey, reflecting every step along with predominant emotions people looking for a job are going through, from idea to acceptance/rejection.

Colored bars are key themes mapped to steps in the applicant’s journey (low-res for confidentiality)

Following a two-day journey presentation and ideation workshop at DB we narrowed down which of the steps we’re pressing and needed to be addressed now.

Together with participants of each target group and representatives from DB we conducted multiple co-creation workshops. In these, we worked together with end users to narrow concept ideas down to something that actually solves a problem for them.

3. Execution

Solutions for optimizing the applicant’s experience fell into two categories:

  • redesigning the career portal to better serve as the main touchpoint applicants have with DB
  • setting up guidelines and internal workflows for the career team to optimize efficiency and quality of output and applicant assistance
Some of the concepts for the redesigned career portal (low-res for confidentiality)

We sketched out a new information architecture that matches the mental model and main questions applicants have when browsing the site considering a job at DB. Lingering uncertainty because of scattered and ill-fitted information regarding position, company, and application process meant serving the right content at the right time was of utmost importance.

Through iterative rounds of concept development and user testing, we were able to design a coherent system that addresses most users’ pressing needs. I can’t go into concrete features and process solutions now, as these are confidential and still under development. Hiring managers and applicants alike called our solutions a real aid within the application process.


We showed that there is a real need to increase efforts on all sides of the applicant’s experience, within DB but also the industry in general. Our findings convinced DB management and kicked off multi-year investments throughout the company. Our solutions for both the career site and internal hiring team will take more time to be fully implemented but are sure to have a significant effect on the lives of future applicants.

Thank you for reading! Now go back to all cases or simply reach out and say hi. 👋

The Pascal Heynol

Senior Strategic Designer, Consultant

Pascal Heynol (Becker)

Written by

Designer, writer, researcher, engineer — computational product person. Loves art, paints all too rarely. Tries to talk to computers, but they just never listen…

The Pascal Heynol

Senior Strategic Designer, Consultant

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade