Elisabeth Koch took over as head of the DB Academy in April 2022. The expert for management development made it her goal to further customise the offers of the training centre. In this interview, the HR specialist tells us which formats she is working on, the role the historic Kaiserbahnhof plays in this and how she defines her own leadership role.
Managing the DB Academy is the highlight of your career so far. What is it about HR that excites you?
I have experienced that HR can make a big difference: Where HR is at the table, discussions are conducted differently - the employees are more in the focus. Which people do we need to make the company successful? How do we find talents? What are we doing to support managers in their development? These are topics that still fascinate me.
Why did you decide to join Deutsche Bahn?
Two things. First, the Academy itself. I did executive development for many years, that was always the core of my profile. And in that respect, the DB Academy is an outstanding institution that is also visible to the external world with its themes and innovations. That's a rarity and incredibly exciting for me. The second thing is the Deutsche Bahn itself. I always had the impression that this company consistently tackles the issues that are important to me - such as diversity, employee development and appreciation. The combination of these two things convinced me.
You have taken over a well-run company. Which goals have you set for yourself?
I have resolved to accompany the individual development paths of the managers even more. The times when standard offers were dumped on large groups are long gone. Today, we as Academy are more in a role of asking: What do leader need to be able to develop? Where do training courses fit into the calendar of a very busy manager? Which format - digital, hybrid, impulse, training - is the right one? We want to take on a more advisory role and also set topics within the company that we recognise as important to our managers.
On which new formats are you working actually?
One example is peer coaching, where participants work together in small groups on concrete challenges. Networking formats are also a big topic, because in many cases managers are very isolated and have no one to talk to about difficulties. We see the Academy not only as a space for content, but also as a space where networks and thus bonds are created.
To what extent is your location, the Kaiserbahnhof in Potsdam, an important factor in this?
This is definitely a place of identification. Especially post-pandemic, people like to come here because the Kaiserbahnhof creates a very special atmosphere. We keep that in mind when we plan events or programmes: what can take place everywhere, even virtually, and where is it good to get out of the usual working environment?
A few days ago, Deutsche Bahn published its first Diversity Report. What part does the Academy play in the progress reported there?
A big one, I hope! We create awareness for the topic and promote a corresponding mindset. The first step is self-awareness of our own unconscious prejudices: Where do I have hurdles, where do my ideas get in my way? Then it's a matter of finding out how different perspectives can help the company move forward. And in the third step, we support managers in tackling diversity in a concrete way - and in leaving their own comfort zone.
How would you define your leadership role?
I can describe my leadership style as collaborative. It is important to me to lead through a shared goal and a shared purpose. I like to engage in discussion with the team and embrace the different perspectives. This fits well here because the Academy is an agile organisation with very strong colleagues, some of whom have been with the company for a long time. I see my task in creating clarity so that everyone can take their share of responsibility.
When you look to the future: What is your vision for the Academy?
That every manager at Deutsche Bahn, as soon as he or she takes on a leadership role, finds everything he or she needs through the Academy to cover his or her entire further leadership path. It must be absolutely clear to managers: At the Academy, I meet development experts who help me overcome challenges and shape my career according to my personal wishes.