Virtually half of all Deutsche Bahn (DB) employees are over 50. To ensure that trains keep running 20 years from now, Germany’s railway company has launched a big wave of recruitment. In a time where full employment is virtually the norm in Germany, that’s no small feat. But Deutsche Bahn is prepared to explore new avenues.
The chopper’s hovering above us, almost 15 meters over our heads. A cable is hanging down from it. A workman grabs it and secures it to a steel pillar on the ground. He waves to the chopper, which then flies further upwards, slowly lifting the pillar into the sky. Attached to the top of the pillar are what look like traffic lights, and power cables are wrapped around its body. It’s a railway signal and Deutsche Bahn (DB) employees are installing it. Anyone can take a look at this spectacular construction site online, with 360-degree videos and virtual reality making it possible to delve into the work of an electrical engineer at Deutsche Bahn.
Describing jobs using VR technology
October 2015 – Munich, Germany: Schoolkids, students and professionals of various backgrounds got to find out about jobs with Deutsche Bahn at Careers Day. For the first time, a small team from Recruitment set up a virtual reality booth: four VR headsets, four headphones and a big screen were set up, ready for the visitors to arrive. Soon enough, the potential applicants line up to try out the VR headset and find out what it’s like to work at Deutsche Bahn.
A smartphone is inserted into the VR headset. Using an app, the headset and smartphone combo generates a razor-sharp, 360-degree video: this is virtual reality. The potential applicants see the chopper and the railway signals, they take a walk through the hall of an ICE factory, look on as a track welder performs repairs and, from atop a crane, look down on the construction site near Munich. VR technology enables applicants to focus on the aspects that appeal to them the most; all they have to do is turn their heads. The video is simultaneously shown on a screen behind them so that everyone else can join in, too.
Technology that wows the crowds
Instead of handing out the usual pens and flyers, Deutsche Bahn changed tack and went with this new, more original concept – and it turned out to be a big hit! And that’s just what the company needed.
„Our Careers Day booth totally surprised visitors and it really drew in the crowds. Everyone is familiar with Deutsche Bahn, but not necessarily as an employer.”
The company very much needs new staff. In the past year alone, it has hired upwards of 10,000 people and 3,300 trainees. There are currently over 4,000 job openings on the Deutsche Bahn careers portal. The 360-degree video has also enabled recruiters to present what are perhaps the less-obvious jobs available at the company. Deutsche Bahn isn’t just looking for new train drivers, there’s also a need for track welders, traffic controllers and civil engineers.
How do video games and job fairs go together?
The idea for the project was born in 2015. An intern at Recruitment had become familiar with virtual reality through computer games. He proposed using the technology at recruitment fairs. “We have managed to bring a fantastic project to life in a short time,” says Wylenzek. Deutsche Bahn also called on Munich-based start-up Innoactive and in just three months the idea had become a reality.
Innoactive has specialized in VR applications for companies. The Munich-based team developed the app, shot the first few videos and built the cases used to dispatch the virtual reality headsets, smartphones, headphones and routers to the place where they’ll be used. “The biggest challenge is for the cases to arrive at their destination on time,” says Innoactive project manager Nele Müller. After a successful rehearsal at Careers Day in Munich, Deutsche Bahn has expanded its VR range. It has now been supplied with 14 cases, each with four headsets, up and down Germany.
The company deploys the headsets at job fairs, on school trips and at job interviews – and has used them more than 1,000 times in the past year alone! “The immersive experience is often what seals the deal when it comes to people deciding to apply,” says Fabian Wylenzek.
A partner with a past and a future
The ZEISS VR ONE was Deutsche Bahn’s headset of choice. “Just like Deutsche Bahn, ZEISS brings together the past and the future,” says Fabian Wylenzek. “We think the videos for the ZEISS VR ONE are the best ones out there and have the highest definition.” Innoactive has no regrets about this decision: “This VR headset is handy, easy to use and very good value,” says Nele Müller. Another benefit is gaze control. This enables the user to activate individual buttons in the video just by looking at them. With other VR headsets, the user has to manually operate a button on the side of the headset – which detracts from the immersive experience.
“This idea has given people who hadn’t considered us before real food for thought.”
VR technology certainly won’t stop demographic change in its tracks, nor will it put an end to the shortage of skilled workers. But for Deutsche Bahn, a company that is conscious of the increasingly fraught job market, this is a great advantage as it attempts to recruit the best of the best. The company is using virtual reality to bolster its image as an innovative employer in order to ensure that trains keep running in the future. And to ensure that DB continues to play an active role in making both mobility and the world of work more digital.