Digitization. Complexity. Diversity – In a conversation with Christa Stienen

As a Chief Human Resources Officer, Christa Stienen is responsible for the Germany/Switzerland cluster at DB Schenker since October 1st 2018. She has more than 25 years of experience with international leadership in HR as well as in the various sectors such as trade, aviation and pharma.

Christa Stienen has been active as honorary vice president of the Federal association for HR managers for many years, and she has been on various supervisory boards, as well.

logistik aktuell talked with her about the current challenges in the sector and the personal, entrepreneurial and societal duty that responsible HR management entails.

logistik aktuell: HR in logistics. It suggests itself to start with the challenges of skills shortage on the one hand, and on the other hand with the changing job profiles in the wake of digitization. How much do you witness the change of your duty and the entire sector?

Christa Stienen: Right now one of our most important tasks is educating people for digitization and the transition. This applies to my HR work at DB Schenker, it applies for the sectors and I also see it as one of the most pressing social challenges.

Jobs of the future – discussions at the BVL conference | logistik aktuell

How is digitalization changing jobs in the field of logistics? At the annual BVL conference, representatives of various companies discussed the job profiles of the future.


And that is indeed possible. Because the overwhelming majority of people live in the digitized world completely naturally. They effortlessly use smart phones and do their groceries online. And so they are also able to do qualified work in logistics which become more and more digitized. We only have to take care of their digital education as soon as possible and inform them about the changes that occur in everyday life due to digitization.

This is a very concrete HR task. It’s about further study. But it’s also about making ourselves visible as an attractive employer and training partner. Generally speaking, in public, but also aimed at our coworkers’ generation of kids and families. I want to signal them that they have a good future in our company. That we make them prepared for the future, and that we can provide interesting jobs even in the future.

However, you continue to be reliant on classic recruiting beyond DB Schenker.

Yes, but we need more than merely „classic“ recruiting. Imagination is required in the wake of skills shortage. An example that’s a little unusual: we’re looking for drivers. Everyone is looking for drivers. How do we reach them? Via print ads, online job exchanges? Probably not. Instead, we have to be present right where potential applicants reside anyway. In their environment and „on occasion“: for example in tattoo studios. So we build and „execute“ a separate campaign just for that. You can transfer that, of course. We will have to approach the IT specialist in his specific feel-good environment. But where is that? We have to get to the target group in an affine and trustworthy way – this also applies to HR and recruiting. Because it depends on people feeling that we care about their situation and their way of living. And that it is honest! 

Diversity. About the lively interaction with complexity

Let’s get back to how the digitalization changes the demands on employees and applicants once more. Which qualifications will become more important in the next 10 years? Or to be a little more specific: which trainings and degree courses are particularly good preparations for the future work in logistics?

Apart from a few exceptions, the type of degree course or training won’t play a crucial role. Personal skills are becoming more and more important now and in the future. Flexibility is a crucial necessity. Just like the ability to comprehend and handle complex relationships. The capacity for teamwork is also an absolute must-have.

Training at DB Schenker: "A little bit of action" | logistik aktuell

A trainee and an experienced professional - both Augsburg office - talk about their careers and their prospects in logistics.


These may sound like matter of facts. But there is a lot behind it. Because first of all, applicants with these competencies are certainly not a common sight in the job market. And secondly, evaluating these qualities is a new and complex task for HR. Here’s an example: Scanning final grades is a comparatively trivial task. But evaluating how well someone fits into a team, or how well someone is able to comprehend relationships, requires different methods and a different expertise of the HR team.

And how does HR prepare for this demand?

For me personally, my experiences from coaching and my long-standing work experience aid a lot in this matter.

But generally speaking, I mainly see a chance to master this challenge. The keyword is diversity. With regard to HR, this means that we have to integrate people with completely different personal backgrounds in these decision making processes. Complex decisions are best made by teams that combine the heterogeneous experiences of different age, and different social, cultural and geographical backgrounds. Because here you depict different worlds, processes and personalities with these „sensors“. And this fine sensor system is only available in a team.

“# Diversity opens perspectives. Christa Stienen, CHRO @DBSchenker in an interview with logistik aktuell.“

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So you don’t see diversity primarily as a challenge, but instead as a chance?

Diversity is the answer to complexity. All tasks in relation to HR are characterized by increasing complexity. For instance, the diverging needs of the varying employee generations: it starts with the trainees who wish for a feel of belonging. Then there are Young Professionals who want to know what the company provides to them. Later, questions about family friendliness become dominant. And this lasts up to the age of 50 and more, and then the need for personal development outside of work suddenly arises. Adequate handling of this whole spectrum of needs is not possible if I am limited to the perspective of a male 50 year old, or a female 30 years old. Diversity opens perspectives.

HR as business partner

Does this understanding of diversity not also entail an opportunity for the entire company?

Yes, of course it does. And that’s exactly how I understand the special kind of responsibility and the potentials of modern human resources management. HR with its special experience can and must become or rather be business partner of the top management, and thereby contribute to value creation. This is my understanding of personnel management and this is how I live my job. I am very happy that this understanding was shared and cooperatively supported at DB Schenker. We have large tasks ahead of us, but I am certain that we will master them with this attitude.

We wish you lots of of success with these tasks and thank you for this current and lively insight into HR in times of digitization and complexity.