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DB Rail Academy helps to build expertise in Saudi Arabia

October 20, 2021 – 7:40 am

The new national railway company for Saudi Arabia (SAR) is laying the foundations for a leading role in transport and logistics in the region with systematic skills development supported by DB Rail Academy.

competency management - DB Rail Academy Saudi Arabia

Following the merger of the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) and Saudi Railways Company (SAR) at the beginning of February 2021, which created a national rail company in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, SAR is cooperating with DB Rail Academy, Deutsche Bahn’s international training institute, and expanding its competency management system enterprise-wide. In the medium term, the company is counting on being able to fill most of its key positions largely from within its own ranks. This strategy is designed so that the company can operate to the highest international standards and achieve greater independence. With these goals in mind, a comprehensive succession planning system has been implemented with the support of the DB Rail Academy.

Rail expertise from 30 countries

DB Rail Academy is the international vocational training and professional development institute created by DB Engineering & Consulting, a Deutsche Bahn subsidiary. It offers rail expertise worldwide and helps rail operators, regulatory agencies and industry customers in 30 countries to expand their training and professional development provision. With 270,000 trainees a year, Deutsche Bahn is one of the world’s leading training organizations in the transport sector.

Succession planning for top management functions at SAR

SAR’s competency management project started in January 2021 with succession planning for 21 top management functions. Once the target competencies for each function had been defined, the chosen potential successors underwent an intensive assessment based on psychometric criteria as well as functional competencies and leadership skills. They also wrote a project paper on real-life business problems related to the target position.

Using a predefined structure, operationally challenging tasks for the implementation of the SAR strategy were developed, evaluated and refined until they were ready for implementation. A high-ranking jury of top experts along with managers holding similar positions (e.g. CFO, COO) at Deutsche Bahn accompanied the process and evaluated the results using a scoring model. Detailed reports and individual development plans were drawn up for the candidates. These set out packages of measures designed to ready the candidates for the target function. The hundreds of individual measures in 24 categories  included:

  • Job rotation
  • Site visits
  • Coaching
  • Training programs
  • Project management functions
  • Job enlargement
  • Horizontal change
  • Mentoring
  • Peer case consultation
  • Special MBA and certificate programs

Parallel development of a competency management system

Having approved the packages of measures, SAR’s board asked DB Rail Academy to support and regularly review development processes for managers over the coming years. Following completion of training for the top management level, 50 managers at the next level down will join the program starting in September 2022.

Abdulrahman Turkistani, General Manager Human Resources & Support Services at SAR: “The launch of SAR’s five-year strategy in 2020 and the national strategy for transport and logistics in 2021 made it essential for SAR to build a national pool of talent from its various functions. This will ensure that SAR can achieve and go beyond the ambitious targets. We chose DB Rail Academy as our partner because DB, as one of the world’s leading rail companies, has the best knowledge of which skills matter and the capability to assess them.”

Alongside the succession planning program, SAR is setting up a competency management system, also with the support of the DB Rail Academy. More than 1,200 competency profiles will enable the company to maintain the right skills in the right number of people and to develop human resources in a targeted manner. All department heads at SAR are involved in the process of defining these skills based on Deutsche Bahn’s catalogue of competencies. The use of software tools makes it possible to steer the complex processes involved in competency management.


Sarah Geißler

Head of
Marketing & Communications
DB Engineering & Consulting
EUREF-Campus 14
Torgauer Strasse 12-15
10829 Berlin

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