Maintaining and developing company brand values through generations dialogue

JSC Russian Railways, in partnership with the Corporate University of Russian Railways, carried out a series of activities called “Generations Forums” involving mentors from the Railway Infrastructure Business Unit and encouraging the participation of railway transport universities.


The largest functional branch of JSC Russian Railways – the Railway Infrastructure Business Unit – faced a challenge of ensuring the continuity of valuable working experience transferred from mentors in the workplace to students enrolled on employer-sponsored places in the railway transport universities, the future employees of Russian Railways.

The roots of the problem lie both in the intergenerational gap between mentors and students, as well as the imperfection of the adaptation process passed by students.

Demographic pitfalls caused by the violent economic downturn in 1990s Russia added to the tendency of young people to leave the small settlements where the Railway Infrastructure Business Unit operates.

The question is how to embody the company brand values – expertise, integrity and renewal – through the improvement of mentoring process, students’ adaptation and cooperation with transport universities.

And how to ensure continuing experience transfer in the context of impaired intergenerational communication? How to preserve human potential in the context of a demographic drop and the trend of youth outflow from towns? These were the challenges to overcome.

To achieve the task JSC Russian Railways in partnership with the Corporate University of Russian Railways carried out a series of activities called “Generations Forums” involving the mentors from the Railway Infrastructure Business Unit and encouraging the participation of railway transport universities.

Generations Forum covered the whole network of Russian Railways in two months of 2019 and became the focus of a dialogue between 650 mentors of the Railway Infrastructure Business Unit and 1,700 students at nine railway universities of Russia – showing future employees of Russian Railways possible paths to successful career development and a system of support for young worker

The L&D initiative

Joint partnership led to the development of a comprehensive one-day programme for the Generation Forum consisting of a series of consecutive short-format events.

The official Forum Opening concerned a joint appeal to students and mentors by representatives of the top RZD management and the Transport University. This established the importance of the Forums.

The Information Fair for Students was held in the form of a panel discussion. This module aimed at establishing a direct dialogue between students, the employer company and representatives of the university. This allowed students to get acquainted with potential employer and to learn more about the structure and the opportunities that the company offers to young professionals.

One of the expected effects of the Forum was to shift mentors’ focus from negativity towards the values and behaviour of modern young people to a conscious acceptance of these differences.

The Corporate University of Russian Railways developed an education programme The Theory of Generations as a Reference System for Mentors.

The programme conveys important value differences between representatives of different generations as well as special features of generational gaps.

The module taught how to focus on the strengths of different generations and understand why and how they differ from each other.

This understanding served as a starting point for generating and sharing ideas on how to communicate with young employees in a different way, as well as on which channels of communication to use, what needs to be changed internally and how.

The training activities managed to clearly frame an important message to mentors: “you can spend time and energy trying to change an individual but you will never change the era that influenced them”.

This workshop allowed mentors to develop another vector of thinking: if a mentor really wants to pass on experience to a young professional, he or she needs to learn to be flexible. The key aim of the Interactive Survey was to obtain feedback from students and mentors. Students assessed the efficiency of the communication with Russian Railways units; mentors – examined the current mentoring system of the Company.

We made the survey anonymous and in real-time to obtain the most reliable information and avoid socially desirable answers. The final event of the Forums was an Intellectual Game in teams. It engaged both mentors and students at the same time. This allowed participants to unite around common team goals and provided an opportunity to learn how to organise dialogues within teams.

The Forum closed with the winning team being awarded valuable and memorable prizes from the company.

The impact

The impact of the Generation Forums can be compared to a butterfly effect. A series of short-term events instigated a transformation within the most complex processes of all partnership sides. Any transformation is a progressive movement towards change.

1. For the Railway Infrastructure Business-Unit the first course of Generations Forums served as a trigger to major personnel changes related to the transformation of mentoring and adaptation processes:

  • Increasing mentoring processes effectiveness. Since 2020 a project of a cross-functional mentoring system has been introduced: from the central management level to the level of all business divisions. Such approaches will establish transparent criteria, clear rules and common principles of organising and evaluation the mentoring process. The Unit has declared 2020 as the Year of Mentoring and Adaptation and that means serious transformation of these processes. Ninety-two mentors who took part in the Forums and appeared to be the most promising, passed a distances competencies SHL-assessment. This enables creating a perfect profile of a mentor and a more efficient selection process of learning and development programmes.
  • A huge number of staff trained in a short time
  • Enhancing a positive image of the RZD holding among the students

2. For the Railway Infrastructure Business-Unit Employees the project allowed the introduction of new, interesting knowledge:

  • Corporate competencies development
  • Mastering the tools to communicate with the youth and alternative mentoring role models
  • Colleagues experience accumulated
  • Creation of working network with colleagues from other regions and divisions
  • Increase of internal motivation of personnel

3. For students:

  • Formation of students’ expectations towards production work in the company
  • Representation of special aspects of working for Russian Railways and career growth prospects
  • Direct dialogue with the employer.

4. For the corporate university of Russian Railways:

  • An experience of providing new educational formats
  • Strengthening partnership with Russian Railways and Universities
  • A trigger to develop new educational products.

5. For railway transport universities:

  • Strengthening of the education market position
  • Strengthening partnership with Russian Railways and the Corporate University
  • Enhancing of the universities image of
  • the guarantors of high-quality professional education with social responsibility
  • Ensuring demand for graduates in the labour market

6. For society:

  • Ensuring working places meet conditions causing human resources shortage
  • Influence on early career guidance of students helping decrease the gap between “expectations – reality” and the industry and to plan a career path at the stage of university education
  • Support of the universities orientation towards partnerships with employers.

Watch the partnership project video.

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