Désirée Baer

The business economist with a degree from the University of St. Gallen (HSG) has been CEO of SBB Cargo since 1 March 2020. From 2017, Désirée Baer was CEO of Securitrans Public Transport Security AG, the leading provider of security in public transport with just under 1000 employees. Before that, Baer spent seven years as a member of the Management Board of SBB Infrastructure, where she was in charge of various areas including production, logistics, fleet management, purchasing, sales and IT. Désirée Baer also has management experience from management consulting and was the managing director of a start-up company.

«A modern understanding of leadership is important: Sense in the goals, responsibility in the implementation and dialogue at eye level»

What trends do you see in how corporate leadership is evolving?
The trend of location-independent Work Smart has gained momentum with the pandemic, and management must adapt to it culturally and organisationally. In addition, the generational change will demand that employees be given even more meaningful goals. This also goes hand in hand with a stronger delegation of responsibility. This is the only way to keep up with the ever-faster innovation cycles.

Automation, digitalisation and the Workplace of the Future are shaping the way we work today. How are you addressing these trends?
We have been working for several years on the comprehensive automation of operational processes and the digitalisation of planning processes as well as customer interfaces. In addition to technical feasibility, this challenges us particularly in the areas of culture, leadership and training. However, digitalisation in the area of new business models is still too little addressed – here we will also be strongly challenged by the market in the coming years. 

How do you ensure that technology/digitalisation does not remain an expert topic, but is anchored in the value creation of the company?
On the one hand, we work with so-called solution teams, in which the employees concerned from line and technology jointly develop the solutions and take responsibility up to the implementation. On the other hand, we also have to consistently free up resources to accompany the implementation. Our credo is: Only what reaches the railways and the customers can have an effect.

In the course of demographic development, more managers will soon retire than will succeed them. How do you deal with the impending staff shortage in your company?
We have to remain attractive as an employer for talent. We also have a structured management development process. In case of the managers, a modern understanding of leadership is important to us: sense in the goals, responsibility in the implementation and dialogue at eye level.

What measures have you defined in your company to increase the proportion of women in management?
We have a share of women in the management of almost 60%. We have therefore not defined any special measures. For me, it is not only gender that counts, but diversity in general. It also takes different backgrounds and different generations to find the best solutions for the further development of SBB Cargo.   

What should the economy, politics and society do to strengthen the compatibility of work and family in Switzerland?
The framework conditions in Switzerland and at SBB are already very good. Only in the taxation of married couples do we lag behind modern lifestyles.

What messages do you have for your top talents regarding their career planning? How do you convey these messages in everyday life?
Leadership work must create meaning. Enjoying working with people is a central prerequisite. And conveying this only works by example.

We increasingly see that CEOs also hold external directorships. What do you think of this?
A certain outside perspective promotes new ideas, but I see an accumulation of offices as critical for serious work.