Zebra Applied sciences has a novel problem: convincing roboticists and highly-skilled tech employees that it’s greater than a warehouse and retail tech firm. The corporate, identified for its barcode scanners and cell checkout gadgets, is pivoting to develop into robotics, machine imaginative and prescient, and retail software program. In 2021 the corporate invested in a robotics enterprise and bought Fetch Robotics, a developer of autonomous cell robots, in a $290 million deal. Now it wants expertise to help its new companies.
In 2020, Jeff Schmitz was tapped to tackle the job. Schmitz, who has been the corporate’s chief advertising and marketing officer for nearly seven years, is now additionally its CHRO. He’s tasked with main the corporate into its subsequent part of progress whereas altering how potential expertise perceives the corporate. The latter directive is the place his advertising and marketing abilities come into play. Schmitz spoke with Fortune about how he’s repositioning the model to draw extra expertise and why his advertising and marketing background makes him suited to supervise Zebra’s almost 10,000 workers.
This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.
Fortune: What led you to your present mixed position of CMO and CHRO at Zebra?
I’m an engineer and a pc scientist by schooling. I got here to Zebra to be the CMO in 2016 and stored that position by 2020 as my major accountability. About two years in the past, our CEO requested me to select up the CHRO place, which was really one thing I needed to do. I seen it as an space of studying for me.
As I prefer to say, it’s most likely the most effective and most difficult time to be in HR as a result of it’s by no means been extra necessary. We’ve gone from everybody going house to worrying about return to the workplace and coping with well-being and burnout.
How did your advertising and marketing background present up in your early days as CHRO?
It was November 2020, and we have been in the midst of the pandemic—previous the early days of everybody working remotely. We first had to make sure we have been successfully speaking with our 10,000 workers who have been all at house. This goes proper to the candy spot between the advertising and marketing and CHRO position; it begins with communication, and that’s turn into more and more necessary.
Are you able to describe the distinctive expertise problem at Zebra Applied sciences?
We’re actually in transition, shifting from our core enterprise to redefining what work appears to be like like. We’re primary in key areas—barcode printing, scanning, cell computing—so it is sensible that you just is likely to be seeking to be part of Zebra for those who’re in a type of companies. However though we’re roughly a $6 billion firm in income, it’s possible you’ll not consider Zebra because the place for machine imaginative and prescient, robotics, and even software program. And therein lies a few of the challenges we’ve as we’re evolving the enterprise. We must be vigilant about retaining our folks, attracting folks, notably in these new areas, and growing them.
How have you ever used advertising and marketing strategies to draw new expertise?
We’ve began to say, ‘Hey, when folks search for merchandise, the place do they go?’ Most searches occur both on Google or Amazon. And that’s why there’s such an excellent promoting funds that folks put into search engine advertising and marketing or SEO. Now, we’re utilizing these instruments for expertise. If I’m searching for a job in robotics, how do I be sure that I’m displaying up the place the roboticists are? How will we use advertising and marketing cash to place advertisements in entrance of these folks to tug them into our expertise pool, and the way will we do this proactively? So promoting, notably digital promoting, has been very efficient for expertise acquisition.
What different traits have served you in main each advertising and marketing and HR? Most individuals have heard concerning the “rule of seven,” which means if somebody sees one thing seven occasions it’s extra more likely to be dedicated to their reminiscence. Have you ever introduced theories like that into HR?
The rule of seven is an efficient one. The opposite one I like is ‘by the point administration is getting uninterested in saying one thing, that’s when individuals are simply beginning to perceive it.’ It’s good to over talk. We use a variety of instruments like our intranet and likewise ship movies to each the advertising and marketing and HR groups each month or so.
Have you ever needed to do any rebranding to draw new forms of expertise?
Now we have folks throughout the firm who personal the worker worth proposition, and that needs to be layered in with the advertising and marketing. Having the hyperlink between advertising and marketing and HR does assist to make sure that interconnectedness occurs. After we put out advertisements or a picture of the corporate to be an employer of selection in robotics, software program, or locations the place we’re not an professional, layering up that messaging and having the precise supplies is important.
What do you see because the headwinds within the expertise market that make it doable for a CMO to even be an efficient HR chief?
I believe there are a few totally different instructions for CMOs. One is you see a pattern of CMOs staying the place they’re. There’s a variety of worth in advertising and marketing staying unbiased by itself. Generally you additionally see advertising and marketing transfer extra towards a chief income officer. However I’ve additionally met a good quantity of people that have advertising and marketing linked to HR. And once more, it’s for the explanations that I discussed earlier than; they’re individuals who perceive the enterprise. Generally having a superb understanding of that enterprise is an efficient backdrop for operating HR.
You will discover area HR specialists. However someone who understands the enterprise, connects with the manager staff, and helps folks perceive HR and the way it’s linked to the enterprise can be necessary.
The headwinds for all of us can be what occurs with the macroeconomic scenario. Everybody’s apprehensive about that. We see what’s occurring within the inventory market, rates of interest, and the need to sluggish the economic system down. It’s going to have some ripple impact, and the query is, how will we navigate that? I don’t know precisely what’s subsequent, but it surely appears to be like just like the macroeconomic scenario might be altering, and that may change what occurs for expertise.
Across the Desk
– The U.S. added 263,000 jobs in September, down from 315,000 the month prior, in keeping with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report out this morning. The decline indicators a slowdown within the labor market. Wall Road Journal
– Peloton introduced it might lay off 500 workers in its third spherical of job cuts this yr. The corporate has lower about 3,000 jobs since June 2021. New York Occasions
– Amazon will enhance beginning pay to $19 an hour and provide signing bonuses of as much as $3,000 because it appears to be like to rent roughly 150,000 vacation employees. CNBC
– Tyson will shut its Chicago places of work and relocate its workers to Arkansas. CNN
– The pandemic has made some employers skittish about shedding employees, whilst a recession appears doable. Vox
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