Zebra Technologies: City size and safety matter

Eva Sklenářová joined Zebra Technologies 3 years ago as HR Business Partner after gaining HR Management and HR SSC experience in another big Shared Service Center based in Brno. Eva moved to Brno for her university studies and stayed also for her career, and even though she enjoys her family life in a village close to Brno, she has a good understanding of why foreigners find the city attractive and welcoming (and would never change it for Prague).

How would you describe the business Zebra does worldwide to someone without a clue?

Zebra sells and services barcode readers and printers, RFID technology, tablets and mobile computers but also software and complex solutions, used widely across retail, healthcare (patient ID wristbands), transportation (loading trucks) and manufacturing industries. The company was established more than 50 years ago, and is now headquartered in Chicago. We have our own Research & Development (spending here 10%+ of the global sales), the production is outsourced.

What gets done in Brno?

In Brno, we have our largest shared services centre. In 2014, the company overtook the local Motorola (former Symbol Technologies) and hasn’t stopped growing since. Besides Brno, the other significant centers in Europe can be found in the UK (EMEA headquarters) and Netherlands (our distribution centre), and then further in Malaysia and Mexico. In the Czech Republic, there’s also a sales office in Prague which covers Central and Eastern Europe. 

How international is your workforce here in Brno?

We have about 650 employees, out of which almost 120 are foreigners of 37 nationalities, providing technical and non-technical services in about 10 languages. I’m not including Slovaks into that number, as they share almost the same language and culture with the locals. Many employees in Brno are a part of our global teams. No nationality is dominating.

What channels work best for you when hiring foreign talents?

I would highlight these three ways – global jobs portals and LinkedIn social network, but especially personal referrals from our employees. The Czech Republic and Brno sell themselves well on their own. Our foreign employees willingly share their local experience and make it easier to attract new talents over here. Some have participated in our internal challenge and even shot short videos promoting Brno – why they came and what they like here most. 

On the other hand, bringing talents from third countries is often made difficult by the troubles with the visa process. And now, with the Covid situation, it’s becoming even tougher. When we don’t have a specific preference for a certain position, we’ll reach for EU citizens.

So why did they choose Brno and what do they like here the most? 

They like the city size. Everything seems to be just around the corner. They also appreciate how close the other capitals are – visiting Prague, Vienna or Bratislava by bus, train or car is a matter of about two hours. Lots of foreigners also comment on the mild climate, safety in the streets, political stability and the city transport night lines. We’ve recently initiated a club to include foreign newcomers (but not excluding the locals) and exchange advice. Efforts like these enable safe landing and help settle down faster.

What we need to improve in Brno? Can the municipality help?

It’s actually hard to recall what our foreign employees complain about. The things that come to my mind are the process of getting work permits, and speeding it up. Then, the poor connectivity by planes. Also, there could be more institutions facilitating networking between companies. CTP is doing a good job but more options will not go amiss. Perhaps the municipality can help here as well.

What specific skills are you looking for right now?

Currently, we’re in the middle of a rather special situation caused by the pandemic, which makes it hard to predict what will happen in 2-3 months. But even now, we are looking especially for analytical skills (Power BI tool), technical knowledge, languages in general – these differ role by role. English is a must for all Zebras.

How is the coronavirus affecting your workstyle? What do you predict for the coming months?

We’re very much looking forward to moving to the Vlněna site in Q1/2021. Nowadays, our offices are located in four different buildings. The move will not only finally put all of us together, but also give us an opportunity to grow. It was actually employees who elected to move closer to the city centre, when the decision was put to a vote. 

We expect that an overwhelming part of our staff will become flexible. That would mean more people on home office while only seeing each other in the office for scheduled regular meetings. Personal contact is still essential for a good team spirit and we find the friendly company culture our most valuable asset. 



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