Harley CEO issues statement about company’s commitment to remote work, Milwaukee

Harley-Davidson headquarters
Harley-Davidson Inc.'s headquarters in Milwaukee.

Jochen Zeitz, the chief executive officer of Harley-Davidson, Inc. made waves earlier this week when he told Bloomberg that the company was planning to repurpose its 500,000-square-foot corporate headquarters complex in Milwaukee, which hasn’t fully reopened since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in March of 2020.

The move is an embrace of remote work as Zeitz says he is supporting employees wishes to work from home. He told Bloomberg that physical office spaces are “less inclusive” and said virtual meetings and remote work “democratizes the way we work together and allows you to bring the best talent into the company, no matter where they sit.”

Zeitz became Harley’s CEO in 2020. He splits his time between Milwaukee and New Mexico, according to the Bloomberg report.

The report left many wondering what will happen to Harley’s Milwaukee headquarters complex at 3700 W. Juneau Ave. on the city’s west side. A recent filing with the city of Milwaukee indicates the company has plans to subdivide its property, which includes a large amount of surface parking spaces. The filing indicates the purpose of the move is to “redivide lots to facilitate land transfer.”

According data from Harley’s Inclusive Stakeholder Management Report, the company had 890 employees at its Milwaukee corporate headquarters in 2021, down from more than 1,062 in 2018.

The company did not respond this week to questions from BizTimes Milwaukee about the statements Zeitz made to Bloomberg about the company’s headquarters plans.

On Friday, Zeitz issued a lengthy statement on LinkedIn addressing Harley’s commitment to remote work and Milwaukee, where the company was founded in 1903:

“Hybrid work is something that can work for many organizations – but you have to put more trust in your employees,” Zeitz said in the LinkedIn post.

“Since the pandemic, we have embraced hybrid work at Harley-Davidson Motor Company. And despite the unfortunate circumstances that led to us having to work remotely, the big realization – which shouldn’t have been a surprise – is that you can, and you must, put more trust in your employees.

“Working in a hybrid setting has not only given us the opportunity to attract talent that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to, but it has also allowed many employees to work for the company, by aligning their working lives to the needs of their non-working lives.

“As CEO, I’m committed to ensuring that we provide our employees with the right infrastructure, support and guidance that they need to be the best employee that they can be. By putting more trust in our people, and their ability to decide what hybrid structure works for them within their teams and aligned to the business’ requirements, we believe we will not only drive increased productivity but importantly, we will have a more engaged workforce.

“In the end, it’s the results that count. The key to delivering those results is flexibility – whether that be in our offices, shared working environments or at home; Harley-Davidson will continue to enable both a remote and onsite infrastructure that allows our people to do their jobs effectively.

“Championing choice doesn’t mean abandoning your roots and your heritage. As we approach our 120th anniversary, at Harley-Davidson we are proud of our hometown Milwaukee, and we are excited about the ideas we have to invest in our Milwaukee campuses for the future.

“By building on our most recent investment into our Harley-Davidson Museum Campus, we know we can adjust elements of our footprint to adapt to a new way of working and living – not only for our employees, but importantly for our surrounding communities too.

“I’m proud that at Harley-Davidson, we are providing the modern, forward-thinking flexibility that we believe will define the working environment of the future. Our roots are firmly planted in Milwaukee and Wisconsin; however, we are a U.S. company with a global workforce​, and we believe that promoting an agile way of working will be key to our future success. It’s proven to be successful already.

“If you feel you are the right fit for our iconic brand, please check out the open roles at Harley-Davidson. We’re committed to hiring the best talent to deliver on our ambitions.”

Harley-Davidson chairman and CEO Jochen Zeitz on a Harley Pan America, the company’s first entry into the adventure touring segment.
Harley-Davidson chairman and CEO Jochen Zeitz.
Credit: Daniel N. Johnson

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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