Culture Code and Deal Breakers

Posted by John Wachniak on May 26, 2016

I ran into a sign industry business colleague the other day, let’s call her Sandra, who mentioned she was leaving her current position and moving to another state for a new opportunity. We talked a while about her new opportunity and about the reasons she would make such a move. After all, this was a woman with an established career and a family; moving to another state was no small decision. What she revealed was quite interesting and says a lot about the importance of culture and how we define an employment “deal breaker.”

Departure signage for travelers

In the end, Sandra felt muted by her employer. She had been meeting goals and performing well, but corporate culture of long hours, minimal communication, and the lack of transparency and consultation from her employer left her feeling undervalued and hand-tied. She needed to find an environment where her contributions were appreciated, where she could grow and still enjoy some life balance.

Deal Breakers

Like a relationship, employment has two sides that come together over an agreed set of parameters – mutual respect and trust, salary, benefits, perks, work, freedom, challenges, culture -- it’s all part of the “deal.” In Sandra’s case, the relationship derailed, leaving Sandra feeling like her efforts didn’t matter and that was enough to break the deal.

Talking with Sandra made me wonder about the “deal breaker.” It doesn’t all break down at once. What is so valued by a great employee that the lack of it would cause the consideration of a significant change? More importantly, what can companies do to identify and cultivate those intangibles that make or break a work place for each employee?

Mark Feffer, contributing writer for HR Magazine, talks about culture. He said that “it takes a conscious effort to build and maintain a workplace where every employee feels like a star.” (What Makes a Great Employer? HR Magazine. Vol. 60, No.5, June 2015)

It takes a conscious effort to build and maintain a workplace where every employee feels like a star. -- HR Magazine, June 2015.

It may not be the fact that a company meets all the employee satisfaction criteria, it may be simply that an employer makes the effort to meet them that balances the scale. By the same token, the lack of that effort breaks the deal.

The sign industry moves fast and requires skill, knowledge, personality, creativity and integrity from all employees. They are the front line, so each employee must represent the company well. Great employees invest daily in the company mission and vision and they expect to be supported daily in that effort in return. A consistent effort to keep great employees happy is imperative to our customer service processes.

Culture Code

Feffer refers to five characteristics of a great workplace: trust, engagement, transparency, communication, and intention. It may start with hiring the right people, but it is what happens after the first day that makes the difference.

He reminds us that a great culture is nurtured by investing in your people through training, motivating them and inspiring them toward creativity, giving them flexibility and freedom, and most of all respecting them enough to let them perform and be who they are.

After all, we hire great people right? Why not tap into their expertise, skills and talents, interests? You never know where the next big idea might pop up. 

Moving to another state is a big leap to gain balance and respect, one that many talented people just like Sandra feel they have to take. I wonder what might have been the outcome if Sandra's company made the effort to maintain the "deal?"


John Wachniak brings over 20 years of industry experience to Lemberg sign and lighting. Our team of award-winning professional designers, project managers and technicians create innovative and custom business signs and lighting solutions that make lasting impressions. Call 262.781.1500 or click here to request a quote today and let us exceed your expectations. Also, if you’re looking for an outstanding opportunity in a growing business, please give us a call.