Are you a kumquat? This design firm's hiring campaign sums up its unique approach to business, where employees stay inspired through creative fire drills and TED Talks or relax with each other during pontoon boat rides.



This review is based on 84 employee surveys, with a 95% confidence level and a margin of error of ± 3.34. It was published on Sep 2, 2014. 4742 Visitors

What You Should Know

Kahler Slater’s hiring campaign, “Are you a kumquat?", sums up the architecture and interior design firm's refreshingly different approach to business. Employees say the firm fosters a supportive and egalitarian atmosphere in a sometimes grueling industry that's often obsessed with hierarchy. Creative fire drills and TED Talks nurture professional excellence, and even non-architects have the chance to lead. Meanwhile, the company really knows how to have a good time. Pontoon boat ride, anyone? Kahler Slater will be a better fit for those who can pace themselves through heavy workloads and then reward themselves with the company of their colleagues.

"Kahler Slater is not just a job, it's a lifestyle," one employee says. "I'm continually inspired by my coworkers and mentors."


Kahler Slater is an interdisciplinary architecture and interior design firm providing architecture, interior design, environmental branding, graphic design, research, facilitation, marketing and communications services to clients throughout the world.

Website: US Headquarters: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
US Sites: 2 Major Locations: Milwaukee, WI; Madison, WI
US Employees: 93 US revenues: $15.92 million
Worldwide revenues: $16.26 million Employees worldwide: 7
Founded: 1908 Industry: Professional Services

Kahler Slater, Inc. has been awarded:

Best Small Workplaces 2014 (ranked 13)

Best Small Workplaces 2013 (ranked 17)

Great Challenges

How much responsibility would I have? What kind of support is there for professional development?

Great Rated! conducted an anonymous survey of randomly selected employees to assess the quality of the workplace challenges the company provides. At Kahler Slater, Inc., 89 percent of employees report the company often or almost always provides needed training, fair promotions and personally challenging work. Another 10 percent report the company sometimes provides these opportunities, for a combined positive rating from 99 percent of employees in the Great Challenges category.

Kahler Slater employees provide interdisciplinary design services including architecture, interior design, environmental branding, graphic design, research, facilitation, marketing and communications services to a variety of clients. 

The majority of employees (96 percent) say they carry a lot of responsibility in the organization, and almost as many (95 percent) say that managers trust them to carry out these responsibilities without micromanaging them. For most employees (85 percent), their work at Kahler Slater, Inc. is more than just a job: the chance to provide transformational experiences to their clients through their design services provides special meaning.

At Kahler Slater, Inc., 81 percent of employees feel they receive the training and development they need to further their careers. While it is often difficult for companies to ensure that promotions are awarded fairly across organizations, at Kahler Slater, Inc., 89 percent of employees say that promotions consistently go to those who best deserve them, exceeding what one can typically expect even at the very best companies in the country.

Supporting Employee Development

  • Average annual training for part-time hourly employees: 12 hours
  • Average annual training for full-time salaried employees: 25 hours
  • In addition to classes, seminars, conferences,brown bag lunch seminars, and a nearly developmed mentorship program, Kahler Slater encourages employees to make presentations to client groups across the country, and supports their professional passions outside the office. In particular, the firm has the atypical practice of opening the opportunity for client interaction to a wider group of staff -- including their least experienced design professionals -- which employees say helps accelerate their career growth.
  • Kahler Slater creates leadership opportunities for all staff -- not just architects. Fourteen percent of their principals, associate principals, and associates are non-artchitect/design prrofessionals.
Leadership development is supported at our firm. "GPS Inititatives" allows staff at any level to be involved in shaping the evolution of the firm. It provides staff with the oppurtunity to gain leadership experience while gaining a broader perspectives on the firm's operations. 

Great Atmosphere

What would my colleagues be like? How do people have fun? How formal a workplace is it?

At Kahler Slater, Inc., 94 percent of employees say they often or almost always enjoy their colleagues and find their workplace to be fun and cooperative. Another 6 percent sometimes benefits from these qualities, for a combined positive rating from 100 percent of employees in the Great Atmosphere category.

Kahler Slater employs 93 employees in two offices in Milwaukee and Madison, Wis. Their open-concept office, with low walls set up in pods of four or more people, supports their design processes, which are based upon an open, participative, and collaborative exchange of ideas. Though the Milwaukee office lacks outdoor space, the office pontoon boat on the Milwaukee River offers a reprieve for Kahler Slater employees to enjoy throughout the summer.

Fun and Celebrations

  • Kahler Slater may be the only design firm that trains employees to be riverboat pilots. It has its own pontoon boat, the Experience, and employees, clients, and friends of the firm are frequently invited to cruise the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan during the summer. The company also has a Culture Council which works together to come up with events to build camaraderie and have fun. Some of these events include TED Talks, @4 parties, creativity fire drills (impromptu presentations of each other's work), holiday parties and lunch and learns. And CEOs dress up in costumes while presenting their state-of-the-firm address at the annual staff retreat.

Caring and Support

  • Kahler Slater aims to promote an office environment where people truly care about each other, especially when any of them are going through difficult life events.  Over the past several years they have helped many families cope with the loss of a family member or an extended serious medical leave, by cooking and delivering meals, raking leaves, babysitting for kids, and so on. 
People celebrate special events around here.
We do great work, but the culture encourages us to always find ways to be even better in all aspects of our work. People here take that as a serious challenge and motivation. We're also free to be comfortable in who we are with each other. I love that I can walk in to the office, the receptionist can dye her hair hot pink as an expression of who she is, and we're okay with that, even if she is the first person to greet visitors to the office. 



Great Rewards

What kind of perks and benefits are part of the employment package? What is the work-life balance like? Does the company appreciate hard work?

At Kahler Slater, Inc., 78 percent of employees often or almost always find the company compensates them fairly, provides special and unique benefits, supports their work-life balance and shows genuine appreciation for their contributions. Another 20 percent reports they sometimes receive these benefits as well, for a combined positive rating from 98 percent of employees in the Great Rewards category.

People tend to stay here a long time - that security is encouraging - and the company seems to favor growing from within and rewarding loyalty.


$43,459 Average salary and additional cash compensation for Administrative Coordinator $67,625 Average salary and additional cash compensation for Architect
25% 401(k) match of employee's salary, up to 6% of an employee's contribution 80% Company-paid health coverage for employees
80% Company-paid health coverage for dependents 30 hours Weekly hours at which part-timers receive health care coverage


  • 401(k) or 403b plan
  • Pre-tax savings account


  • Free beverages during the day
  • Personal travel service
  • Onsite package/mailing service


24 days Holidays & vacation days after one year of employment (8 holidays plus 16 PTO) 30 days Job protected leave maternity provided above and beyond FMLA


  • Unpaid sabbaticals
  • Telecommute option (4% use it)
  • Phased retirement planning (N/A% use it)
  • Flexible schedule (99% use it)
  • Compressed work weeks (1% use it)
  • Lactation rooms
I am able to take time off from work when I think it's necessary.
People are encouraged to balance their work life and their personal life.
The company promotes work-life balance as much as possible. It's nice to have the firm recognize the importance of that, especially in a high stress industry like this.


  • Dental care
  • Prescription drug subsidy
  • Alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, homeopathy or chiropractic
  • Vision care
  • Mental health care
  • Fertility treatments


  • Cholesterol tests
  • Complete biometric screening
  • Blood pressure screening

Great Pride

What inspires employees' company spirit here? Do people stand by their teams' work? What impact do people have outside the organization?

At Kahler Slater, Inc., 92 percent of employees report that they often or almost always carry meaningful responsibilities within the organization and are proud of their accomplishments, community impact and the company's reputation in the world. Another 7 percent report that they sometimes experience this pride as well, for a combined positive rating from 99 percent of employees in the Great Pride category.

Kahler Slater's purpose is to "enrich life through artful design." The company practices an interdisciplinary design philosophy that delivers not just archeticture and interior design services, but also environmental branding, graphic design, makreting and communications services, and other specialty consulting. Its customers include hospitals, colleges, banks and resort hotels. Between 2012 and 2013 alone it received three design awards from AIA-Wisconsin and seven from the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Society of Interior designer, including their Platinum Award.

I'm proud to tell others I work here.
Kahler Slater works very hard in a number of markets and has been successful in all of them. They are great at supporting individuals on a personal level while never losing focus of the whole. I love being a part of this professional team literally changing in the world through architecture and design-related experiences.

Supporting the Community

  • Paid time to volunteer per employee per year: 4 hours
  • Philanthropic donations in the last year: $112,754
  • Kahler Slater has a long legacy of volunteerism and philanthropic support. An employee-run Community Committee formally adopts a non-profit partner each year and focus the company's philanthropic efforts on that partner. In the most recent years, that partner is Habitat for Humanity. Employees have also helped to distribute food to nonprofit programs throughout eastern Wisconsin and donated furniture to update space in a local substance abuse treatment program.
  • Every other year Kahler Slater uses their annual, day-long firm-wide retreat to focus on volunteerism and challenge themselves to see how much good they can do in single day.
I feel good about the ways we contribute to the community.
Every year the firm has increased its participation in community activities. Instead of taking a company retreat, we now participate in a Day of Caring and work with local non-profits to complete a project. Last year we built houses and helped sort donations to the Habitat for Humanity Restore.

Great Communication

How easy is it to talk with managers and get the information I need? Will managers listen to my input?

At Kahler Slater, Inc., 86 percent of employees say they often or almost always experience a free and transparent exchange of ideas and information within the organization. Another 12 percent sometimes has this experience as well, for a combined positive rating from 98 percent of employees in the Great Communication category.

Kahler Slater has two locations in the United States and employs 93 people in professional, managerial, and administrative roles. The open office space and "no-doors" environment facilitates an open, participative, and collaborative communication environment across these positions. The vast majority of employees (92 percent) feel their managers are approachable and easy to talk with. Almost as many (88 percent) believe they can ask their leaders any reasonable question and get a straight answer.  Managers are proactive when information is needed: 82 percent find that leaders keep them informed about important issues and changes and just as many say leaders make their expectations clear. Kahler Slater employees have the chance to affect business decisions: 83 percent say managers genuinely seek and respond to employees' ideas and suggestions.

There is a cohesiveness to how the company functions across all departments. The attitude is that we are all in this for a common goal.

Great Bosses

What are managers' leadership strengths?

At Kahler Slater, Inc., 85 percent of employees say their managers often or almost always act with integrity and care, are competent in their positions and provide clear directions and vision for the organization. Another 13 percent say their managers sometimes display these characteristics, for a combined positive rating from 98 percent of employees in the Great Bosses category.

Kahler Slater employees are really proud of the dynamic and caring working environment leaders have helped to develop, as well as the quality of the work they produce as a team. Employees paint a picture of a leadership group that not only runs the business well, but cares about its people. Just about everyone (99 percent) endorses managers' business competence. But they also report a high degree of confidence in their ethics, with 94 percent indicating that managers are consistently honest and ethical in their business practices and nearly as many (94 percent) expressing confidence that leaders would only lay people off as a last resort. Leaders are widely credited with not only delivering on their promises but acting in ways that match their words, according to 88 percent of staff. In addition to citing these professional qualities, nine out of 10 employees say they feel that managers show a sincere interest in them as people, not just employees. 

Kahler Slater fosters a unique and creative atmosphere which resonates throughout the organization. Management does an excellent job engaging, inspiring, and empowering the employees.

Great Perks and Programs

  • Professional Development: Kahler Slater offers a variey of opportunities for professional development, including classes, seminars, and conferences. They also offer unusual opportunities such as a program built around storytelling, which was meant to help employees have a better presence in interviews and skills with clients. At the end of the eight-week course, each participant presented a personal story in front of a large public audience, and many reported that it was a moving experience. Another of their more popular programs is "Breakfast with TED," where employees gather for breakfast and watch a selected TED video as a way to inspire and motivate.
  • Mentorship Initiative: In 2012 Kahler Slater developed a firm-wide mentorship program, as well as a semi-regular “Mentor Panel” lunch series. Open to all staff, it allows experienced subject matter experts to share big ideas, hard-learned lessons and answer questions from all staff in an open, informal setting.  
  • "Closer-Doer" Initiative: Through this new initiative, business teams identify one or two “up and comers” to participate in focused reading, group discussion and exercises to more quickly refine their leadership abilities to close on new work.
  • Philanthropic Endeavours: Kahler Slater adopts a non-profit partner each year. In 2013 they partnered with Habitat for Humanity which resulted in several efforts supporting both Habitat’s ReStore as well as participating in "build" days. In past years they have supported Second Harvest, where they helped sort and distribute food, as well as designing, creating and donating original art pieces to a charity auction that supports Second Harvest.
  • Flexible Work Schedules: Employees at Kahler Slater aren't required to work defined hours, and in fact they are encouraged to set their own schedules and communicate their routines to others on their team. To this end they have implemented updated technology to easily allow employees to work remotely from home or client sites around the world.

Employee Quotes

Great Rated! collected feedback from Kahler Slater, Inc. employees via an anonymous survey. Following are common reasons employees said they appreciate their workplace.

"The thing that makes this company special is its people. Through design or chance, we happen to have, for the most part, an awesome collection of people."

"I have watched KS respond to the needs of employees going through a tremendous degree of pressure within their personal lives. KS always puts the needs of the person first. Employees want to be here making a positive impact on the world around them through design because the KS environment and culture reinforce a positive force in their own life. "

"Kahler Slater is not just a job, it's a lifestyle. We take full advantage of our company outings and events while grinding to the bone when its necessary to meet a deadline. I'm continually inspired by my coworkers and mentors."

"Our Vision is to Enhance Life Through Artful Design. It really is what we do. It's so important to us since we are an altruistic business. Yes, these can coexist and that's really fantastic."

"I feel that Kahler Slater really cares about all of its employees and values the extra time and effort people give. They strive to keep people busy and without worry. We spend time doing things that strengthen the relationships between our staff."

"Kahler Slater is a fun place to work. We have routine gathers of all staff, at 4’s (afternoon party), fire drills (impromptu presentations of each other’s work) and many more events that bring us together. We are a large family that cares for each other."

"We get to celebrate not only achievements but other things like - Friday the 13th, and have @4s. In celebrating, they allow us to have a few drinks - which is not something most places allow. It is nice, not a real big deal to them, and no one gets out of hand as a result. They trust us, and with that allow us to have a good time. This makes for happy people. Happy people are generally more creative, which is a huge aspect of what we do here."

"Appreciate the directive of creating a committee to make sure there are 'fun' events throughout the month to engage employees and give relief to the work day. The committee sits down month to discuss firm wide activities that can happen to have everyone stop and get together. Shows dedication to the employees that they aren't just here as workers but as partners."

"We recognized Community as a core value a few years ago and now have a Community Committee, focused on organizing our efforts to give back to the community. They have set up a great program, which is focused on selecting one non-profit to focus on for the year so that our collective volunteer time, donations, etc. make a greater impact. I can see it make a difference to the non-profit we are currently working with."

"I am made to feel like my personal goals and passions are important. My project manager is awesome, extremely open and approachable and I feel like whatever my personal goals are, they make every attempt to make sure my goals and passions are a posibility."

"Very flexible and supportive of a healthy work/life balance, including working from home when needed and accomodating a part time status in a professional position, which most companies do not accomodate. We have a great culture, with office sponsored fun events for staff bonding and letting off steam. We work hard but play hard."

"There is a lot of postive enthusiasm, recognition and support for each other's work."

How to Get Hired

We asked Kahler Slater, Inc. for some inside information on how to get hired at the organization. Here is what they had to say.

Hiring Outlook

3%Job Growth 27Average number of applicants per opening
3%Total voluntary turnover in past year 458Applicants in past year
14Openings in past year 28%New hires by employee referrals

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