Every industry has companies that seem to attract the best of the best. If you're looking for some tips on how to become an employer of choice in the LBM industry, Jim Harris, Ph.D., a Pensacola, Fla.–based management consultant and author of the book “Getting Employees to Fall In Love With Your Company,” has identified five things you can do to make people want to work for your organization:

  • Capture the heart of employees. Excellence is impossible with a disengaged heart. Whether it's through a compelling mission or vision, balancing work and life for employees, or simply having a positive, uplifting work environment, great companies find some way to tap the “heart power” of their people.
  • Open communication. In high-performance workplaces, leaders listen to the front line even more than they force
  • Create partnerships. To really get employees to fall in love with your company, you must treat them as partners, not hired hands. You give them a sense of ownership, literal or figurative, and tell them that their ideas have value. One of the best quotes about people is “All employees come equipped with a brain at no extra charge.” If you're engaging people, they'll leverage their intelligence to make the company better.
  • Drive learning. The Department of Labor has estimated that, on average, 50 percent of an employee's skill set becomes obsolete or outdated every two-and-a-half years. Harris' research indicates the No. 1 reason most top talent join a company are opportunities for personal and professional growth. Good people are looking for organizations that will keep their skills current and give them new skills so they will be employable.
  • Emancipate action. Too often, empowerment becomes “You're empowered, employees, but stay within the lines. The lines are our friends.” Yes, we have policies and procedures, and some ethics, laws, and regulations to adhere to. Within that context, leaders need to ask themselves, “Am I giving my people the freedom to succeed or burdening them with an overarching bureaucracy?” Rewards and recognition are a powerful way to show employees that their work is valued and they are appreciated. Here are a dozen of ways to thank employees, from the book “Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay,” by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans.

  • Set aside private time with you. Go to lunch with your employees. Use the time to get to know them better and to tell them how much they matter to you and to the team. Ask them questions, such as, “What can I do to keep you on my team?” and “What might make your work life easier?”
  • Lend career counsel. Offer to have a career conversation with an employee, preferably off site. Ask questions such as, “Which of your talents haven't I used yet?” and “What different jobs might you like to do in the future?” Talk about their next move and how they can achieve their goals.
  • Offer professional growth. Let employees choose from a list of potential assignments or tasks that could enrich their work. Or let the employee take a class that will give him or her valuable skills, or represent the company at a conference.
  • Honor their families. You could provide free phone cards to call family or friends, or give out free passes for time off to attend their children's activities. Or ask your employees how they would like to honor their families. They might want to bring a family member to work one day or have a group event one evening.
  • Involve them in hiring. Allow an employee to participate in interviewing a new manager, one or more levels above him or her.
  • Feed their minds. Give an employee a one-year subscription to his or her favorite business magazine, sent to the employee's home.
  • Give them a break. Do you know what your direct-report employees like to do when they're not working? Find out. If it's baseball or the theater, give them tickets to an upcoming game or performance. Or give them certificates for an afternoon off to take a break.
  • Provide a workplace coach. Provide a gift certificate entitling an employee to a lunch session with you or another mentor of his or her choosing to be coached on one or more topics.
  • Help them feel at home at work. Offer a shopping spree to a local office supply store to get items to personalize an employee's workspace.
  • Encourage wellness. Give gift certificates for T'ai Chi, yoga, or a day at a spa. Arrange for a discount at a local health club. Bring in a chef to demonstrate healthy lunches or quick dinners. Be creative!
  • Step out of the spotlight. Give an employee the chance to lead a project you've been hoarding for yourself.
  • Ask how they'd like to be rewarded. Have employees write down six rewards that would be meaningful to them. The only rule is that three of them need to be low-cost or no-cost.
  • —Pat Curry is a contributing editor to PROSALES