Employees at Home Town Restyling, a home improvement company in Hiawatha, Iowa, “know that it's a tough economy out there,” owner Wayne Winn says. That awareness has increased their appreciation for the benefits package and job security the company offers. More than that, knowing their jobs and what's expected, what Winn calls the “comfort zone,” helps the company retain top performers — they like working there.

BEYOND MONEY Studies show that feedback, training, flexibility of work hours, and recognition or rewards all move people to, in effect, motivate themselves. “Let's face it,” says Sal Ferro, CEO of Alure Home Improvements, on Long Island, N.Y., “what motivates is an enthusiastic culture where employees are appreciated and feel part of what's going on — an inclusive environment where employees know what's expected of them and feel good about who they work for, where they work, and what they do.”

Chris Zorzy, owner of A&A Services, in Salem, Mass., says that when employees are made to feel part of the process, the result is dedicated people. Last year, Zorzy invested funds in his company's building, manned the company booth at area home shows, and for a while became A&A's “audit guy” (performing energy audits). The owner says he believes that his willingness to “go back to that level of commitment,” combined with improved communication between installers and sales, helped pull A&A Services out of a slow period in early 2011 and to propel it toward a profitable year.

NO SURPRISES Bob Priest, owner of Burr Roofing, in Darien, Conn., practices open-book management and holds company-wide meetings — core beliefs of Certified Contractors Network. And he has found another way to draw everyone in the company into that process: He installed a ship's bell in the office, and whenever a sales rep phones in a sale, Priest rings the bell, so everyone in the company knows.

Home Town Restyling started a regular first-Monday-of-the-month meeting of all employees a few years back. The idea, Winn says, was to increase teamwork and improve customer service. Salespeople read aloud from positive comments made by homeowners about installers. Cards of those scoring highest on customer satisfaction go into drawings for gas cards, which are awarded monthly to two people in each of the company's four divisions.

Although, Winn says, we like to say that employees are money-motivated, he has found that recognition and clear communication drive employees to do their best.