Chris Avant of Canyon Construction feels strongly about educating his workers. So, every few months, the owner of the San Francisco-based remodeling company offers a Friday afternoon seminar on timely topics. Over a few slices of pizza, his crews learn about issues like safety, ordering supplies, fasteners, concrete, and sustainable products. "It's a good forum for top field guys -- the experienced older guys do a lot of speaking," Avant says.

He pays for one hour of work time and crew members volunteer one hour of their time. "It's an investment in your most valuable resource," Avant says. Providing the stimulus of training and education makes the company a desirable place to work. In addition to the in-house classes, he offers workers $150 toward an off-site class or books.