Size appears to make a difference for more than just buying clout. A new study by Big Builder magazine and The Daniels Group, a consulting firm in Calabasas, Calif., found that job satisfaction was rated higher at companies building 2,000 or more homes a year than at their smaller competitors.

The study, which examined a range of employee retention issues (see "Ties That Bind"), suggests that efforts by the country's largest builders to pay as much attention to their organizational cultures as their business plans is apparently paying off.

Smaller and mid-sized builders will need to look for creative ways to match the initiatives and investments of their larger competitors known to improve workplace satisfaction, loyalty, retention, and productivity. The decentralized structure, "outsourced" workforce, and prevailing independence culturally of many mid-sized companies, however, continues to be a challenge to developing more satisfying workplaces, the study concluded.

Builder responses in the study point to a clear need for giving employees a greater role in business decisions. Creating a "participatory culture" means higher retention, the survey found. This recognized human need for a voice in the workplace has yet to be fully met by builders.