Companies are forever searching for their X Factor, an exponential advantage that puts them at least two times ahead of the competition. For many builders, finding their X Factor lies in how well the company can find, keep, and manage its people.

Builders had better take note, because as the baby boomers age, there won't be enough qualified people to fill the available positions. That's why builders such as Del Webb work with Arizona State University's Del E. Webb School of Construction to professionalize the industry—the school will offer its first Ph.D. program next year.

The industry also needs more initiatives like Building Horizons, a Southern California program launched by the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley to provide construction trades training to high schoolers.

Finding people is hard enough; keeping them is the real trick. The industry's retention record is by far the worst among industries tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And sure, construction is a seasonal industry with high turnover, but it's the highest turnover rate of any industry except hospitality and leisure.

We're confident that this year's Trade Secrets offers a blueprint that will help you with some of the thorniest personnel issues. Whether it's recruiting from untapped sources, learning how to retain good employees, or properly supervising your staff, you can use these stories to help your company find, keep, and manage the right people.

Get Smart
Facing the labor shortage, builders need to explore options to fill the void.

Intelligence Report
Hire an IT consultant who understands your business.

Unlock the Secrets
What can builders learn about employee retention from a hospital and an insurance company? Plenty.

Gadgets and Gizmos
Technology can make workers more productive and less frustrated on the job—something builders experiencing high turnover should think about.

Secret Guidance Systems
Good employees are tough to come by these days. Once you have them, smart management techniques will win and keep their loyalty.