Editor's Note: Power Design is one of Inc.'s 2017 Best Workplaces, our annual recognition of companies creating employee-centered organizations.

To put it in sports terms, Power Design Inc. recruits athletes rather than position players. The company, an electrical contractor in St. Petersburg, Florida, that has 180 ongoing projects in 21 states, figures it can teach the technical part. "We hire and retain people for their soft skills. We look for someone who is professional, communicates well, has a positive attitude, is a team player and a hard worker, and takes a collaborative approach," says Power Design vice president Marlene Velez. "So we hire for what you can't teach, and are willing to invest in what you can," she says. That's why at its 133,000-square-foot headquarters, known as the Grid, there's an interactive training center. Power Design has a quirky name for its human resources department, too--the Source. In the battle to attract employees, not too many com­panies lead with HR. But Power Design's concept is to run the Source as it would an outside customer-service entity. The Source is also the name of an online app that offers employees information on programs and policies, benefits, payroll and expenses, and IT systems, tools, and support. They can get answers to questions about benefits, training, health and wellness, and events, by phone, text, or email. This tech-driven customer-service focus plays especially well with Millennials, says Velez, making it a critical recruiting tool in a sector where labor demand currently outstrips supply.

Power Design could probably recruit real athletes, too. Close to 70 percent of the 500 employees at the Grid plug into a fully equipped and staffed fitness center, complete with a basketball-volleyball court, organized team sports, and, of course, a ping-pong room. The 22-acre campus also features a cantina, outdoor seating, and a full-time events team to organize morale-building experiences.

"We want our staff to work hard, but we want them to enjoy life and not burn themselves out." —Derrick Stewart, director of preconstruction for Power Design.
CREDIT: Bob Croslin

While ping-pong is the national pastime of prosperous businesses--a place where employees can bat around balls and ideas--at Power Design, it's a bit more competitive. That's not out of place given the nature of the construction industry, which defines success by contracts won and executed. And Power Design wins its share, as exemplified by the 44-story Luma Tower in the Miami Worldcenter, for which it designed and built the lighting and electrical systems. The final rounds of the company's annual ping-pong tournament draw a large crowd of staff.

In this kind of environment, taking the title is no small thing, says Derrick Stewart, a three-time company champ. The 30-year-old has risen through seven promotions to become director of preconstruction; he started as a budget analyst in 2008 and earned his MBA with the company's assistance. The serious players, including co-founder and chairman Mitch Permuy, carry their own paddles. Nobody lets the boss win, says Stewart. "The mentality of Power Design is pretty alpha and competitive, so Mitch would see it as a sign of weakness if you intentionally let him win." Not that anyone is going to let Stewart win, either. He went out in the semifinals of this year's event.

"We definitely have the mindset 'Work hard, play hard.' The expectations are high," he says. "We want our staff to work hard, but we want them to enjoy life and not burn themselves out in the workplace." So current or future employees should enjoy the ping-pong--just know that Stewart wants his title back.