Want to attract and keep the best? Get out!

Looking to build a culture that appeals to baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and young “Millennials”? Think it’s time to ramp up benefits that serve the needs of executives, production workers, full-timers and part-timers alike? Want yours to be known as a cool place to work?

Choose from these six strategies uncovered by the Best Companies Group and Outside magazine in the process of compiling Outside’s 2010 “Best Places to Work” list. The 50 organizations include lots of outdoor equipment manufacturers and environmental nonprofits—plus plenty of craft breweries. The common thread: innovative benefits and ways of doing business.

From wellness programs that make employees really sweat to telework options that allow all kinds of work-life balance, these companies go the extra mile to provide benefits that attract and retain enthusiastic and committed employees.

1. Make ’em sweat

Healthy employees save businesses money. At many of these firms, workers are literally ready to run a marathon.

The New Belgium Brewery in Colorado built a cyclocross course on its property and hosts an open-to-the-public bike race series each fall. At Idaho’s Smith Optics, which makes ski goggles, employees are encouraged to skip out on big snow days.

Interview Bootcamp D

2. Destroy the cubicles

Companies that focus on the wide-open spaces outdoors like it that way indoors, too. Oregon’s Nau, an outdoor apparel maker, and Ruff Wear, which makes pet supplies, blew out the walls to create open-space workplaces that improve communication and innovation.

3. Pay it forward

Corporate volunteerism is a trait common to almost all the employers that made the Outside list. Many—Timberland and Rally Software, for example—offer paid time off for employees who volunteer. In 2009, 62 Rally employees contributed 2,300 hours of community service work.

4. Loosen the reins

W.L. Gore & Associates, makers of waterproof fabric, places on just about every “best places to work” list. One of the main reasons: It’s uncompromising dedication to decentralization and management flexibility. People work in small, self-directed teams and pick their own leaders. Few employees have titles. Everyone provides input into every else’s performance appraisal.

5. Ignore the clock

The best-performing companies on the list pay almost no attention to nine-to-five. Hours are flexible as long as the work gets done.

LiveStrong, the cancer research foundation, allows unlimited paid time off with the understanding that employees won’t abuse the privilege. Rutabaga, a Wisconsin kayak retailer, will hold experienced workers’ jobs open for a year so they can go on extended expeditions.

6. Celebrate!

Nothing says employee appreciation like a free good time! Outdoor touring and guiding company Natural Habitat Adventures—No.1 on Outside’s list—invites employees to bring family members along on its trips. Tech consulting firm Dominion Digital sponsors team-building white-water rafting days. Sandal and boot maker OluKai hosts employees at bowling nights and Halloween parties; prizes include airline tickets.