ONALASKA, Wis. -

Waking up excited to go to work is a dream for many, but a Workplace Connections forum Wednesday is trying to make it a reality.

In celebration of Workforce Development Month, business leaders gathered to learn about bettering workplace culture.

"Who doesn't want to love getting up and going to work every day?" Karen Powell, regional director of Midwest Dental, said.

Midwest Dental is all about its patients' smiles, but Powell knows how important it is to keep her employees smiling as well.

"For retaining employees and not having turnover. Turnover is very expensive to an organization," she said.

So she and representatives from about 115 area businesses, ranging in size from under 1,000 employees to over 200,000, gathered for the forum at Stoney Creek Conference Center in Onalaska.

"I think they learned about some levers they can pull personally. That they themselves are an instrument of change," speaker Amy Finch, Logistics Health, Inc, chief information officer and vice president, said. "They don’t have to wait. Your shadow that you cast everyday through your actions is part of creating the culture you want to have at work."

Finch and another speaker, Jerry McGeorge,  stress making workers feel valuable.

"There’s a buzzword in the business community called 'employee engagement,'" McGeorge, vice president of cooperative affairs at Organic Valley, said.

"Engaging the hearts and souls of your employees, so when they come to work every day they know why they’re there and know what they need to get done," Finch said. "Performance follows."

Leaders say shaping workplace culture is a concept that is growing among businesses that are competing for the best talent.

"Good companies that have longevity understand how important it is," Anne Boland, Workforce Connections board chair, said.

Engaging employees and conducting team-building exercises are some of the ideas Powell is bringing back to the clinic, along with one concept she hopes will put smiles on workers' faces.

"One of the things would be putting employees first," she said.