General Manager Tim Bartlett, Lexington Cooperative Market, Buffalo, N.Y.
"We post notes near the time clock where employees can record things they overhear in the store. They are usually positive or weird customer comments, and they are always interesting. It really helps to set the customer service expectations and to share positive feedback with the cooks and stockers who do most of the work and generally get the least praise."
General Manager Sean Doyle, Seward Co-op, Minneapolis, Minn.
"We allow food that is written off to be consumed by employees. Many places just throw it away because of fears that it may make employee theft easier, but to us, it seems like a waste of calories. We prevent employees from using [this perk] as a channel for inappropriate behavior by having good tracking systems in place. We make sure the person writing off the food isn't the first to get dibs."
Owner Alex Beamer, Life Source Natural Foods, Salem, Ore.
"We maintain a budget to send each staff person to seminars, trade shows and events staged by product manufacturers. It increases staff knowledge while motivating employees to get together with similar people to hear exciting new information and to share in a group energy that helps them grow."
Owner Mark Schoninger, Bath Natural Market, Bath, Maine
"I have some very happy and productive employees, which I attribute to empowering them with responsibility and trust. You bring them with you to trade shows, you let them help with purchasing and you include them in major decisions. When people are part of the decision-making process, they want it to work."
Co-owner Matt Runkle, Native Roots Market, Norman Okla.
"We have yoga and physical therapy toys all over the store. The quirkiness keeps everyone in an uplifted mood. What other boss says, ‘Go downstairs and do physical therapy for a moment’? It really helps us to stay coherent as a team and to keep relaxed and focused on what we are trying to accomplish."