Nothing is more frustrating than managing staff members who cut corners, do the bare minimum and contribute little to the team. You can’t force your workers to be as passionate as you are about your business, but you can do a lot to motivate them.

According to author Daniel Pink, keynote speaker at this year’s Natural Products Expo East, the first step is to make sure staff members are well compensated. “Pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table, so they just have work on their minds and aren’t thinking about money,” he says.

At the same time, monetary incentives and other rewards only affect behavior to a point. Other strong motivators are freedom and independence. Start by hiring good people. Suggests Pink, “Good people want to do good things…get out of their way.” One way to do this is to hold a “FedEx Day,” where you organize teams that work together to solve a problem. Their creative solutions must be delivered to the whole staff the next day. Imagine the creative responses you’d get if everyone found a new way to increase foot traffic or move long lines faster? Implement the good ideas, and when they work, give credit where credit is due. “Making progress is the best motivator,” says Pink.

Another way to increase performance is to give freedom. Assign your cashiers a creative project to do when there’s downtime. Perhaps, they can help design an endcap. Whatever it is, let the employee own the project; don’t spoon-feed ideas and deadlines. You might be surprised how productive employees can be when they feel they’re making a meaningful difference.

Also, sit down with staff and talk about their goals. Ask them if there are any projects they’d like to try for your store if given the chance, and give them the okay to do so when it makes sense. “Allowing people to sculpt their jobs…even a little…helps motivate,” says Pink. “People want to know, ‘Why does it matter?’”

In sum, if you give your employees an inch, they may return a mile of productivity.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2011