EFCO Corp. believes that employees are the best source of new ideas -- particularly when a little cash stimulates their creative thinking. The $22-million maker of aluminum windows, located in Monett, Mo., awards a check to any employee who comes up with an effective way to save the company time or money. Checks range from $50 to $500.

The program's annual cost of around $2,000, the company says, is usually recouped many times over. Last year, for example, an assistant foreman suggested a minor design change in a window, thereby cutting its manufacturing time. The foreman got $500; the company saves some $8,000 a year.

"Good or bad, we want to hear any of their ideas and get a chance to evaluate them," says EFCO president Terry Fuldner. His willingness to listen to employees' advice may have helped Fuldner win the Small Business Administration's national award for Small Business Person of the Year 1984.