So often when business leaders are asked: “what is the greatest contributor to [their] business”, they generally respond by saying the client is of premier importance. Although on many levels this is true, many companies neglect to see the value of their best resource, their employees.

Those people who choose to work in our offices do so because they see some value, some intrinsic meaning other than mere remuneration. They are the face of our company, the liaison between the client and those far distant offices that house our business philosophy.

In so many businesses employees are viewed as a dirty necessity, and not the valuable resource that they truly are. It is the uniqueness of each individuals contribution to the whole that makes a successful company. It is the recognition and fostering of these differences.

At Data Connect, we’ve put together a uniquely talented and dedicated team–one that includes the gamut of personality styles, specialties, and perspectives. I’ve learned from experience that in order to be prosperous as a company, it’s crucial to take care of each one of our employees, which goes beyond simply providing a paycheck. The average number of years an associate has worked for me at DCC is a little over five; several people on our staff have been with the company around 15 years.

Although there’s no set path for making employees happy, I believe the following tips go a long way. Some of these suggestions may seem like common sense, but rarely within organizations have I seen them embraced to their full extent, and thus their potential is squandered. You will find that while these practices not only nurture fun, bonding, and creativity, they actually instill loyalty to the company. And that’s a win-win.

1. Get to know the person, not just the employee. It’s important to me and to the members of my management team to foster strong relationships with our staff. We know about their families, backgrounds, extracurricular interests, and long-term goals. Conversely, they know about ours, as well.

2. Lighten up! On average, we spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else, and it can’t all be drudgery. I am proud to say that we encourage the occasional goof off session. It’s effective stress relief and in our experience enhances productivity by giving the analytical mind a respite, after which it can return to business, rested, focused, and refreshed.

3. Encourage progress, question stasis. A happy worker is one who finds meaning and values in the work that they do. At Data Connect, we actively encourage employees to design their own career path and to learn everything there is to know about the specialty of their choosing. We provide tuition reimbursement for classes and seminars, facilitate mentoring opportunities within the company, and, more than anything, champion a “sky’s the limit” philosophy for advancement. If an employee simply wishes to remain within their current position, we find out why, rather than assuming that he or she is content.

4. Welcome families. We all know that at the end of the day, our families are what matter. And as much time as we spend away from them, we try to promote opportunities that involve our loved ones, and that at least in a small way repay them for our time away. Among other things, over the years we’ve organized and funded camping trips, rafting expeditions, ski trips, and amusement park excursions.

5. Encourage employees to pursue outside interests. I employ athletes, artists, chefs, Star Wars enthusiasts, fashionistas, and horticulturalists. The traits that make my employees who they are, that provide them with enjoyment and personal fulfillment, are of the utmost interest to me. As you can glean from the rest of this list, I take a holistic approach to management. This means engaging with each employee individually in order to craft an ideal work-life balance.

6. Listen, listen again, and then listen some more. Employees feel empowered when they know that they have a voice. Take heed of every suggestion and all feedback, whether it be positive or negative. Something can be learned from everyone at all levels of the company. Willingness to engage in an open, honest dialogue instills trust, which is the backbone of any relationship, professional or otherwise. I should note that transparency is key here. Employees benefit from knowing how their input affects the big picture of the company–a big picture that should be clearly and routinely communicated, especially as goals or directions change.