This blog was posted on Techpoint’s website here.

There will never be a standard, one-size-fits-all strategy to create and foster a positive, diverse company culture. However, company culture is incredibly important for any organization, and it frequently sets the stage for anything a business does.

We all admire businesses with a strong, stable culture. We want to work for those companies and tell others about how much we love it. But what do all of those much-loved companies have in common? The people who work there all have a unified understanding of the cultural and organizational priorities that matter most in their organization.

As a woman, and the CEO of a tech company celebrating its 20th anniversary, I’ve worked hard to foster an environment where my employees have diverse experiences and leadership that nourishes that diverse culture. If one of your company’s goals this year is to broaden and diversify your leadership and workforce, there are ways to do this effectively.

1. Embrace transparency; from the CEO to the janitor

Without transparency in operations, growth, strategies, even the organization’s financial stability, your workforce won’t feel unified. Smaller, privately-held companies aren’t required to disclose annual reports or financial figures, but you’d be surprised how confident an employee feels when they feel secure about their roles, and the future of the company. High-level, digestible financial information about business performance can be incredibly insightful for someone looking to create a long career with your company. Semi-annual or quarterly meetings everyone attends to hear about short and long-term business goals keeps everyone on track.

2. Create awareness about unconscious bias and take steps to change

In a study, Stanford used two identical resumes with different names on top, assigning more than 100 scientists at random to review one or the other. Despite equal skills, qualifications and experience, participants in the study found Jennifer less competent than John, even recommending a salary for Jennifer that was $4,000 less than John.

Because humans create hiring and other internal processes, unconscious bias will always exist. The problem is, you often don’t see it unless you go looking for it. When we consent to gender stereotypes like this example, it results in unconscious biases which become scripts for discriminatory behavior that create obstacles for women to have true career advancement.

3. Sponsor, and develop, underrepresented talent

There are so many youth programs and initiatives that your organization can partner with right here in Indiana to help develop young minds in STEM. At netlogx, we’ve partnered with the Indiana Latino Institute to train interns as they look to the future for career placement. Visit with groups in the community — like Girl Develop It! or attend the Sycamore School’s event “Curiosity, Confidence, Challenge” — and find one that resonates with your employees and your leadership. It’s likely your organization is going to have interns anyway, so being purposeful about your choice is a great way to make an impact on diversity in your company and in the state.

4. Provide greater flexibility in work schedules and locations

Giving employees options for telecommuting or other flexible work schedules can broaden the pool of candidates available to you. Science shows the happier your employees are, the more productive they become for your business. The more flexible you can be, the more your employees will feel empowered and appreciated.

When you find an exceptional employee who is completely unified in your company’s goals and culture, sometimes it’s more important to keep them on the payroll than to risk losing them over location or parenting challenges.

5. Think differently about employee perks and company bonding

In the tech community, most of us think of ping-pong tables and a bottomless beer fridge. However, company perks and employee bonding can take on many forms, just like the many forms of employees you have on staff.

For example, each one of our team members is given eight hours of paid time to volunteer wherever they’d like. It shows that we support their dedication to community engagement and give them the time they need to contribute. This year, we also started a postcard initiative where each member was given a $500 bonus to take a vacation. If they send us a postcard from their vacation spot to the netlogx office during 2018, they will receive an additional $500 in their next paycheck.

Other ideas may include having a local yoga studio come in each quarter for a free class the entire team can enjoy, or hosting a book club for budding entrepreneurs or true-crime fans. Your outdoors-loving employees would love a company-wide hike as the weather warms up, or that extra picnic table in the shade outside. The options are endless, you just have to get creative!

Creating an atmosphere in which employees feel valued, heard, and respected are some of the first steps to create a stellar company culture. These are effortless and affordable ways to help grow diversity in STEM careers and it will only help build that admirable company where so many of us want to work.