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Finding the Perfect Balance: Why Workplace Diversity Matters

I started HomeStars 11 years ago, and as a female entrepreneur in both the tech and home improvement space, I was the minority. I still am.

For that reason alone, I am a huge proponent of supporting diversity in the workplace. But, as a scrappy startup, I needed to scale for skill—so that’s just what I did.

Companies, specifically smaller companies with a limited number of roles to fill, need to hire the best person for the role. We have many female employees, and we hired them all based on merit; their experience and expertise. Today, half of our employees are female. That percentage grows significantly when it comes to my senior leadership team, which is two thirds women.

On the recruitment front, finding and enticing female talent is a well-documented challenge in the tech industry. You only have to open the newspaper to read stories of tech companies and their mistreatment and dismissiveness toward women.

When you walk into HomeStars, we might not look like the average tech company because of our diversity. Aside from the more balanced gender ratios, we have young professionals and new graduates, but also a well-rounded mix of more seasoned professionals too.

How to hire well

Hiring is one of the most challenging parts of being an entrepreneur, but building effective teams is something I take a lot of pride in.

At HomeStars, we look for candidates who can wear multiple hats. Each and every member of my team has a wide range of transferable skills that they can utilize across the business. It’s that ability to multitask that keeps our company innovative, and ultimately, profitable.

I have employees that have been with me since the beginning and have helped shape the business as we’ve grown and evolved. While there are many steps in bringing on a new hire, one thing that will never change is my involvement in the process. Once our leadership team has vetted them, I meet with each and every potential employee.

I look for different thinkers with different ideas. I never hire people to fit in a box. For me, that is the best outcome for my business.

Culture is the differentiator

Creating a culture that encourages both recruitment and retention has been a priority of mine since I started the company.

HomeStars is a flat organization. I don’t have a private office and my desk sits in the middle of our space where I work in the trenches with my team. Being approachable and working alongside my team is, and always will be, of the upmost importance to me.

We also put a lot of time, effort and thought into making our office a warm and welcoming environment, celebrating employee achievements and making coming to the office fun. But, we know every employer says that, regardless of whether or not it is a reality. So this month we decided to conduct an anonymous survey among our team to get their thoughts and feedback on our office culture and leadership.

How do we stack up?

In the interest of transparency, especially given all the negative news around employers like Uber, we wanted to see what our employees thought of the job we were doing. Of the respondents, the vast majority, 97% of employees feel that we are an equal opportunity employer.

When asked to rate HomeStars compared to previous employers, 88% of respondents said we were either the best or better than previous employers. Of this group, more than one third attributed this to a mixture of teamwork, inclusivity and the feeling of family and/or culture, followed closely by flexibility and autonomy in the workplace.

Speaking of culture, when asked for their favorite part of working for the company, culture came in first and was chosen by 50% of our team. It was most popularly described as both fun and friendly.

Many of our team members have young families, so offering flexible work schedules—including work from home days—has always been a priority. Almost half of our team (44%) ranked flexibility as their favorite part of working for HomeStars.

When asked about whether or not we supported a healthy work-life balance, 94% of respondents answered “yes.” The numbers were similar (97%) when it came to feeling supported during personal or emergency situations.

Going into this exercise I had no idea what to expect. While I was extremely pleased with the results, as it was a clear indicator we are on the right track, the reality is not everyone will be happy all the time. Maintaining a positive and happy working environment is a constant work in progress and something that will always be a priority for us.

What’s important to them?

I’ve always appreciated a diverse work culture and it’s important that we continue to attract talent from different backgrounds and orientations. To do this, you need to understand your team and what is important to them. Whether it’s non-traditional work hours, a games room or place for people to relax and unwind, or simply increased access to senior management.

Taking the time to understand the different needs of your team is what will not only keep them happy, but also help attract new talent. Many members of our team are referrals from other HomeStars employees.

There really is no price tag that can be placed on positive word of mouth and as long as we have that, we know we are doing something right.

Nancy Peterson is founder of HomeStars, a HomeAdvisor company.