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5 tips from a Houston expert on attracting top talent for your startup

Top talent is hard to attract and even harder to retain. Consider these five tips from a Houston-based recruiting expert. Photo via Getty Images

As a business leader, you understand the importance of adding talented professionals to your bench. Your employees are a direct reflection of your business, and play a huge role in shaping its culture and public image. There’s no better feeling than finding the perfect candidate to fill your job opening; the hard part is often determining how to retain such talent.

While there’s no magic formula for recruiting and keeping the best employees, low attrition is unquestionably linked to company ethos. And businesses that recognize this early on it their trajectories will be in the best positioned for growth. According to research by Deloitte, 82 percent of people believe that culture is a potential competitive advantage, and 94 percent of entrepreneurs and 88 percent of job seekers say that healthy work culture is vital for success.

So, without further ado, here are some tips to keep in mind when developing or enhancing your retention strategy.

1. Keep culture in mind: Your business’ M.O. has a huge impact on job satisfaction and productivity. When hiring an employee, assess their skillset and experience but don’t forget to look at how their personality will add to the business culture. Look for employees who will mesh well with the team and overall culture of the business.

2. Focus on mission and purpose: Today’s workforce, especially younger generations (Z and Alpha), need to know the point of their work — the “why” behind what they’re doing — and they need to believe in their company’s mission. They want to know that their work matters and is making a difference. This has to come from the top down. Business leaders must live the mission and be consistent.

3. Encourage and promote personal development: You don’t need to dedicate a huge budget to this. There are a lot of excellent, free webinars and networking events. Lunch-and-learns are great resources as well. The important thing is to encourage your employees to continue advancing themselves professionally by offering time to attend webinars, conferences or online courses.

If retention is a challenge for your business, consider this statistic: 78 percent of employees would stay longer at a company if they saw a clear career path for themselves there. High-achieving, ambitious candidates are attracted to employers who can demonstrate a proven track record of development and career advancement for those who perform well. Sharing examples of employees who’ve been promoted and have taken advantage of professional development opportunities can really help to attract top talent.

4. Focus on teamwork: Promote team-building activities that encourage employees to communicate, work through problems and get to know each other outside of the office. Comradery increases morale and creates a sense of unity. Don’t think of team

building as being limited to specific activities; it should be ingrained in all aspects of the company culture. Look at things such as where employees sit, how meetings are structured and how you interact with your customers. All of these things can help build a strong sense of teamwork that improves employee performance and retention. Industry research has shown that friendships at work increase employee engagement and help to hold onto the best personnel.

5. Give employees the option of flexibility: Businesses with inflexible working conditions tend to have lower employee retention. Look for ways you can build flexibility into the day for your employees, whether it’s adjusting work hours to accommodate children’s school schedules, offering the option to work from home some days, or just being less rigid about arrival and departure times. Doing this will alleviate stress for employees and, along with open communication and trust, help build a strong company culture and increase job contentment.

Top talent is hard to attract and even harder to retain. The most important thing to remember as you recruit for your next role is to make sure you are bringing in employees who will build on your company culture, believe in your values, and share or exceed your drive and zest.


Hazel Kassu is the managing director of Houston-based recruiting firm, Sudduth Search.

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A research team housed out of the newly launched Rice Biotech Launch Pad received funding to scale tech that could slash cancer deaths in half. Photo via Rice University

A research funding agency has deployed capital into a team at Rice University that's working to develop a technology that could cut cancer-related deaths in half.

Rice researchers received $45 million from the National Institutes of Health's Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, to scale up development of a sense-and-respond implant technology. Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh leads the team developing the technology as principal investigator.

“Instead of tethering patients to hospital beds, IV bags and external monitors, we’ll use a minimally invasive procedure to implant a small device that continuously monitors their cancer and adjusts their immunotherapy dose in real time,” he says in a news release. “This kind of ‘closed-loop therapy’ has been used for managing diabetes, where you have a glucose monitor that continuously talks to an insulin pump. But for cancer immunotherapy, it’s revolutionary.”

Joining Veiseh on the 19-person research project named THOR, which stands for “targeted hybrid oncotherapeutic regulation,” is Amir Jazaeri, co-PI and professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The device they are developing is called HAMMR, or hybrid advanced molecular manufacturing regulator.

“Cancer cells are continually evolving and adapting to therapy. However, currently available diagnostic tools, including radiologic tests, blood assays and biopsies, provide very infrequent and limited snapshots of this dynamic process," Jazaeri adds. "As a result, today’s therapies treat cancer as if it were a static disease. We believe THOR could transform the status quo by providing real-time data from the tumor environment that can in turn guide more effective and tumor-informed novel therapies.”

With a national team of engineers, physicians, and experts across synthetic biology, materials science, immunology, oncology, and more, the team will receive its funding through the Rice Biotech Launch Pad, a newly launched initiative led by Veiseh that exists to help life-saving medical innovation scale quickly.

"Rice is proud to be the recipient of the second major funding award from the ARPA-H, a new funding agency established last year to support research that catalyzes health breakthroughs," Rice President Reginald DesRoches says. "The research Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh is doing in leading this team is truly groundbreaking and could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives each year. This is the type of research that makes a significant impact on the world.”

The initial focus of the technology will be on ovarian cancer, and this funding agreement includes a first-phase clinical trial of HAMMR for the treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer that's expected to take place in the fourth year of THOR’s multi-year project.

“The technology is broadly applicable for peritoneal cancers that affect the pancreas, liver, lungs and other organs,” Veiseh says. “The first clinical trial will focus on refractory recurrent ovarian cancer, and the benefit of that is that we have an ongoing trial for ovarian cancer with our encapsulated cytokine ‘drug factory’ technology. We'll be able to build on that experience. We have already demonstrated a unique model to go from concept to clinical trial within five years, and HAMMR is the next iteration of that approach.”

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