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3 ways Houston small businesses can focus on employee advocacy

Employee advocacy isn't just something for larger companies to worry about, says this Houston expert. Photo via Getty Images

As society continues to be more socially conscious, greater strides have been made to boost initiatives that improve the world from a culture and climate perspective. This heightened sense of moral awareness made a natural progression into the business world as employees, consumers and communities hold companies to higher standards and demand accountability in various areas of business operations.

Fueled by the pandemic and “Great Resignation,” the movement quickly swept across corporate America, taking many companies by storm and laying the foundation for a new era of employee engagement. As a result, one of the most important trends emerging in the post-pandemic workplace is employee advocacy in response to specific societal events or company policies and practices.

While employee advocacy initially impacted larger organizations, it has become a significant factor for smaller companies as they compete for talent and appeal to workers with strong belief systems. Below are three ways small businesses can focus on employee advocacy.

Address mission and core values

Small business owners should develop or refine a mission statement and list of core values that capture their vision for the company, embody their principles and connect the company’s efforts to a greater purpose in the world. A company’s beliefs and value systems are top of mind for younger generations that have expressed a strong desire to align themselves with like-minded companies.

A company’s mission and core values should set the stage for creating an environment that encourages mutual trust between the company and its people, enables a high level of employee engagement and facilitates effective team collaboration that leads to long-term success.

When small companies weave their mission and values into their DNA, impacting all aspects of the business – including recruiting, hiring, onboarding and training – they will grab the attention of potential candidates and build stronger relationships with existing employees.

Exhibit social responsibility

One way for small businesses to make an impact that appeals to employee advocacy is by creating initiatives that bolster corporate social responsibility (CSR). Employees want to associate themselves with companies that make a difference in the community, so it befits leaders to implement or expand CSR programs. While there are a variety of potential areas to focus on regarding CSR, small business owners should first identify the key areas that resonate with their business, employees and clients with endeavors such as volunteer opportunities, corporate donation programs and conservation efforts.

Display core values

It is always important for business owners to demonstrate company values through daily interactions, programs and activities, providing evidence that efforts to support employee advocacy are alive and well. Some examples include conducting ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training in the workplace to raise awareness and institute behavioral change, ensuring a diverse hiring panel and slate of candidates during recruiting efforts, offering paid time to volunteer in the community to make a difference in the lives of others, displaying care and empathy by taking the time to listen to employee needs and concerns, and creating a recognition program that rewards employees who model certain company values. Small businesses can also highlight DEI stances on websites and in recruiting materials to ensure potential hires are aware of their efforts to remain relevant and make a difference for everyone in the workforce.

When small business owners identify ways to focus on employee advocacy, they are not only sending a clear message to the workforce that they care about people’s needs and desires, but they are also boosting their reputation in the community as good neighbors.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity,a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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Building Houston

 
 

Proxima Clinical Research has announced an office expansion — and more Houston innovation news. Photo via Twitter

Houston's innovation ecosystem has had some big news this month, from new job titles for Houston innovators to expanding office space.

In this roundup of Houston startup and innovation news, a Houston organization expands its footprint in the TMC, Rice University opens applications for a cleantech accelerator, and more.

Organization expands footprint in Houston

Proxima CRO has announced its expansion within TMCi. Photo via Twitter

Proxima Clinical Research, a contract research organization headquartered in Houston, announced that it is expanding its office space in the Texas Medical Center Innovation Factory.

"Texas Medical Center is synonymous with innovation, and the TMC Innovation space has proven an ideal location for our CRO. It's an important part of our origin story and a big part of our success," says Kevin Coker, CEO and co-founder of Proxima CRO, in a news release.

The expansion will include around 7,500-square feet of additional office space.

"The resources found across TMC's campuses allow for companies such as Proxima Clinical Research to achieve clinical and business milestones that will continue to shape the future of life sciences both regionally and globally. We are excited for Proxima to expand their footprint at TMC Innovation Factory as they further services for their MedTech customers," says Tom Luby, director of TMC Innovation, in the release.

$20M grant fuels hardtech program's expansion

Activate is planting its roots in Houston with a plan to have its first set of fellows next year. Photo via Activate.org

A hardtech-focused nonprofit officially announced its Houston expansion this week. Activate, which InnovationMap reported was setting up its fifth program here last month, received a $20M commitment by the National Science Foundation to fuel its entrance into the Bayou City.

“Houston’s diversity offers great promise in expanding access for the next generation of science entrepreneurs and as a center of innovation for advanced energy," says NSF SBIR/STTR program director Ben Schrag in a news release.

The organization was founded in Berkeley, California, in 2015 to bridge the gap between the federal and public sectors to deploy capital and resources into the innovators creating transformative products. The nonprofit expanded its programs to Boston and New York before launching a virtual fellowship program — Activate Anywhere, which is for scientists 50 or more miles outside one of the three hubs.

“We are delighted to be opening our newest Activate community in Houston,” says Activate Anywhere managing director Hannah Murnen, speaking at the annual Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy Innovation Summit. “Houston is a city where innovation thrives, with an abundance of talent, capital, and infrastructure—the perfect setting for the Activate Fellowship.”

Activate is still looking its Houston’s first managing director is actively underway and will select fellows for Activate Houston in 2024.

TMC names new entrepreneur in residence

Zaffer Syed has assumed a new role at TMC. Photo via TMC.org

Houston health tech innovator has announced that he has joined the Texas Medical Center's Innovation Factory as entrepreneur in residence for medtech. Zaffer Syed assumed the new role this month, according to his LinkedIn, and he's been an adviser for the organization since 2017.

Syed has held a few leadership roles at Saranas Inc., a medical device company founded in Houston to detect internal bleeding following medical procedures. He now serves as adviser for the company.

"As CEO of Saranas, he led the recapitalization of the company that led to the FDA De Novo classification and commercial launch of a novel real-time internal bleed monitoring system for endovascular procedures," reads the TMC website. "Zaffer oversaw clinical development, regulatory affairs and strategic marketing at OrthoAccel Technologies, a private dental device startup focused on accelerating tooth movement in patients undergoing orthodontic treatment.

"Prior to working in startup ventures, Zaffer spent the first 13 years of his career in various operational roles at St. Jude Medical and Boston Scientific to support the development and commercialization of Class III implantable devices for cardiovascular and neuromodulation applications."

TMC is currently looking for an entrepreneur in residence for its TMCi Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics program.

Applications open for clean energy startup program

Calling all clean energy startups. Photo courtesy of The Ion

The Clean Energy Accelerator, an energy transition accelerator housed at the Ion and run by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, has opened applications for Class 3. The deadline to apply is April 14.

The accelerator, which helps early-stage ventures reach technical and commercial milestones through hybrid programming and mentorship, will host its Class 3 cohort from July 25 to Sept. 22.

“Accelerating the transition to a net-zero future is a key goal at Rice University. Through accelerating the commercial potential of our own research as well as supporting the further adoption of global technologies right here in Houston, the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator is proof of that commitment,” says Paul Cherukuri, vice president of innovation at Rice, in a news release. “The Rice Alliance has all the critical components early-stage energy ventures need for success: a corporate innovation network, energy investor network, access to mentors and a well-developed curriculum. This accelerator program is a unique opportunity for energy startups to successfully launch and build their ventures and get access to the Houston energy ecosystem.”

According to Rice, the 29 alumni companies from Class 1 and 2 have gone on to secure grants, partnerships, and investments, including more than $75 million in funding. Companies can apply here, learn more about the accelerator here or attend the virtual information session April 3 by registering here.

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