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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

 
 

Optellum, which has its United States operations based in the TMC Innovation Institute, has raised fresh funding. Photo via Getty Images

A Oxford-based health tech startup that has its United States headquarters in Houston has announced the close of its series A round of funding.

Optellum, which has created a breakthrough AI platform to diagnose and treat early-stage lung cancer, has raised $14 million in a series A funding round. The round was led by United Kingdom-based Mercia, with additional investors California-based Intuitive Ventures and New York-based Black Opal Ventures. Existing investors, including St John's College in the University of Oxford, IQ Capital, and the family office of Sir Martin & Lady Audrey Wood, also participated in the round, per a news release.

"Lung cancer is an urgent public health crisis and Optellum's groundbreaking approach utilizing AI to accelerate early detection and intervention may fundamentally alter the healthcare community's approach to combating this disease," says Dr. Oliver Keown, managing director of Intuitive Ventures, in the release. "Optellum is uniquely positioned to align and provide considerable value to patients, providers, and payers alike. Intuitive Ventures is thrilled to provide our full arsenal of financial and strategic support to Optellum as we work towards a world of better outcomes for cancer patients."

The fresh funding will go toward scaling Optellum's operations and commercial launches in the United Kingdom and in the United States. Additionally, the company plans to expand its platform, including providing personalized therapy support using imaging data with molecular data, robotics, and liquid biopsies.

"With this strong support and commitment of highly specialized investors, we are positioned to accelerate commercial deployment in both the UK and the United States to expand our installed base," says Jason Pesterfield, CEO at Optellum, in the release. "Following years of research and clinical trials that have shown the impact of our software on the diagnosis of at-risk lung nodules, we're focused on expanding patient access to this crucial technology and identifying deadly lung cancer faster in more at-risk people. The funding will also boost our research and development with world-leading institutions and partners to progress further innovation."

Optellum's software provides support for physicians making decisions in early lung cancer diagnosis and treatment. The company was launched to provide better diagnostics and early-stage treatment to increase survival rates and improve health outcomes.

Last year, Optellum — whose U.S. headquarters is at Houston's TMC Innovation Institute — announced it would be included in J&J's Lung Cancer Initiative. The startup was a 2019 graduate of the Texas Medical Center's accelerator and its software platform, Virtual Nodule Clinic, received FDA clearance, CE-MDR in the EU, and UKCA in the UK.

"Optellum is the latest in a series of companies to channel research from the UK's world-leading universities into commercially viable products that can make a difference to the provision of medical care," says Mercia Investment Director Stephen Johnson in the release. "Having observed Optellum achieve great milestones over the years, we are now excited to become part of their success and apply our experience with scaling up software and deep-tech companies to help accelerate Optellum's impact on patient lives across the world."

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