Guest column

How Houston small businesses can stand out when competing for in-demand talent

A Houston HR expert shares three tips for hiring top talent in a competitive market. Photo via Getty Images

As the economic recovery gears up, small business owners increasingly need to hire and retain the best talent available in their industry. The challenge for small- and medium-sized business owners is how to compete with large corporations that offer competitive compensation and benefits packages. The key is appealing to top-notch talent in a historically deep candidate pool -- and company culture can help small businesses stand out.

It has been proven that when small business owners concentrate on culture, identify what motivates employees and enjoy getting the job done, top-notch talent will follow.

Below are a few ideas for how small businesses can complete for top-notch talent:

Shape a winning company culture

Company culture means more than state-of-the-art facilities and amenities like free snacks. Company culture is an experience that will become part of the employee identity. Culture embodies many aspects of the organization including opportunities for advancement, company leadership and values. These details and more can shape a company's culture.

Small business owners also should try to look beyond the job description to identify like-minded individuals who align with the company's values. Employees who are strongly aligned with the company's mission can foster a positive workplace and a team that is happy, engaged, productive and committed. Top performers will be much more inclined to join the team and stay for longer tenures when given an opportunity to develop and advance in an uplifting environment.

Get attention with uncommon benefits

Agility is a tremendous advantage that small businesses have over their larger counterparts in the competition for top talent. Benefits unique to small businesses include accessible senior leadership and quick timelines for advancement. These and other advantages to small businesses can tip talent in their favor in lieu of the potential competition's higher salary.

Today, more traditional benefits have progressed to include mental, physical and emotional health and wellbeing. Small businesses can consider creating or updating an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Through an EAP, employers can offer unique benefits such as online therapy sessions or meditation apps. Additional offerings can include telemedicine services, expanded sick-leave, financial wellness programs or childcare assistance. Even more generous programs include online fitness subscriptions, free food delivery, streaming services memberships or reimbursement for remote-work expenses such as home office supplies.

Look for skills from other industries

As the post-pandemic economic landscape continues to evolve, talent acquisition is evolving with it. If recruiting for a new position, small business owners may find highly qualified individuals who may be seeking a career change or looking to tap into a new industry. It is important for small business owners to be open to experience across industries, which can bring new depth to a team.

Competing for top-notch talent is one of the many challenges for small businesses. By evaluating company culture and how it impacts employees at their core, small business owners will be on par to compete with large corporations for the ideal candidate. And once on board, quality employees will want to stay.

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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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Just after announcing an investment from United, NEXT Renewable Fuels Inc. scored a SPAC-based IPO. Photo via nextrenewables.com

It’s been a momentous month for Houston-based NEXT Renewable Fuels Inc.

On November 15, United Airlines Ventures announced an investment of up to $37.5 million in the next-generation, low-carbon fuel producing company.

Just a week later, the company revealed it’s going public through a SPAC merger with Industrial Tech Acquisitions II Inc. The deal, expected to close in the second quarter of 2023, assigns a $666 million equity value to NEXT. The publicly traded company will be named NXTCLEAN Fuels Inc.

NEXT, founded in 2016, produces low-carbon fuels from organic feedstock. The company plans to open a biofuel refinery in Port Westward, Oregon, that’s set to start production in 2026. The refinery could produce up to 50,000 barrels per day of sustainable aviation fuel, renewable diesel, and other renewable fuels.

“West Coast states are demanding a clean fuels conversion of the transportation and aviation industries with aggressive targets necessitating rapid increases in clean fuel supplies,” Christopher Efird, executive chairman and CEO of NEXT, says in a news release. “[The company] is advancing toward becoming one of the largest U.S.-based suppliers of clean fuels for these markets, and is investigating and pursuing potential vertical expansion into other clean fuels.”

The proposed public listing of NEXT’s stock on the Nasdaq market and United’s investment are poised to help NEXT reach its goal of becoming a leader in the clean fuel sector. United’s investment appears to be the first equity funding for NEXT.

“Right now, one of the biggest barriers to increasing supply and lowering costs of sustainable fuel is that we don’t have the infrastructure in place to transport it efficiently, but NEXT’s strategic location and assets solve that problem and provide a blueprint for future facilities that need to be built,” Michael Leskinen, president of United Airline Ventures, says in a news release.

United’s investment arm, launched in 2021, targets ventures that will complement the airline’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

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