The Houston area boasts some top-tier employers. Photo by Getty Images

A slew of Houston-area companies may soon see a surge of inquiries and resumes, thanks to a new ranking.

Great Place to Work, which helps employers improve their workplace culture, and Fortune magazine teamed up to select the Best Companies to Work For in 2022 in two categories: small and midsize employers, and large employers.

In the new report, powerhouse Houston-based builder/developer David Weekley Homes tops the list of the top 20 large employers in Texas — a big jump from its No. 20 spot last year.

“We are incredibly honored to be recognized as the top company on the Best Workplaces in Texas list,” said Robert Hefner, vice president of Human Resources for David Weekley Homes, in a statement. “We’re very proud to offer an amazing workplace culture as well as competitive benefits and perks for our team, which inspires them to delight our customers.”

Powerhouse business IT firm Hewlett Packard Enterprise follows on the large employer list at No. 2, followed by apartment owner and operator Camden Property Trust at No. 3. Mortgage lender Cornerstone Home Lending, commercial real estate company Transwestern, and community college system Lone Star College also land on the prestigious list.

Meanwhile, four of Texas’ top 20 small and midsize employers to work for are right here in the Houston area. They are: mortgage provider Republic State Mortgage, online education hub Continued, oil and gas consulting firm E.A.G. Services, and AI-based e-commerce firm PROS.

Here’s the list of the top 20 small and midsize employers on the list of the Best Companies to Work For:

  1. Credera, Addison
  2. Bestow, life insurance company, Dallas
  3. Publishing Concepts, collector of oral histories, Dallas
  4. Pariveda Solutions, business and technology consulting firm, Dallas
  5. 49 Financial, financial planning provider, Austin
  6. Highland Homes, homebuilder, Plano
  7. AIM, provider of special education services, San Antonio
  8. Republic State Mortgage, mortgage provider, Houston
  9. Continued, provider of online continuing education, Houston
  10. Freese and Nichols, engineering, planning, and consulting firm, Fort Worth
  11. OJO Labs, home search platform, Austin
  12. Dialexa, digital product consulting firm, Dallas
  13. Granite Properties, commercial real estate developer, investor, and manager, Plano
  14. E.A.G. Services, oil and gas consulting firm, Houston
  15. Ontic Technologies, producer of “protective intelligence” software, Austin
  16. PROS, provider of AI-based software for e-commerce, Houston
  17. Scribe Media, book publisher, Austin
  18. Embark, business advisory firm, Dallas
  19. ProPath, operator of pathology practices, Dallas
  20. CerpassRX, pharmacy benefits manager, The Colony

Here’s the list of the top 20 large employers in Texas, according to Great Place to Work and Fortune:

  1. David Weekley Homes, homebuilder, Houston
  2. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, provider of business IT, Spring
  3. Camden Property Trust, apartment owner and operator, Houston
  4. Texas Health Resources, healthcare system, Arlington
  5. Vizient, healthcare consulting firm, Irving
  6. Ryan LLC, tax services and consulting firm, Dallas
  7. Hilcorp Energy, energy exploration and production company, Houston
  8. PrimeLending, a Plains Capital Company, mortgage lender, Dallas
  9. Cornerstone Home Lending, mortgage lender, Houston
  10. Transwestern, commercial real estate company, Houston
  11. Dell Technologies, seller of personal computers, network servers, data storage services, and software, Round Rock
  12. NuStar Energy, pipeline and terminal operator, San Antonio
  13. Mr. Cooper (Nationstar Mortgage), mortgage lender, Coppell
  14. Lone Star College, community college system, Houston
  15. USAA, financial services provider, San Antonio
  16. Sailpoint, provider of identity security software, Austin
  17. Enhabit Home Health & Hospice, home health and hospice provider, Dallas
  18. Epicor Software, provider of software for business process management, Austin
  19. Hilti, provider of tools and technology for construction companies, Plano
  20. Alcon Laboratories, producer of eye care products, Fort Worth

Great Place to Work selected the Best Companies to Work For in 2022 based on feedback from employee surveys and data from Great Place to Work-certified employers.

“As workers struggle with the Great Resignation, burnout, and COVID disruptions, these exceptional companies offer workplace experiences as strong as prior to the pandemic,” says company CEO Michael Bush.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Three Houston companies have been recognized for their superior work environments. Getty Images

3 Houston employers clock in among Fortune's 100 best companies to work

best of the best

Hunting for a job in Houston? A new ranking from Fortune magazine suggests you might consider three local companies.

Camden Property Trust, David Weekley Homes, and Hilcorp Energy Co. all rank on Fortune's 2020 list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, published February 18.

Fortune bases its annual list of the best workplaces on a nationwide study done by analytics firm Great Place to Work. This time around, the study featured input from more than 4.1 million U.S. workers who responded to over 60 survey questions.

Houston-based apartment owner and operator Camden Property Trust comes in at No. 18, an improvement over last year's rank of 19. The real estate owner and operator is known for a lighthearted corporate culture that has seen executives willing to poke fun at themselves and others at company events and celebrations, according to the list.

Camden Property Trust continues to be one of Houston's best places to work. Camden Property Trust/Facebook

There are also perks to working for an apartment landlord; 44 percent of employees live in Camden-owned apartments and take advantage of a 20 percent rent-discount benefit that collectively saves them more than $1.9 million per year.

Not far down the list, at No. 23, is Houston-based homebuilder David Weekley Homes, which makes a big leap over last year's rank of 41. Family comes first at this nationwide homebuilding company, says the report. Prospective employees often participate in Key Influencer Visits, where they are interviewed (often in their homes) alongside family members or close friends to help hiring managers better understand their personalities and backgrounds.

There's also an internship program designed specifically for employees' children and a discount on homes sold to staffers and their family members (a set percentage based on tenure). One worker says, "It really exemplifies how the company puts the employees first, even before customers."

New to the list this year is Houston-based oil and gas production company Hilcorp Energy Co. The largest privately held oil and natural-gas production company in the U.S., Hilcorp challenges its employees to think in terms of Big Hairy Audacious Goals, the lofty performance goals it sets every five years. For every BHAG met, employees are rewarded with significant cash bonuses and even new cars.

To meet these goals, CEO Greg Lalicker believes, total transparency is a must, from frontline employees to the CFO, according to the report. All financials, cash flow, investments, oil- and gas-price impacts, BHAG progress reports, and other critical information are shared in monthly, companywide "lifting cost" meetings. "It blows your mind to be in your first lifting-cost meeting and hear supersecret information," recalls one new hire.

Five other Texas-based employers also appear on this year's list:

  • No. 15. - Arlington-based Texas Health Resources ranks first among Texas-based employers and 15th nationwide on Last year, the organization ranked ninth nationwide.
  • No. 55. - San Antonio-based financial services provider USAA. Last year's rank: 30.
  • No. - 66. Dallas-based Ryan LLC, a provider of tax software and services. Last year's rank: 52.
  • No. 86. - San Antonio-based oil pipeline and terminal operator NuStar Energy LP. Last year it was unranked.
  • No. 88. - Dallas-based Encompass Health Home Health & Hospice, part of Birmingham, Alabama-based Encompass Health Corp. Last year's rank: 54.

Nationwide, McLean, Virginia-based Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. ranks first on this year's Fortune list, followed by Weston, Florida-based Ultimate Software Group Inc., Rochester, New York-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc., San Jose, California-based Cisco Systems Inc., and Pleasanton, California-based Workday Inc.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston SPAC announces merger with Beaumont-based tech company in deal valued at $100M

speaking of spacs

A Houston SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, has announced the company it plans to merge with in the new year.

Beaumont-based Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc., a provider of thermal imaging platforms, and Houston-based SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAP), a publicly-traded SPAC with $117 million held in trust, announced their agreement for ICI to IPO via SPAC.

Originally announced in the fall of last year, the blank-check company is led by David Gow, CEO and chairman. Gow is also chairman and CEO of Gow Media, which owns digital media outlets SportsMap, CultureMap, and InnovationMap, as well as the SportsMap Radio Network, ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

The deal will close in the first half of 2023, according to a news release, and the combined company will be renamed Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc. and will be listed on NASDAQ under a new ticker symbol.

“ICI is extremely excited to partner with David Gow and SportsMap as we continue to deliver our innovative software and hardware solutions," says Gary Strahan, founder and CEO of ICI, in the release. "We believe our software and sensor technology can change the way companies across industries perform predictive maintenance to ensure reliability, environmental integrity, and safety through AI and machine learning.”

Strahan will continue to serve as CEO of the combined company, and Gow will become chairman of the board. The transaction values the combined company at a pre-money equity valuation of $100 million, according to the release, and existing ICI shareholders will roll 100 percent of their equity into the combined company as part of the transaction.

“We believe ICI is poised for strong growth," Gow says in the release. "The company has a strong value proposition, detecting the overheating of equipment in industrial settings. ICI also has assembled a strong management team to execute on the opportunity. We are delighted to combine our SPAC with ICI.”

Founded in 1995, ICI provides infrared and imaging technology — as well as service, training, and equipment repairs — to various businesses and individuals across industries.

Report: Federal funding, increased life science space drive industry growth in Houston

by the numbers

Federal funding, not venture capital, continues to be the main driver of growth in Houston’s life sciences sector, a new report suggests.

The new Houston Life Science Insight report from commercial real estate services company JLL shows Houston accounted for more than half (52.7 percent) of total funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) across major Texas markets through the third quarter of this year. NIH funding in the Houston area totaled $769.6 million for the first nine months of 2022, exceeding the five-year average by 19.3 percent.

VC funding for Houston’s life sciences sector pales in comparison.

For the first nine months of this year, companies in life sciences raised $147.3 million in VC, according to the report. Based on that figure, Houston is on pace in 2022 to meet or surpass recent life sciences VC totals for most other years except 2021. JLL describes 2021 as an “outlier” when it comes to annual VC hauls for the region’s life sciences companies.

JLL notes that “limited venture capital interest in private industry has remained a challenge for the city’s life sciences sector. Furthermore, it may persist as venture capital strategies are reevaluated and investment strategies shift toward near-term profits.”

While life sciences VC funding has a lot of ground to cover to catch up with NIH funding, there are other bright spots for the sector.

One of those bright spots is the region’s rising amount of life sciences space.

The Houston area boasts more than 2.4 million square feet of space for life sciences operations, with another 1.1 million under construction and an additional 1.5 million square feet on the drawing board, the report says. This includes a soon-to-open lab spanning 25,000 square feet in the first phase of Levit Green.

A second bright spot is the migration of life sciences companies to the region. Two Southern California-based life sciences companies, Cellipoint Bioservices and Obagi Cosmeceuticals, plan to move their headquarters and relocate more than half of their employees to The Woodlands by the first half of 2023, according to the report.

“Houston’s low tax rate and cost of living were primary drivers for the decisions, supported by a strong labor pool that creates advantages for companies’ expansion and relocation considerations,” JLL says.

Here's what Houston startups need to know about internal communications

guest column

Startup founders often focus on outward victories. However, if they look inward and get internal communications right, this can prioritize, inspire, and retain talent, which is the heart of the company.

Consistent internal communication helps employees to understand the company's core values and mission and the evolving internal policies and procedures — health care benefits, reorganizations, remote work — that accompany a young business. Investing in internal communications also supports external public relations efforts because the best company storytellers are well-informed employees.

Consider these tactics for effective internal communications.

Prioritize messaging

In any startup, internal procedures evolve as the company grows. Take control of the narrative while easing employees' minds by prioritizing internal messaging.

Whether transitioning to a more flexible work schedule, updating healthcare benefits, or rolling out a performance review process, planning messages in advance can help team members understand the change, the impact, and how they can contribute positively to the development.

Well-informed employees help mitigate uneasiness and tend to achieve business goals more quickly. Make sure to allow the employees time to reflect and react.

Support managers

Leaders and mid-level managers play an integral role in internal communications by cascading information throughout the organization. They regularly engage with their employees, so it is important that managers feel confident and supported in their communication skills.

Managers can benefit from a common company language, talking points, or communications training for more effective and productive conversations. By identifying, clarifying, and reinforcing common goals and key objectives for managers, companies can strengthen productivity and eliminate confusion, especially if the company changes teams' roles and responsibilities.

Be consistent

Make sure that the drumbeat remains steady, whether this includes a monthly town hall meeting or weekly CEO emails. Since communication is not necessarily one-size-fits-all, use a communication approach tailored to the workforce.

For example, there might be more effective communication methods than email for employees not behind a desk. As a smaller company, take that time to connect with the team directly because as the company swells, that one-on-one experience will become increasingly difficult to manage.

Listen to employees

Delivering top-down messaging that resonates with the workforce remains critical. However, internal communication is a two-way street.

Allow team members to give valuable feedback. Encourage team members to share their thoughts about the company, concerns, and how to improve communications. Issue internal surveys or hold face-to-face meetings to gain useful insight.

Understanding these critical proof points will enable more effective communication and quick action on any issues.

Be a human

Keep humanity at the heart of internal communications. Amid the company's transition, maintain transparency and recognize the emotional toll some changes can have on teammates. The best talent will remain when they feel connected, informed and listened to.

Greater employee engagement can help build a strong company culture of accountability, authenticity and communication, setting up the business for bigger success.

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Melanie Taplett is a communications and public relations consultant for the technology, energy, and manufacturing industries.