Here are some tips to help startups and small businesses break through to candidates who are content in their current position or afraid to jump to a smaller business in today’s market. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Attracting “A-plus” talent when job candidates are favoring "The Big Stay” is a challenge for small businesses today. This is especially true when small businesses are competing with larger corporations for the same top talent.

To help startups and small businesses break through to candidates who are content in their current position or afraid to jump to a smaller business in today’s market, small businesses need to strategically position themselves as an attractive, viable alternative.

The following tips can help small businesses increase their appeal and attract top job candidates.

Employer branding

The employer brand or managing your reputation among job seekers and internal employees, plays a crucial part in attracting talent. Your internal workplace culture influences current employees and potential job candidates, but it also includes your digital presence. You want to ensure your digital footprint – website to social media – reflects your values, culture and successes. Your career page is a first impression for the job candidate. Including testimonials, day-in-the-life videos and clear job descriptions enhances the appeal of your organization.

Online reviews are another area that needs attention from an employer branding standpoint. Managing your reputation on review platforms like Glassdoor, Indeed and LinkedIn, exhibits how you address concerns and take any corrective action. It is also a barometer for many job candidates regarding employee satisfaction and potential areas for improvement.

Unique selling points

Your product or service has a unique selling point (USP) for customers and your company has a USP for talent. Small businesses usually trump larger corporations in flexibility and innovation. Small businesses can make quick decisions and employees can make a big impact on the company’s direction and success. When job candidates desire to make a substantial impact and have a more dynamic work environment, this is a definitive USP.

Learning and development programs that offer greater opportunity for leadership, cross-functional work and rapid advancement than your larger competitors can be appealing to top talent. Many high performers desire to move up the ranks and make a notable impact as quickly as possible, which is quickly attainable with startups and small businesses. The pathways to career advancement are many times less rigid in small business.

Compensation and benefits

Startups and small businesses usually cannot compete head-to-head with salaries, but there are a number of other ways to make your business more attractive to top talent. Starting off, you need to do your market research to ensure your compensation package is competitive, but other desirable benefits to consider include work-from-home or flex work options, health and wellness programs, financial wellness programs and robust retirement plans. Offering flexible benefits packages that can be tailored to meet the needs of employees at different life stages can be a considerable draw as well.

Candidate experience

When you are trying to recruit candidates who may be content with their current positions, it is important to make the application process as straightforward and clear as possible. This shows attention to detail, tells the candidate that you know what you want in an employee and it is respectful of their time. Once they apply, being responsive to their communication, establishing clear timelines and providing constructive feedback further elevates the candidate experience.

Referrals

Employees are your best recruiting tool. A personal referral speaks volumes since very few recommend candidates who would not fit the culture or the jobs available. Additionally, encouraging current employees to share their positive experiences with the company on social media can help cast a wider recruiting net.

Even though many employees are choosing to stay in their current roles, startups and small businesses can position themselves as attractive employers of choice. When you intentionally position yourself in an authentic manner, top-tier talent looking for career-growth opportunities, influence and meaningful work can be lured away from large competitors that may offer more traditional stability and name recognition.

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Jaune Little is a director of recruiting services with Insperity.

How to prevent micromanaging at your Houston startup, small biz

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A manager’s job is to coach their teams and create opportunities for them to succeed. Yet, as managers rise through the ranks, they are not always trained in how to delegate, trust their teams and let the little things go. If managers lack these skills, their micromanaging can quickly lead to an unhappy work environment and increase employee turnover.

A team can become even more successful when managers do not try to control and monitor everything. Instead of getting caught up in the project’s minutia, managers should focus on the bigger picture. The best approach is to delegate tasks and trust the team to complete their assignments, without interfering with the direct work.

Startups and small businesses are full of people with an entrepreneurial mindset who love to roll up their sleeves and get to work, no matter their job description. Just like frontline managers, founders and leaders need to be mindful not to become micromanagers, by giving their teams both the guidance and autonomy to make the business a success.

To prevent micromanagers from taking root in the organization, follow these tips.

Identify the micromanager

Micromanagement is not always easy for founders to detect. However, recognizing and understanding micromanagement is paramount to well-functioning teams and businesses.

When looking for signs of a micromanager, start by searching for managers who tend not to delegate and, if work is delegated, take over from their teams again and again, even after only a simple and harmless mistake. As a result, most of their time is spent overseeing others, while failing to progress on their own work. This can lead managers to lose focus on larger projects and strategy, unable to see how their daily tasks relate to the larger goals of the organization. Additionally, micromanagers request frequent updates and often find deliverables unsatisfactory.

As leaders, it is important to know the signs of micromanagement in order to prevent employee work dissatisfaction and high turnover, which is detrimental to a small business. The culture of a brand-new startup encourages everyone to do everything, which is exciting and rewarding. Managers may grow accustomed to being deeply ingrained in their employees’ day-to-day work. That said, as business scales and becomes more successful, teams expand, and micromanagement is no longer a sustainable management style.

Establish a process

Implementing a formalized process or workflow can help those who tend to micromanage track team projects. Since some use micromanagement to feel in control of a larger project, a project management system or software can help them focus on the higher-level strategy. When the company has a specific method for recording common tasks, they reduce the risk that managers will check-in too often while still lending structure to the overall projects. Beyond helping micromanagers, project management systems help everyone stay on track and communicate at every step in the process. This can increase self-management and efficiency within the organization.

Provide training

Leadership training provides the tools to improve team management and discuss the company’s expectations of managers, which can prove helpful, no matter the leader’s tenure. Management training often highlights a manager’s current leadership style, encourages self-reflection on their strengths and weaknesses, and provides the tools for growth.

Oftentimes, micromanagers are perfectionists and need to simply set their expectations with team members. These expectations can include preferred communication methods and frequency, how to ensure clarity of the tasks, workflow/project management and alerts surrounding urgent updates/mistakes. Once a manager knows their own expectations and communicates them with the team, they establish a better working environment.

Set objectives and key results

Savvy business leaders know micromanagers want to control the end goal. Setting objectives and key results (OKRs), which are actionable, quantifiable, have a deadline and ambitious, allows managers to practice control by meeting the objectives without feeling the need to control every aspect of the project. OKRs encourage managers to focus on big, impactful objectives that can be accomplished in a set amount of time.

Once the OKRs are set, regular, once a week meetings can give everyone the chance to present their progress and give group feedback on the OKRs. Management is also likelier to look at the bigger picture and allow their teams to thrive independently.

Bottom line

Teams need managers, but they need managers who provide guidance and give them the space to thrive. Addressing micromanagement does not mean managers should eliminate one-on-one check-ins or knowing a few of a project’s details. It does mean managers should trust team members to do their jobs. Mutual trust works wonders for workplace culture and a small business’s retention efforts.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

Despite the inevitability of bad hires, recruiters equipped with proper tools and training can identify red flags and take preventive measures. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

How to avoid bad hiring decisions when it matters most, according to this Houston expert

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Hiring the right people for the right roles is ideal and can make an organization reach new heights. The reality is every business has made a bad hire.

Finding the wrong fit for a team or organization is not uncommon, but it is important to know what it costs the organization, which can be detrimental to company finances and its workplace culture, especially small businesses and startups where the impact is magnified.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports a bad hire can cost up to 30 percent of the employee’s wage, which would be approximately $18,000 since the average American wage is $60,000. In addition, there are soft costs of managers and leadership time during the hiring and training process, which adds up quickly.

Bad hires explained

A bad hire can simply be someone who is not the best fit for the position or the company. The quality of work may not meet expectations; however, there are behaviors that can point to a bad hiring decision. New hires who were recruited due to specific knowledge or a skillset, but they do not deliver, have a negative attitude, or are disengaged, are all signs of a bad hire.

Even though hiring the best people for the job should be every recruiter’s goal, they are sometimes pressured to quickly fill the role. Once a new hire starts, it does not take long to find out if they are a bad hire. Recruitment is vital to a company’s success, so it is important to know how to identify a bad hire before they join the organization, the red flags, and the lasting impacts to the workplace culture.

Right turns, wrong fit

Business leaders most certainly think they are bringing in the right person for the job, but the wrong fit can significantly impact the organization.

Suffering morale and reduced teamwork: Incompetent employees force team members to cover their work, negatively impacting morale. If these issues persist, it signals to existing employees that suboptimal work is acceptable, which adds stress, distraction and reduced engagement.

Unmet expectations: When a new employee exaggerates their qualifications, they may struggle to meet expectations, resulting in slow or inadequate work product, which can be especially detrimental in a small business setting. This not only impacts the company financially but also demands managers’ time for oversight and performance issue resolution.

Weakened employer reputation: Startups and small businesses depend heavily on their hard-earned reputation and brand. Employees represent a company’s values, and when they fail to embody them, it can negatively influence sales, vendor relationships and recruitment efforts. Actions of employees, both in-person and online, significantly shape public perception.

Client attrition: Poor performance or unprofessional behavior can damage client relationships, leading to business losses. These client experiences may lead to lasting consequences for the company’s reputation, affecting potential clients and key partnerships, and its bottom line.

Recruiting and training challenges: The recruiting process usually spans four to six weeks, involving tasks such as drafting the job description, obtaining approvals, posting ads, resume screening, candidate communication, interviews and offer negotiations. After accepting an offer, new employees, regardless of experience, require time to familiarize themselves with the organization, its processes and job responsibilities. If a poor hiring decision is made, the recruitment process may persist, leading to extended periods of onboarding.

Preventing bad hires

Experienced recruiters can still make bad hires, but certain measures can help mitigate risks:

  • Fine-tune job descriptions. Clear and concise job descriptions aid in identifying suitable candidates and provide a better understanding of position expectations.
  • Take sufficient time. Resist the pressure to fill the role; prioritize finding the right candidate to avoid subsequent costs.
  • Standardize the interview process. Employ set questions for consistency and involve team members in behavioral and peer-to-peer interviews to assess cultural fit.
  • Check references. Verify candidates’ honesty, skills, attitude toward work, and work ethic through thorough reference checks.

Despite the inevitability of bad hires, recruiters equipped with proper tools and training can identify red flags and take preventive measures. This proactive approach ensures better preparation for attracting top talent and minimizes the impact of suboptimal hiring decisions on the company.

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Karen Leal is performance specialist with Houston-based Insperity, a provider of human resources offering a suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace.

Retirement is coming for the energy industry's workforce. Here's how to prepare for it. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert shares strategies for addressing  potential workforce shortages

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The energy industry, a vital part of Houston’s business ecosystem, faces the challenge of a shrinking workforce.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report indicates the workforce has nearly two million fewer workers today as compared to February 2020. A considerable part of this decline can be attributed to retirement and early retirement rates, with the pandemic prompting three million people to early retirement. Furthermore, with an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 daily, the entire generation is expected to reach retirement age by 2030.

The tight labor market, coupled with the growing brain drain associated with retirement rates, should serve as a wake-up call for employers in the energy sector. There are tried-and-true strategies to prepare businesses for waves of retirement and ensure the knowledge does not walk out the door.

Upskilling: Invest in the workforce

Knowledge and skills go with workers are they retire. To mitigate the brain drain, companies need to invest in upskilling their existing employees and new hires. Establishing formal training and development opportunities can help enrich the workforce to pick up the responsibilities of retiring colleagues. This investment ensures a smooth transition, shows employees they are valued by the organization, and increases employee loyalty and engagement.

Adopting innovative training programs that cater to the specific needs of the energy sector is one approach. Technologies rapidly evolve, and employees must stay current to remain effective in their roles. Investing in the latest training programs, workshops and certifications will enable the workforce to thrive in a rapidly changing industry.

Mentoring programs: Pass the torch

Mentorship programs can play a pivotal role as more employees retire. Experienced employees nearing retirement can mentor younger workers, transferring knowledge and skills while ensuring a seamless transition of expertise. The value of mentorship programs can be priceless for an organization as they help transfer on-the-job learning and experiences that are not taught in the classroom.

A structured mentorship program usually proves most effective as it outlines the responsibilities of the mentors and mentees. A structured approach, which should have built-in accountability measures, ensures there is a productive knowledge transfer process.

Intentional recruitment: Attract and retain talent

A proactive recruitment approach is essential as businesses work to fill knowledge gaps. Companies in the energy sector should seek out talent to bridge the generational divide. This may include targeting candidates who have the relevant skills and knowledge, yet they are willing to adapt to the industry’s changing landscape.

Workplace culture is still a relevant and important component of attracting and retaining top-notch talent. Beyond competitive compensations packages, today’s job candidates look for growth opportunities and a focus on work-life balance.

Retaining knowledge: Document the expertise

Institutional knowledge will walk out the door as experienced employees retire. Companies can prepare for and mitigate the knowledge migration with knowledge-sharing systems and comprehensive documentation processes. An established process can help preserve information that may seem like second nature to more experienced employees and make it accessible to current and future employees. Asking retiring employees to document their expertise and best practices can safeguard their insights within the organization.

Covering bases: Create an alumni network

Retirement does not always mean the employee wants to hang up their proverbial hat entirely. Filling the knowledge gap as employees retire can be daunting. However, the development of an alumni network can extend the life of the institutional knowledge and knowledge-sharing process. Bringing back retirees on a project basis or to consult is a solution benefiting everyone involved.

Every industry must prepare for the impending wave of retirements. The energy industry’s significant impact on the Houston economy requires proactive and thoughtful solutions. The tight labor market and retirement rates should have businesses in this sector working diligently to fill the upcoming knowledge gaps through upskilling, mentoring, intentional recruitment, knowledge-sharing systems and alumni networks. Taking these steps now, the energy industry can circumnavigate workforce shortages and prepare for continued success.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions. This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

In his new book, Houstonian Brad Deutser explores how increasingly important a sense of belonging is in the workplace. Photo via Getty Images

Houston innovator explores importance of belonging within the modern workforce

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Even in a highly digital, globalized world, the essence of business remains the same: a vibrant tapestry of people working together towards a common goal.

Regardless of how fractured business focus can become, people are at the center of everything that brings business success. And people all share in our fundamental human need to belong to something greater than ourselves and to experience a sense of community, support, and affiliation with others.

The intricacies of human connection underpin our collective drive for unity and purpose, which becomes profoundly disrupted when an organization loses sight of prioritizing its employees. To prevent the Great Disconnect from further eroding our people and forestalling the perils of losing their best and brightest people, leaders must cultivate a deep understanding of, and commitment to, fostering organizational belonging.

The recent groundbreaking study by the team behind Deutser's Institute for Belonging, incorporating the perspectives of nearly 15,000 employees, crystallizes this sentiment. Our results overwhelmingly indicate that an employee's sense of belonging outstrips both their perception of organizational culture and their salary as key determinants of engagement, satisfaction, and overall performance. Previously, employers believed the inverse to be true. This is a significant shift in the attitudes of the workforce.

Unless leaders devote considerable energy, time, and resources towards nurturing an organizational culture of belonging, they may risk depleting their most valuable asset: their people. This article delves into the intricate details of our research and the consequent implications for leadership, aiming to provide a blueprint for leaders to build an inclusive and empowering workspace.

In another of our studies with 275 employees, a staggering 90 percent affirmed the importance of experiencing a sense of belonging at work. Broadening our research to an expansive sample of 14,709 employees across diverse industries and roles, we found an undeniable correlation: individuals who experienced a sense of belonging exhibited significantly higher levels of engagement, job satisfaction, and effort. The most striking understanding about this work was that belonging predicts satisfaction, engagement, and commitment to the organization over and above employees’ views of the culture or strategy.

As leaders, we’ve seen a decades long placement of culture and strategy at the top — but it is belonging that really drives performance. Another adjunct study, employing an experimental design with 71 employees, validated that employees would willingly forego higher compensation and be more inclined to stay at an organization that nurtures their sense of belonging. In sum, organizations and leaders stand to gain substantially by investing in nurturing connections, empowerment, and unity among their teams.

In our survey research, conducted with a sample of 14,709 employees, we used a five-dimensional measure of organizational belonging, encapsulating:

  1. Acknowledgment and appreciation of individual opinions.
  2. Fostering a strong sense of team unity.
  3. Opportunities for professional growth within the company.
  4. Optimal alignment between job responsibilities and individual skill sets.
  5. Trust in leadership’s commitment to their welfare.

Although there are many definitions out there, we define belonging as where we hold space for something of shared importance. It is where we come together on values, purpose, and identity; a space of acceptance where agreement is not required but a shared framework is understood; where there is an invitation into the space; an intentional choice to take part in; something vital to a sense of connection, security, and acceptance.

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Brad Deutser is the founder and CEO of Deutser, a Houston-based consulting firm, and author of BELONGING RULES: Five Crucial Actions that Build Unity and Foster Performance. Isabel Bilotta is managing consultant and head of learning and innovation at Deutser's learning initiative.

It’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to balancing employee flexibility with returning to the office. Photo via Getty Images

Cultivating an office culture can prevent loneliness, create connections, says Houston expert

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There’s been a lot of chatter about returning to the office and remote work. No matter which side of the argument you’re on, there are valid points to be made for both views. The pandemic forced organizations to rethink operations, with many employees working remote for the first time. And now, we’re in that habit and many don’t want to change.

But here’s the thing. Isolation creates loneliness and we’re in the middle of a loneliness epidemic. A report released by The U.S. Surgeon General titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” found that even before COVID changed the world, about half of the U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. While technology has allowed for work to continue outside of traditional office walls by dialing in to video conferences from home, there is still a missing link. It’s much harder to build community virtually. We haven’t cracked that code yet.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D – Conn, recently introduced legislation to create a national policy to promote social connection and address the soaring rates of loneliness.

“Loneliness is one of the most serious, misunderstood problems facing America today,” Murphy said in a press statement. “This crisis transcends traditional political boundaries, presenting a chance to bring together right and left around a project to help people find connectedness.”

Whether people realize it or not, we all need to feel seen and understood, and when that happens it creates meaningful connection. That connection in turn leads to strong company culture and more productive, energizing workdays.

Happiness begins with healthy human relationships and companies are being challenged to balance employee flexibility and workplace interactions. While there is no clear-cut right answer, Birkman International is moving to a four-day, in-office workweek. Employees will cut back from 40 to 32 hours-per-week and those hours will be spent at Birkman’s offices.

With employees once again working under the same roof, there will be opportunities for organic spot meetings, team brainstorms and water cooler chatter. While some might see these as “soft” skills, they are essential for a well-performing workplace.

It’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to balancing employee flexibility with returning to the office. Just like every person has unique needs, every company must figure the best solution for its culture, its productivity and most importantly, its people.

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Amy Shepley serves as president at Birkman International, an industry-leading organizational performance company.

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

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Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

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Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

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Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.