When Patrick Jankowski, VP of research at the Greater Houston Partnership, thinks back to H-Town in the ’80s, he always thinks of the movie 9 to 5, the classic 1980 workplace comedy starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. “That movie really did sum up Houston 30 years ago,” he says with a laugh. “We were a regional energy destination. It was very much, Keep your head down and pray for a promotion. Now, in 2015, we’re a diverse, world-class market, competing for the cream of the crop and doing whatever it takes to get the best talent.”

Like a gushing offshore derrick, the range of employment opportunities in Houston has exploded. From 2010 to 2014, the city created jobs at a rate of between 90,000 and 100,000 per year, with large increases in recent-college-grad hires and corporate relocations. Our labor force now encompasses more than 3.2 million jobs, with around $250 billion in foreign trade passing through our region annually. “We’re so tapped in now, what’s happening globally is more important than what’s happening domestically,” says Jankowski, who has studied Houston’s economy and growth for more than 30 years. In the past 15 years, only New York has created more jobs than our city, he says, adding: “And they have three times our population.”

That’s not to say the entire picture is rosy. With the price of oil currently under $50 a barrel, employment data released in September reveal that Houston will create fewer than the 62,900 jobs originally predicted for 2015. Jankowski estimates the new number to be between 20,000 and 30,000, with the biggest losses in the energy sector—specifically, oil exploration, oil production and oilfield equipment manufacturing. The growth lies instead outside our traditional economic base: consumer services, retail, professional services, health care, food services and public education are all thriving. “And even with those lower job numbers,” says Jankowski, “we’re way ahead of other metro areas.”

Where there is growth, there is competition among Houston employers—and with companies farther afield—who want to recruit the best workers in the country. So they’re offering unbeatable benefits packages, throwing parties that must be seen to be believed, investing in gorgeous office space and amenities, and otherwise doing whatever it takes to make them stand out. “When the economy is good,” says Dr. Christiane Spitzmueller, who studies industrial organizational psychology at the University of Houston, “there’s more of an emphasis of making your place a good place to work.”

More than 80 companies that are making these investments in workplace culture—including, it should be said, a good number of oil-related firms—responded to Houstonia’s first annual Best Places to Work survey, and Spitzmueller and her team at UH helped us sift through them all to select the city’s top ten companies in ten categories, plus 20 runners-up, featured in the following pages. (We couldn't resist including a few office pets and surprising jobs we learned about from survey responses, too.)

What all of our winners have in common, Spitzmueller notes, is the fact that they listen to their employees and respond to their changing needs. For example, workers “want more time off to travel and take care of family,” says Spitzmueller. “Fifteen years ago that wasn’t as much a priority.”

As we said, priorities change. Among our top ten is TopSpot Internet Marketing, which took honors for Best Benefits. The company’s offerings “have evolved over time, especially in regards to vacation and work-life balance for younger employees,” says David Underwood, president and cofounder. “We take care of our people. I listen to feedback.” Design At Work, another winner—for Biggest Perks—takes a similar approach. “I’ve never cared about money. I’ve cared about my people,” says John Lowery, the company’s president and founder. “And you know what? The money has come.”

So have the employees that make up the city’s workforce, from within the local talent pool and across the country. As our Best Places to Work prove, there has never been a better time to be gainfully employed in Houston. —Steven Devadanam

In This Feature:

Houston’s Best Places to Work in 2015

The results are in: here are Houston’s hottest workplaces, from coolest office space to biggest perks.

11/03/2015 By Lonna Dawson, Fayza Elmostehi, and Brittanie Shey

Recruiting in the Age of Social Media

If you want to find truly the best candidates, it’s time to change tactics.

11/03/2015 By Lonna Dawson

Office Space: Aimee Woodall

You’ll find bullhorns and bubbly in this boss’s office.

11/03/2015 By Steven Devadanam

Office Space: James Nelson

This creative’s space is home to custom masks and kinetic art.

11/03/2015 By Steven Devadanam

Office Space: Latha Ramchand

This dean’s office decor spotlights Hindu gods and Steve Jobs.

11/03/2015 By Steven Devadanam