Ante Barisic worked for a large telecommunications company for almost two years. He enjoyed “all the benefits of working for a big player,” then jumped ship for a smaller company. Nobody in Barisic’s family could understand why he'd made that move.
But, in a post titled "Switching jobs: Why I left a large company to join a smaller one?" Barisic explained why. "[I received] bonuses, 25 days of paid vacation, paid sports activities and top-notch medical care,” he started out. “So, why did I leave?”
The reason, Barisic said, answering the obvious question, was he didn’t like the slow motion of his big company. He hated the workplace politics. And he wanted credit for his work. He regarded planning for a few weeks at a time as a “waste of time.” He also believed that doing work for a large enterprise with no visibility “becomes an even greater risk to your career.”
He wasn't alone in his sentiments. In Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace study, 52 percent of U.S. employees surveyed said they were actively looking for a new job. One reason seems to be that Americans have become more optimistic in their ability to work somewhere else: In 2012, only 19 percent of Americans said it was a good time to find a quality job; by mid-2016, that number had grown to 42 percent.
Owners of small companies, then, are in a better position than they've been for years. As employees like Barisic look to leave larger companies for smaller ones, the latter have a chance of attracting the talented A-listers they want to their organizations.
Here’s how smaller companies can use their unique strengths in the employee-recruiting sweepstakes for big talent:
1. Offer better benefits.
It can be hard for small companies to compete with the salaries of bigger companies, but they do have some leverage. Considering that the 2017 Gallup report found that millennials had the highest rate of underemployment, that segment might feel somewhat undervalued.
What's more, 93 percent of the 13,300 millennials surveyed in LinkedIn’s 2016 Talent Trends Report said they were interested in hearing about job opportunities. And 30 percent said they could forsee themselves only working less than a year at their current companies.
That's where smaller companies can step in. Those companies can offer a wider range of benefits more in tune with specific employee groups. For example, they may be able to match only the median salary for a position, but they can offer flexible benefits, such as company laptops, cell phones and remote working opportunities.
Small companies can also give employees the choice to pick what matters to them. When managing a smaller, more intimate team, employers can survey to determine which benefits and perks are actually most enticing.
2. Let them do what they do best.
Employees working in bigger companies often feel that they get lost in the shuffle. They were hired to do one thing and, for whatever reason, ended up doing something that wasn't part of their job or didn't match their skill set. This contributes to the fact that, as Gallup’s 2017 report found, 68 percent of employees believe they’re overqualified for their current jobs.
Employees at smaller companies have a greater chance to see the results of their work and how that work impacts the organization. Visibility is particularly attractive to employees looking to make a switch from big companies to smaller ones.
Smaller companies also don’t box in their employees. The overall flexibility allows their staff to both do what they love and grow their skill set. The combination of the two is a great fight against stagnation or the feeling that their skills are being underused.
3. Make work-life balance better.
A healthy work-life balance is critical for employee happiness. The State of the American Workplace report showed that 53 percent of employees surveyed considered work-life balance and personal well-being as important elements. Employees love being assets in the workplace with work they enjoy doing, but the key to that joy is not being overworked while they're doing it.
Small companies can offer ample paid time off, easing the overall pressure of not showing up to work. This way, they remove the stigma of employees taking time when needed, which improves employee well-being and productivity.
A 2016 Project: Time Off report found that 56 percent of employers of millennials surveyed said that when their employees took time off, they were less stressed and less prone to burnout. Also, 50 percent said their employees were more productive.
Aside from encouraging employees to take vacation, small companies can also offer remote work options and flexible rotating schedules to give their staff a healthier work-life balance. A workplace culture that shows it cares about the well-being of their employees is a culture that can win over A-list candidates.
4. Show them there’s room to grow.
The Gallup study found that 37 percent of engaged employees said they were watching for new opportunities. Additionally, 56 percent of "not-engaged" and a remarkable 73 percent of "disengaged" employees were open to new jobs.
The two fastest-growing and largest generations currently in the workforce are those most concerned about advancement opportunities. The 2015 Why & How People Change Jobs report from LinkedIn found that 50 percent of millennials surveyed noted this as their top concern, and 42 percent of Gen-Xers listed it as their second biggest concern.
Smaller companies can sell A-list talent on the potential for more rewarding career advancement. So, if yours is one of those small companies, talk to candidates about promotion policies and success stories of people who started at the bottom. Also, lay out the trajectory of career growth -- with specific, attainable goals and objectives -- for candidates looking to grow with a company.
Smaller companies have a plethora of ways to entice A-listers. With some savvy marketing of what these companies can offer, employers can gain a competitive edge over bigger companies in the employee-recruiting sweepstakes.