In our latest research, we explored employee perceptions of small and large businesses in terms of wellbeing, workplace benefits and culture.
The survey of over 2,000 UK workers revealed that small businesses are commonly thought to provide more regular contact with senior leaders (60%), a positive workplace culture (48%) and better work-life balance (35%)
Large businesses, on the other hand, are more closely associated with physical health support (51%), progression opportunities (44%) and more competitive salaries (40%).
And while many employees (53%) don’t have a strong preference when it comes to company size, SMEs are proving to be more popular than large corporates overall. Over a third (35%) of workers say they’d prefer to work for an SME, compared to just 12% who prefer large businesses with over 250 employees.
With almost half (46%) of the workforce considering changing jobs in the coming months, how can SMEs identify their strengths and take advantage of this big opportunity?
In-house HR helps employees feel supported
More than two-thirds (68%) of workers feel it’s important that their employer has an HR department, suggesting that people value a clear, structured support system at work. While SMEs are unlikely to employ a large HR department, even a small HR team can help advocate for employee wellbeing and ensure support reaches those who need it.
In-house HR teams also have an advantage when it comes to getting buy-in from senior leadership. Companies that outsource their HR are far more likely to cite lack of engagement with leaders as a barrier to improving wellbeing: 41% of those who outsource HR say this is a problem, compared to just 20% of those with an in-house HR team.
Low-cost wellbeing benefits make a big impact
In terms of specific benefits, the top initiatives offered by SMEs are mental health support (39%), flexible working hours (33%) and remote or hybrid working (27%).
These are some of the least expensive, yet most important, benefits to put in place. Flexible working is by far the most coveted benefit, with almost half (44%) of workers who aren’t offered this perk saying they’d like their employer to put it in place. Mental health days off are another popular policy, with a third (33%) of employees saying they wish their employer would offer them.
While large businesses may have the upper hand when it comes to salary and progression opportunities, it’s clear that a progressive, wellbeing-focused company culture will be a big draw for job hunters in the coming months.
SMEs can make smart investments to bridge the gap
Large corporates may have budget on the side, but our research suggests that big-ticket benefits aren’t the main draw for many employees.
By identifying specific areas for wellbeing investment, businesses will be able to target their budget where it has the most impact.
Focusing on a few key wellbeing benefits — such as flexible working and mental health support — will help SMES to stand out in the job market, setting them up to poach top talent from large businesses and become more attractive places to work.
For more details about this big opportunity and our research into wellbeing in SMEs, download our latest report:
The Big Opportunity: How small businesses can attract, retain and engage top talent using wellbeing