Here’s Why People Choose to Work at Small Businesses Over Big Companies

September 20, 2018

When you’re a small business looking to hire top talent, competing against big enterprises can feel like a David-and-Goliath struggle. But while you might not be able to offer the same perks as an enterprise, that doesn’t mean you’re at a disadvantage. Playing up your strengths as a small or medium-sized business (SMB) and appealing to what SMB employees care about most can help you make a winning pitch and hire great talent.

To help you out in that effort, we’re sharing some results from LinkedIn’s annual Employer Value Propositions (EVP) survey. We asked over 62,000 small business employees and 88,000 enterprise employees about what they care about when considering a new job—and discovered some interesting differences between the two groups. (You’ll be able to look up the EVP survey results for relevant talent pools in LinkedIn Talent Insights, which launches soon.)

Here’s what SMB employees across the world value in an employer when they’re considering a job opportunity—and three important ways those priorities differ from enterprise employees.

SMB employees care more about a company’s purpose and their own impact

People at small businesses are more likely to value a company with a purposeful mission and having a role that meaningfully impacts the company’s success.

These are among the biggest advantages that small business employers have over big companies: a single person can make an outsized impact, and their work often has a direct effect on the company’s mission.

In your pitch to candidates, focus on what they can accomplish and how they’ll  be shaping the direction of the company—especially if you have a strong mission that’s driving real change.

SMB employees care about compensation, but not as much as enterprise employees

Don’t panic if you can’t offer the highest pay or most generous benefits. Yes, SMB employees value compensation and work-life balance above other attributes in the survey—just like enterprise employees do—but not to the same degree.

In fact, the biggest difference between the two groups was the fact that those at smaller companies care significantly less about compensation and benefits. Pay and benefits was a top driver for nearly two-thirds (66%) of enterprise employees, compared to 59% of those at small businesses. So, yes: the money matters, but it’s far from the only thing driving candidates’ career choices.

SMB employees are less likely to value job security or rapid advancement, but care more about good management

Working at a bigger company may seem to have some advantages, like greater stability and a more defined career ladder. The good news is that people at SMBs aren’t as concerned about job security or rapid advancement compared to their enterprise peers.

Instead of talking up the safety or growth potential of the job, it might be better to sell candidates on the excitement that comes from being part of a smaller team—especially if that team is well managed. While SMB employees aren’t as concerned about climbing the corporate ladder, they do care about open and effective management more than enterprise employees.

Since people at smaller companies care more about management, it might be a good idea to introduce them to their hiring manager early on. You may even want them to be the person who reaches out in the first place, since candidates are 56% more likely to respond to an InMail from a hiring manager than a recruiter.

Final thoughts

As a quick recap, SMB employees care more about:

  • A company with a purposeful mission (+5% more than enterprise employees)
  • Role that meaningfully impacts the company’s success (+4%)
  • Open and effective management (+4%)

And SMB employees care less about:

  • Excellent compensation and benefits (-7% less than enterprise employees)
  • Job security (-6%)
  • An industry-leading company with high caliber talent (-6%)
  • Opportunity for rapid advancement within the company (-4%)

With all that in mind, don’t let your small business stature give you a Napoleon complex. The strengths of SMBs line up quite nicely with the values that drive SMB employees. Focus on what small business talent is more likely to care about—like their impact, your mission, and good management—to make the best case for joining your team.


Results based on September 2017 Annual LinkedIn Employer Value Propositions Survey of global members. LinkedIn members were asked to select the most important factors when considering a job opportunity. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are defined as companies with 200 employees or fewer, and for the purposes of this analysis, we’ve narrowed our focus to SMBs with 11-200 employees. Enterprises are defined as having more than 5,000 employees.  

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