Young people drawn to SMEs over large firms

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Larger businesses could learn from what attracts graduates and students to SMEs

More than a third of students and graduates would like to work for a SME (small or medium enterprise) rather than a larger firm, according to research from Prospects.

More than 9,000 students and graduates were asked about their work intentions over the next 12 months. Of the 63% who were looking to start a new job or career, 37% hoped to work for a SME (an organisation with less than 250 staff), compared with 29% considering a large employer (an organisation with more than 250 staff).

The reasons varied depending on whether the respondent wanted to work for a medium or small firm. More than six in 10 (63%) of those who were looking for jobs in small businesses of up to 50 staff said they wanted the opportunity to work in smaller teams, with the expectation that they would have good professional and social interactions.

However, this factor was important to only 21% of those choosing to work in medium-sized companies of between 50 and 249 employees. The main reason (25%) for this group’s choice was opportunities to progress and develop, while this was given as a reason by only 15% of those looking for work in a small business.

Jayne Rowley, deputy chief executive at Prospects, told HR magazine that larger businesses could learn from what attracts graduates to SMEs. “Clearly communicating the opportunities available for career progression and any social activities that will enable new starters to fit in and get to know their colleagues are ways to make your company more attractive in the eyes of graduates,” she said.

“Many graduates welcome jobs in smaller companies, preferring the opportunities and working environment that they provide. In turn they offer SMEs a fantastic opportunity to bring new skills and ideas into their business, but competition can be fierce to attract the top talent that they need.”

Rowley suggested that smaller firms consider perks other than pay to continue attracting top candidates. “While they may not always be able to compete on pay, SMEs can look to attract talent in other ways such as through sustainable business practices and flexible working,” she said.

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