From my point of view, this question will never actually find a clear answer. Because the answer depends mostly on the employee’s character, ambitions, and temperament. And statistics really can’t capture this. It’s true that most undergraduates have ranked big companies like Apple, Google, and Walt Disney as their ideal employer, but people are not exactly known for their consistency! During one period of their lives they might prefer the glory of working for a big company, but when that “I’m the king of the world” feeling loses its shine, they might consider moving to a small company, where the rhythm is slower and people seem happier.
Small companies vs. big companies: the advantages
Small companies always bring in flexibility and fun. You are always heard in a small company, which means it is easier to talk to the upper management and have your ideas noticed. Here you can make your way to the top fast because, honestly, there are not so many people who stand in your way.
Small companies allow creativity and encourage change and new ideas. They create a friendly work environment, where everybody knows everybody, and their conversations are not limited only to staff emails where you have to CC dozens or hundreds of other employees. Small businesses are about human connection, creativity and, many times, fun.
Employees are certainly noticed faster. Your work matters in a small company and this is probably the highest reward a good employee can receive. You can make a difference! And it’s so easy to get things approved in a small company. Because there are less bureaucracy and fewer steps to take on the way to approval. You will probably just have to literally knock on one door. And it might not even be that big!
Big companies, on the other hand, lure people in with their big salaries and big benefit packages, like reliable health insurance and pension plans. According to LIMRA, only 47% of companies in the U.S. that have between 2 and 99 employees can afford to actually offer their employees benefits. Big companies also have the luxury to offer their employees perks, like abroad training and gym memberships, and other things at the company’s expense. And who can say no to a free gym membership, am I right? But it’s true! Large businesses have more power, more structure, more stability.
They provide access to many resources and create a learning environment. Employees have the chance to learn an awful lot when working for large corporations, and they can develop many skills. They can even change their jobs without having to leave the company. Large companies have experts, and we know that everybody loves experts because they have so many interesting things to teach us.
Also, having big company names on your resume will really help you get even bigger jobs at other big companies. And large businesses have job titles that are so fancy and captivating. Always use the entire job title on your resume. It will definitely make you look smarter!
There is one big advantage that large companies have, besides that free gym membership, which really makes a difference in the lives of many employees. Big companies have many departments and sub-departments. They are very good at delegating, which means every employee will only have to do their part in the big process. And this is a good thing for many because they will get to do what they know best.
There is less drama when working for big companies because there is less individuality. You don’t come to work to make friends but to contribute to the success of your employer. And this seems to be a good thing for many people who prefer to keep their work separate from their life.
Small companies vs. big companies: the problems
As you can imagine, no company manages to create a utopic work environment where everybody is happy and no one will want to leave at some point. This simply isn’t possible because of what we’ve talked about at the beginning of the article: people tend to change their preferences!
While a small company is a great scene to be noticed for your skills and your success is easily visible, the same goes for your failure. When you fail to achieve your target or lose a client, the CEO will immediately notice. Your failure is as visible as your success, and you won’t be able to say that the mistake is somewhere along the chain of roles and departments. It’s all on you! And it doesn’t feel good at all.
The benefits package is indeed smaller at small companies, and if you’re working in a start-up, you can be sure that there will be no benefits package for you until profit is a sure thing. Also, small companies may not have legal or HR departments. So, if you have a complaint or a question related to a legal matter, you probably will have no one in your company to talk to about it, and you’ll have to manage on your own.
However, big companies have their own share of problems too. Due to the web of roles and departments in their structure, it can be quite hard to make changes in a large business. It will always take a lot of time and this can be very frustrating. There’s no place for entrepreneurial spirit in big companies, so it might become rather dull to work for a large company. Creativity is not exactly something big companies are famous for because they have their schedules and plans to follow, and do things “like they’ve always done things before your arrival”. Of course, you might have your idea heard at some point, but who says that some other employee, working at a small company, hasn’t already pitched the same idea and had stolen your thunder by then?
Since every employee in a big company has its own, well-defined role to play, you probably won’t get too many chances to learn all the aspects of the business and have to settle with just excelling at doing your part right. You will also have to be a very good diplomat when you work in a big company because there are so many policies you need to respect, so many people to talk to and so many egos you might bruise along the way. And chances are that you will meet more people you don’t like in large companies than in small businesses, simply because there are so many employees working there.
When it comes to large companies, the success of an employee depends many times on the success of their team. If you have the bad luck to work with a dysfunctional team, this might affect your chances to move up in the company despite your skills and efforts.
As you can see, there is no easy way of saying where do employees love to work. For some, it may be a small company, while others prefer the big, flashy names. It all depends on the employee’s personality and character, and not exactly on their skills. You just need to find a place where you’re comfortable and you enjoy showing up every day. Yes, even on Mondays!