When it’s time to hire, smaller employers often find themselves in a tough race. 

But its not a race they can’t win. In fact, its a race where small to mid sized employers definitely have an advantage.      

Yes, the bigs are still laying off but they’re also hiring and can suck the air out of our candidate marketplace faster than we’d like to admit.   To WIN the race for talent, small to midsize employers need to get clear about who we are, what we do, and what we can offer a prospective employee that our larger competitors can’t.   

No question,  most small to medium sized employers are not able to offer the level of pay, benefit or perk packages offered by our  larger competitors.  But the truth is that we offer many things our larger competitors can’t.  The data shows that its not the bigs who drive local economies.  Its small to midsize employers who create the most jobs, solve the most problems, deliver the most innovation in their respective marketplaces.  And from our perch, there is no question, small to midsized employers offer the most dynamic and exciting places to work.

All of us know the bigs in our respective marketplaces. For the staffing industry, our bigs are very visible – Adecco, Robert Half, Office Team, Allegis, etc.  Your bigs may be less visible but here some facts that might let you know how, in the bigger picture, they match up.   In the US economy, reports show that…..

PACE knows the small to midsized employer well……

First of all you are the sweet spot in our client base.  We have very immersed in your staffing and recruiting challenges…but also the dynamics of what makes your businesses tick.

We are also a small business ourselves and have loved being part of our local small business community for close to five decades.  We’ve definitely had our share of opportunities to be acquired by companies aspiring to become one the big guys.  We’ve resisted those offers for reasons that mean something to us.  As we like to remind our new “small business” clients – when it comes to getting the right people on your small business bus, its a very personal journey and most employees want to know they make a difference!

But that doesn’t mean that our small to midsized companies escape the challenge of finding the right talent.  CEO’s continue to report that hiring the right talent continues to be their number one business challenge and that applies to CEO’s of companies of all sizes.   

We created this blog to provide our small business clients and friends with a list of reasons why prospective employees want to work for them.  To remind them that what they have to offer a prospective employee is something their larger counterparts can’t.   At a time when labor participation rates are at decades level low, we think that when any employer messages the opportunities they provide for people to “make a difference” they are contributing something  important to our local community. 

Make no mistake, what smaller employers have to offer is exactly what most job seekers are looking for in a job!  

While we’re not saying a big pay check or an over the top benefit offering don’t matter, we know there are other things that employees want out of their jobs that aren’t about pay and benefits. These are the things we find can be more easily delivered by a small to medium sized employer who has the flexibility to deal with the wants and needs of employees in a granular manner.

When we interview folks who are currently working for larger organizations but looking to make a change, we find that their primary drivers are not always what you would expect. Yes, not going behind in pay and benefits is typically part of the “want list”,  but what we find that really resonates with them is the opportunity to do more meaningful work, to obtain a better work life balance, to feel more valued by their boss, to expand their opportunities to learn and grow new skills.

Once presented with the opportunity, many employees will take pay cuts to achieve some of these benefits that only smaller employers are able to offer.

We see our smaller business clients very tuned into to what people actually want from their jobs and are focused on delivering them. 

Smaller work environments offer opportunities for employees to learn and grow their skill sets in ways larger organizations can’t.    

In smaller work environments it is commonplace for jobs to be loosely defined with lots of opportunities to “take on more”, even turn your job into something much bigger and better that actually suits you. In a large organization, for example, a “customer service” job often looks like a room full of employees sitting in cubes with ear phones, doing their best to meet tight productivity measures, and working with limited options for actually solving the customer’s issues. These are typical of “large company” scenarios that have a tough time translating into  either better service for its customers or higher levels of job satisfaction for its employees.

A customer service rep in a smaller company, on the other hand, couldn’t look more different. The work content is varied, revolving around simple missions like “deliver memorable service” with multiple ways for the employee to deliver on that mission.  Employees are trusted to do the right thing and in return employees trust that their contribution is valued.

The small business environment is rich in individual opportunity thed in larger more corporate styled settings that simply can’t be replicated.

Smaller companies are really good at making a difference!             

And this adds to the sense of excitement employee’s get when working in these environments. Every day there are problems to solve that create a level of engagement often lacking in the more routine and overly structured jobs that are more typically found in larger work environments. Employees in smaller work environments are encouraged to break the norms, find new ways to respond to customer needs, and work with fewer check points – all adding to the employee’s sense that their work makes a difference.

Smaller companies have their unique ways of creating loyalty and commitment.

And they do that regularly by inviting their employees to participate in projects focused on solving problems addressing big picture company issues and challenges. When employees get involved in solving difficult company wide challenges such as faltering revenues or issues in customer retention, they show up differently, knowing that they have value to the organization that goes beyond just how they do their specific jobs. Larger organizations, on the other hand, rarely offer employees the opportunity to engage at the company level, and therefore provide value only to those people who provide narrow functional expertise, specific to their jobs. They are not given the opportunity to expand their scope of influence – to really get to know their company and how it works.

Which work environment do you think is most attractive to the high talent employee who wants to be attached to something bigger than themselves?  

Career Advancement.  Who does it best?         

While the myth is that only larger companies offer opportunities for promotion and career advancement, we’ve watched our small to medium sized clients offer unique opportunities for personal growth and career development that we know simply doesn’t exist elsewhere. Employees with leadership aspirations, for example, can uncover opportunities to develop their leadership skills inside a small company on a daily basis rather than have to wait to be tapped for a promotional opportunity with a larger organization. In small work environment, if an employee sees a process that can be improved or a customer that needs to be re-engaged, they are almost always empowered to “fix” the problem without a whole lot of red tape or check points. These mini work assignments, giving an employee an opportunity to experience beginning to end responsibilities for results, set the stage for enhanced leadership opportunities to follow. We see careers inside smaller companies that tend to evolve organically, and in alignment with an employee’s personal interests and talents.

Bottom-line, small companies get to see their leadership candidates in action, taking favoritism and serendipity out of the advancement or promotion process, giving everyone the opportunity to grow their careers in a way that works for them!   

What about job security?  What size employer is likely to have your back when the going gets tough?   

When the economic landscape goes south, large companies tend to lay off by the numbers – ending project teams, dissolving or combining departments, eliminating 5-25% of their workforce – all starting with a decision made by unseen folks at the top without a full understanding of what it does to their workforce to “right size”. If they are a publicly owned company, they simply have to do it to make next quarters numbers.

Compare that scenario with what typically happens in smaller companies where it is often the ownership, leadership, or management group that takes the first hit in the form of rearranging roles or even pay cuts – all designed to “keep the team together” and save the folks they value the most.

Yes a stormy economy beats up all companies without regard to their size.  But even though larger companies have more resources to withstand a storm (and retain their staff),  they rarely choose to do so.  We see smaller companies, on the other hand, with fewer resources but going to great lengths to keep their teams together.  Their business and their people are indeed “personal” to them. 

Communication and messaging is key.  Who does it best?  

Small to medium sized employers have the ability to create immediate connections between all levels of their organization – from senior leaders and to front line employees.  Because leaders are often working side by side their employees, important messages are timely, clear, and tend to be understood by all. This creates a sense of community not always present in larger organizations where communications tend to come hierarchically and often missing important nuances.

Employees who like to be in the know, to have information shared and their personal input valued, genuinely prefer small company environments.

In conclusion….

…there’s lots of things that make the small to medium sized employer a better choice for many “high talent” employees – things they can offer to employees that are almost impossible to get when working in larger more corporate styled workplaces. For smaller employers, the key to staying competitive in the race for talent is to make sure you know exactly what you have to offer that others don’t and message that differentiation at each step in the recruiting and hiring process.

In a blog to follow we’ll talk about the recruiting and hiring processes used by successful small to medium sized businesses who have learned how to put their best foot forward.


PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 45 years.

A 5-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditionsdirect hire professional recruiting servicesEmployer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

If you’re a hiring manager looking for a service that will actually “make a difference” to who and how you hire, contact us at 425-637-3312 or fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!

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