During a job search, candidates research many factors to determine whether a potential company is a good fit for them. Company size plays a major role in an employee’s experience, but many candidates do not consider how the company size will impact their careers. Here are 8 factors to consider when deciding whether a large company or a small one is a better fit:
In a large company, the business processes are complex and well established. There are many layers of bureaucracy, and because of this, nothing happens quickly. This includes the interview process, approval for projects, and the daily business processes the company follows. The benefit is that employees rarely need to invest time in deciding on company procedures. There is a greater sense of consistency and accountability.
By contrast, small companies can move more quickly, but are still seeking to establish those same processes. Employees may feel frustrated that every new initiative comes with the burden of developing a process. However, there is less paperwork to deal with, fewer arbitrary rules, and the ability to get things done quickly.
Large and small companies often structure their compensation packages differently. Generally speaking, larger companies are able to offer more financial benefits and a higher total salary. That does not mean that the compensation package through a larger company is a universally better fit for everyone.
Small companies may have a smaller average salary and benefits package, but they compensate through non-financial perks, such as more flexible hours, more recognition, a better work/life balance, and more customized opportunities for professional advancement. Consider the intangibles as well as the number on the bottom line.
Depending on seniority and past work experience, some professionals want to be drivers of their company’s projects. They want big impact for their efforts. This is much more of a possibility in a small company, where there is opportunity to guide the company’s overall direction. Small companies are more open to employee input, even at the upper management level. Many smaller companies foster a strong open-door culture, and even lower-level employees can have access to the CEO and director-level managers.
Big company size comes with bigger budgets and teams. There is less opportunity for each employee to have a significant impact on the direction of company projects. Employees are less likely to have direct access to upper management. The advantage is that projects in big companies are often large-scale and high-level.
The size of the company does not necessarily set the tone of the office. In the past, small companies had a reputation for being more relaxed, but many big companies like Facebook and GrubHub have jumped on board with trendy common areas and casual dress codes.
The major difference between company culture in big and small companies is how much of an impact each employee has. In larger companies, the personality of the workplace is difficult for one person to change. This is a strong pro when a company maintains a positive, results-focused culture. However, employees who are not a personality fit may feel isolated or pressured to assimilate. It is very important to ensure a good culture fit when interviewing with a large company.
In small companies, each person is a driving force with the power to affect the culture. This works well for employees who enjoy setting their own unique work style and want to have a significant impact on their company’s workplace personality. The con is that some unique work styles do not work well together, and the cohesiveness of large companies can be a better fit for some personalities.
In a large company, employees have more opportunities to specialize in their chosen field. Resources are often available to develop deep niche skills. Employees often have the opportunity to become subject-matter experts in their field. People who are firmly committed to their specialty thrive in large companies where they are not bogged down with work outside their area of interest.
In small companies, employees have the opportunity to diversify themselves. Instead of feeling boxed into a particular task or niche area, they can wear multiple hats. Every day is different in a small company. Employees who enjoy new challenges and a lot of room to expand their skillset may prefer the flexibility of a smaller company.
Stability does not depend on company size. This was proven in the 2008 recession, when Borders Books, Lehman Brothers, and many other large companies went bankrupt. The major difference is that employees can lose their jobs in large companies even when they do nothing wrong. Since budget changes, mergers, and layoffs are tied up in large-scale politics, good employees can be hurt by the sweeping changes. Although small companies do go bankrupt more often, they are more likely to hold onto good employees whenever they can.
Both large and small companies must constantly innovate to stay ahead of the competition. Large companies have the benefit of more resources and larger budgets, and can afford to spend significant amounts of money on research and experimentation with new products and processes. However, their size means they are less agile and slow to change. They are answerable to shareholders and investors for new initiatives.
Small companies are major drivers of innovation in the economy. While their budgets are limited, they are highly agile and are free to experiment with few restrictions. They answer only to themselves. In addition, employees in small companies have more opportunities to contribute new ideas to how things are done.
Career advancement can go either way. While large companies have more layers and larger budgets, the competition can be fierce. On the other hand, small companies may struggle to promote talented employees in a timely fashion. The most important thing to look for is a company culture of reinvesting in its employees and a strong, results-focused management team.
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