47 per cent of millennials think SMEs are the ideal business size to work for, more than double the 19 per cent who believe larger companies are the ideal size.

The new research from Sodexo Engage surveyed the working preferences of all generations and compared these with their perceptions and expectations of different business sizes.

The data shows the benefits most valued by millennials and the perception of these in different business sizes.

Millennials chose flexible working hours as their most desirable benefit, with 43 per cent expecting this to be a characteristic of working for an SME.

Career progression (56 per cent), high salary (51 per cent) and friendlier company culture (33 per cent) came up as the next three highest benefits valued by millennials

38 per cent of those surveyed expected career progression to big high on the agenda for SMEs, 21 per cent thought high salary would be a priority and a massive 79 per cent expected a friendlier working environment for SME’s rather than big businesses.

48 per cent of 16-24 year olds prefer SMEs (companies with 1-249 employees) as opposed to 12 per cent prefering big businesses with 250+ employees.

Similar statistics came from the 25-29 bracket with 44 per cent preferring SMEs to 24 per cent desiring to work for a  big business.

In the age 40-54 bracket 43 per cent preferred SMEs with only 18 per cent rather than working for big businesses.

Iain McMath, CEO, Sodexo Engage, comments:

“The future of our economy depends on SMEs and having a productive workforce. Millennials have captured the interest of academics and business leaders alike, but this is the first time we can definitively say that SMEs are their natural home and in fact, their preference. The results show that the demands of this generation match the expectations of what life in an SME is like. On the other hand, businesses face a reputational challenge to prove that those seeking a friendly company culture and ability to lead a more flexible lifestyle can do so in corporate giants.”

However, the research also showed that millennials are more likely to jump the SME ship after four years of service, whilst commitment to employers of bigger sizes stretches beyond the five year mark.

McMath continues:

“Although big businesses are having trouble attracting the best candidates, they’re more likely to keep them once through the door. SMEs must do more to increase loyalty amongst the workforce if they want to retain the best talent. It can often be harder for employees working for these smaller organisations to see a clear progression path after reaching senior positions, and the added benefits that come with larger employers can be a big draw. However, considering the diversity of today’s workforce, businesses of any size need to ensure that every individual always feels motivated and appreciated.”





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.