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The Best Small and Medium Workplaces win talent with values

August 8, 2022, 11:00 AM UTC
Employees playing board games in an office
Companies like Front, No. 13 on the medium-sized company list, prioritize flexibility to help workers find balance and well-being.
Courtesy of Great Place to Work

It’s easy to assume small and medium workplaces can’t match the offerings of large corporations.

Small teams might be nimble, but they can’t offer high salaries, paid leave, job flexibility, or the same learning and development opportunities as the industry giants.

Wrong on all counts.

Organizations atop the Fortune Best Small Workplaces and Fortune Best Medium Workplaces lists for 2022 show that no matter the headcount, workers are having deeply rewarding experiences. These winning organizations invest in workers’ career development and well-being, double down on flexibility and ensure everyone is fairly compensated.

Great Place to Work determined the Best Small & Medium Workplaces lists by analyzing 230,000 employee survey responses and company data that predicts the employee experience. Small companies are those with 10 to 99 employees and medium companies have 100 to 999 employees.

Companies that made the list had dizzyingly high scores—98% of employees at the small companies and 97% of employees at the medium companies agreed that theirs is a great place to work.

Even more remarkable, these scores hold true across gender, race, and job role, showing that the Best Small & Medium Workplaces offer consistent employee experiences.

This year’s winners had outstanding showings in four key areas: welcoming employees, fostering pride, camaraderie, and credibility.

For the Best Small & Medium Workplaces, a sense of company pride plays one of the biggest roles in boosting the employee experience.

At the best small workplaces, employees who experience pride at work are eight times as likely to say their work has purpose. Proud employees are also 48 times as likely to endorse their employer as a great place to work.

For workers at the best medium workplaces, those who experience pride are five times as likely to feel their work has purpose and four times as likely to endorse their employer as exemplary.

For smaller workplaces, fostering company pride is all about leading with values.

“We believe in our people—and respect and value all individuals for their diverse backgrounds, experiences, styles, approaches and ideas,” says Bonnie Dowler, chief people officer for Collaborative Solutions, No. 27 on the Best Medium Workplaces list. It’s by focusing on equity, fairness and inclusion that Collaborative Solutions builds a culture where everyone is proud to work, she says.

Busting myths

The Best Small & Medium Workplaces debunk myths about small and medium companies being overwhelmingly outclassed by bigger organizations. Here are four top myths refuted by Great Place to Work research:

1. Small and medium companies can’t compete with the robust wellness offerings of large corporations.

The Best Small & Medium companies put workers’ well-being first. Front, No. 13 on the Best Medium Workplaces list, was prompted by stress and burnout to create mandated wellness days, closing the office at least once a month.

“During the pandemic, many workers have found it harder to take time off from work and, if they were working from home, to separate work from their personal life,” says Ashley Alexander, chief people officer.

For smaller companies, mandating days off can help workers who might otherwise struggle to unplug. And while smaller companies might not be able to offer a sabbatical, Alexander recommends providing quarterly wellness days and paid time off during holidays as budget-friendly ways to help workers recuperate.

2. Small and medium companies can’t compete with the large salaries offered by big corporations.

When it comes to compensation, workers want to feel their salary is fair. And if fairness is the goal, employees at small and medium companies traditionally outpace their larger industry peers.

Companies like Radio Flyer, No. 44 on the Best Small Workplaces list, make sure that all employees, regardless of department, share in the rewards of a prosperous business. Through a profit-sharing program, in addition to a 401k plan, Radio Flyer employees are made to feel their value, with 90% of employees saying the believe they get a fair share of business profits.

3. Small and medium companies can’t offer the same flexibility as large organizations.

The Best Small & Medium Workplaces score very well on work–life balance and giving workers time off. For the small workplaces, 95% of employees say work–life balance is encouraged. For the medium workplaces, 93% of workers report a good work–life balance.

For Alexander, it all comes down to company values.

“Small organizations shouldn’t shy away from making organizational changes to meet workers where they are in the here and now,” she says. Her advice: Really listen to your employees.

“It sounds simple, but if they know you are really listening to them, they will also be open to experimenting.”

4. Small and medium companies can’t offer the development training large corporations provide.

For the best small and medium companies, workers report they have access to the resources and training they need.

Ninety-one percent of employees at both small and medium companies report being offered training or development.

For Radio Flyer, training isn’t a one-off program. Every job is built with development goals built-in so that employees can study up while fulfilling their usual responsibilities.

“Through intentional and creative job design, training is occurring while the employee is working, and thus their success is not dependent on attending external classes or formal training sessions,” says Amy Bastuga, chief people officer with Radio Flyer.

By making training an essential business function, Radio Flyer is able to develop employees with timely, targeted, and tailored programs without a hefty price tag.

Ted Kitterman is the content manager at Great Place to Work.

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