Small is beautiful for UK workers

Small businesses employ the happiest staff in the country - and that's according to the trade unions...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In its latest report, entitled ‘What Workers Want’, the Trades Union Congress reveals that job satisfaction levels are higher among small business employees than they are anywhere else in the economy. And since the TUC doesn’t always have a terribly positive view of smaller employers – on the grounds that they sometimes fail to jump through the HR hoops you get at bigger organisations – this praise shouldn’t be taken lightly...

The report, which is based on a study of nearly 3,000 UK workers, discovered that around 6m UK employees were dissatisfied with their jobs, which is a fairly alarming figure. On the other hand 18m people are happy at work, and a large proportion of these are employed by small businesses: more than one in five of these workers ‘strongly agreed’ that they were satisfied with their jobs. That might not sound a lot, but it’s well above the overall average. More impressively, a remarkable two-thirds said they were completely committed to their employer, while a similar number expressed their loyalty to their current company.

So what are small businesses doing right that big businesses are getting wrong? Flexible working, for one thing: small business staff generally get more freedom to choose their own working patterns, which in turn makes them more engaged within the workplace. A win-win, we’re sure you’ll agree. Bullying is also much less common (perhaps because it’s so much harder to conceal) and people tend to work slightly more sociable hours. So in most cases these companies are less stressful environments in which to work.

John Wright of the Federation of Small Businesses reckons this is no surprise. ‘In terms of the way they treat their staff, small businesses consistently out perform their bigger competitors,’ he says. He also added that this strengthens the argument for a lighter regulatory regime on HR matters, presumably on the grounds that staff don’t exactly seem to be losing out in the current set-up (or possibly just because that’s – quite rightly – the FSB’s favourite hobby horse).

All of which is good news for Britain’s small business owner/ managers. Next time you’re trying to hire someone in competition with a much bigger firm, just point them in the direction of this report – and remind them that signing your contract is much better for their general wellbeing...

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