New data from Sodexo Engage’s inaugural ‘SME guide’ reveals more than half (52%) of SME employees would prefer to work at a big corporation – a finding which perhaps illustrates why three quarters (75%) of SME employers noticed a spike in resignations through Q4 of last year.

Sodexo Engage’s survey collected responses from over 1,000 SME employers and employees and presents insights on relevant HR trends including reward and recognition, engagement and future of work.

The research found the so called great-resignation looks set to continue over the next 12 months, as almost a third (32%) of SME employees said they plan on leaving their current role in 2022.

Those employees who would rather work at a corporation ranked the biggest attractions as perks (41%), better job role (40%) and more scope for progression (38%).

Meanwhile, lack of flexibility (45%), lower salary (43%) and risk factor are the main turn offs of working at an SME.

This poses a challenge for SME leaders who have much smaller budgets to leverage. To retain staff, SME leaders should instead play to their strengths, a major attribute being company culture.

Of the 30% of employees who said they would rather continue working at an SME, four in ten (42%) said it was because of the ‘family feel’ smaller companies yield. Other retaining factors include better work/life balance (42%) and better company values (36%).

Further to this, the majority (91%) of SME employees agree they would feel more recognised at a SME than at a big corporation.

By building on this to create a more familiar work environment and a culture of recognition, SMEs will be better placed to hold on to their top staff.

Almost two thirds (64%) of SME employers already report to recognising good work weekly at least, however some only do it monthly (15%).

SME employers cite motivation (43%) and productivity (42%) as the two leading employee challenges, but regular recognition – whether it comes from a manager or a colleague – reassures individuals that their efforts are not going unnoticed, and inspires them to continue working to a high standard.

Recognition is a cost effective tool for acknowledging good work, and with almost three quarters (74%) of SME employees saying they would be more inclined to stay in their role if they were rewarded on a more regular basis, it is a worthwhile and financially realistic initiative for SME employers to practice.

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, comments:

“SMEs not only have to stay ahead of competitors within their own industry, but they have large corporations to contend with too. With large groups of employees flocking to these bigger companies, SME leaders need to reassess their retention methods to make sure they are best positioned to hold on to their top staff.

“While SMEs may not be in the position to compete financially, they have plenty of strengths to play to. Building on company culture, that places recognition at its heart, can improve employee experience, and boost employee retention.  With recognition in action across an organisation , from the top down or peer to peer, employees can feel seen and their work validated – perhaps on a more regular and personal scale than if they were to transfer to a bigger company.”

For further information, download Sodexo Engage’s SME guide here: