SMBs (small- and medium-sized businesses) often feel at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining IT talent, because even in a slow market, companies of all sizes compete head-on for the best people.
Top performers are lured with great salaries, strong benefits packages, free health club memberships, company-sponsored daycare, substantial internal resources and training pools to draw from, both lateral and vertical career opportunities, and the advantage of a "name brand" enterprise on a resume if they ever decide to shop themselves on the outside again.
All of these elements seem to favor enterprises-but there are also some very important perks that employees want that are more realizable in an SMB.
Just what is the SMB "strong suit?"
#1 The work culture in smaller companies is more personalized.
Smaller staffs allow people to work together on a regular basis. This builds teamwork and camaraderie.
#2 Smaller companies can deliver a more holistic IT experience.
Years ago, I left a large enterprise for a much smaller company because I was pigeon-holed in an IT function and knew I would never get into application development-which was my aspiration. I got that experience-by moving to a smaller company.
#3 In a smaller company, you have the opportunity to work on more than one aspect of IT.
Getting a holistic IT experience was instrumental for me later in my career when I applied for a CIO job-and got it. Anyone aspiring to become a CIO must understand enough about each IT discipline to give overall IT direction. Large enterprises are highly compartmentalized. You may never see any other part of a large project besides the database schemas you continuously revise-and if you do the job too well, there is a tendency for management to keep you in that role because they know that you are dependable.
#4 Small companies can be great places for rapid technology implementations.
SMBs don't have the red tape and complications that larger ones do when it comes to trying and deploying new technologies. For IT'ers who wants to see rapid results from their work, working in an SMB can be highly satisfying.
#5 In a smaller company, you get a chance to learn the business.
Many IT'ers want to learn more about the business that they're developing technology for, but they never get the chance. Business experience is especially important today, with more companies seeking IT'ers with business savvy so they can translate IT into business solutions. The catch is: where do you get that exposure? Because of their more compact size, SMBs offer an easy way for IT'ers to gain business experience and to see first-hand how IT maps to the business.
#6 SMBs offer flexibility.
All companies have come a long way when it comes to allowing employees to work from home, or to have more flexible schedules when they need to accommodate outside situations. However, in a large enterprise, more rules and guidelines exist because there are so many employees that these rules have to be applied to. Because of this, flexibility is an area where SMBs have a tremendous advantage.
#7 Purpose and a sense of mission are easier to attain.
Since SMBs are smaller, they can give greater visibility of how IT fits into the "grand scheme" of the business. In contrast, this sense of mission and urgency can get lost in the shuffle in very large companies. Most employees want a sense of purpose from their work, and IT is no exception. SMBs are great places to find it in.
#8 The importance of good managers
The relationship between an employee and his or her immediate supervisor can make or break employment. Great managers and a welcoming company culture are areas where SMBs should invest heavily -because it can make or break your ability to find and retain the right people.
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.