Conventional wisdom would say that, all other things being equal, it’s better to work for a big company than a small one. But there’s a significant, often overlooked benefit that employees of small companies enjoy to a much greater extent than their peers at larger firms.
Let’s get the argument for working for a Fortune 50 (or even a Fortune 500) company out of the way: Larger companies have more resources, so they’re more likely to be able to offer perks like tuition reimbursement and paid-for memberships in professional societies or trade groups. A large company can give you a great base for networking, and if the company is well-known and prestigious, that can help make your resume stand out when you want to advance your career. Having a large number of employees also gives a company more bargaining clout when it comes to the selection and costs of benefits like health insurance and 401(k) plans. And of course, if the small company in question is a start-up, you run the risk that the venture capital funding could dry up before you get a workable revenue model off the ground, and you’ll be back searching job boards again.
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But if you’re working — or considering working — for an established small company, you’re more likely to have greater job security in one key way, according to the findings of the new Burson-Marsteller Workforce of the Future Survey, sponsored and developed in conjunction with the Markle Foundation, The Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative, and TIME.
A primary finding of the survey is that the workplace of the future is one where gig-economy arrangements and the hiring of independent contractors instead of employees to save money will increasingly become the norm, as will automation that can enhance efficiencies — sometimes at the expense of jobs. And overwhelmingly, larger companies are more likely to embrace those changes that could upend the traditional employer-employee relationship.
Today, half of companies with 100 or fewer workers use contract labor, while 70% companies with 1,000 or more workers rely on freelancers.
Those companies that rely more heavily on independent contractor labor today and plan to do so more in the future are more likely to dismiss concerns that the practice erodes job security, and less likely to say that full-time employees are better equipped to deal with the ebbs and flows of a normal business cycle.
When it comes to automating everyday workplace tasks and functions, a little less than half of companies with 100 or fewer workers say they’re sinking money into automation. By comparison, nearly three-quarters of companies with 1,000 or more workers are doing so.
This pattern holds true for the future as well: While just over half of the smallest companies predict they’ll do more automating in the next five years, that pales in comparison to the more than 80% of large companies that say the same.
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That’s a bad sign for workers at big companies, which also are more likely than their smaller counterparts to view automation as a tool for job cuts rather than growth.
“It is clear that the short-term benefits of contingent workers and long-term value of full-time employees are at odds in today’s economy,” the survey said in its summary. Although it predicted that fundamental changes are coming to what it calls the “social contract” of traditional full-time employment, the survey findings show that small companies are less eager to buy into this new gig-economy model.