The professional services employment market in Canberra is lively and competitive, giving candidates plenty of choice when they seek new roles.

A consideration for many recruits is whether they’re better off working for a small to mid-sized organisation or a large multinational one.

While the answer will be different for each individual, companies should play to their strengths to ensure new hires fit the culture of a workplace, which can lead to better morale, staff retention and productivity.

Here are five key areas where large and small employers differ in their employment offerings and opportunities for candidates:

Remuneration and benefits

In a competitive employment market like Canberra’s, salaries for professional services staff at every level tend to be more generous than in other cities.

If quality candidates are in short supply large companies might tip the balance in their favour and outperform smaller organisations with excellent benefits packages. Private health care, company vehicles, salary sacrificing and discounted services can all be put on the table to sweeten an offer to a sought-after candidate.

Smaller businesses may sometimes seem to offer less up front but can be more open to flexible remuneration such as bonus or commission structures, profit sharing or an ownership stake in the company.

Flexibility and work-life balance

Offering a work-life balance which maximises both productivity and the needs of staff is an issue faced by businesses of all sizes.

Traditionally smaller companies have been able to offer more agile solutions, but many large organisations have introduced measures to bring about greater flexibility and benefits for parental leave, return-to-work and part time arrangements. Thanks to Canberra’s booming employment market, employers at all levels have had to step up and ensure they’re able to attract the best candidates through better overall working packages.

Larger companies might have clearly defined policies and contract clauses such as allowing an employee to work a certain number of hours per week from home, or altered start and finish times to accommodate childcare arrangements. They may also tend towards requiring a fairly consistent number of hours from employees each week, with extra hours paid as overtime. The down side can be less flexibility outside the agreed parameters of a contract or an HR policy, so altered requests for flexible hours are harder to accommodate.

Smaller organisations might require more flexibility from their staff at times, but a closer working relationship with employees means they’re potentially able to give more in return when it’s needed. A smaller team naturally has to band together to meet deadlines when the workload is high, so staff may find themselves working many hours some months but able to take time off or reduce hours when things are quieter.

Ultimately, work/life balance is something which will vary significantly between companies, with an organisation’s size not always an indicator of their approach to the issue.

Career advancement

Discovering what a potential employee’s long-term career plans are can be a great indicator of whether they’ll be a good company fit.

Candidates who aspire to partnership or senior management in large organisations will be more inclined to value working for a company with a respected and well-known name. In large national or multinational firms, it can be easier to see a path for progression and promotion up the ranks. Plus, larger businesses may offer structured mentoring programs to develop less experienced staff and expose them to networking opportunities with the senior members in their industry.

Being a small cog in a big machine isn’t for everyone, though, even if it’s a well-known one. Canberra’s small and mid-sized professional services companies may not have brand names to offer, but they are frequently headed up by people who’ve come from large company or government backgrounds. This means they’ll have a wider range of experience to pass on. Smaller organisations can foster an employee’s broad business skills which could be transferable to business ownership or consultancy later in their career. They may also be appealing to candidates who want to be on the front line, watching the outcomes of their work on a project.

Responsibilities and job descriptions

Job descriptions in small and mid-sized companies sometimes blur the lines and staff can end up performing multiple roles for the business. This is something which naturally occurs less in larger teams where roles are more narrowly defined and filled according to specific experience and qualifications.

For some staff, working to a broad job description in a smaller company is a positive. It can offer more learning opportunities as well as heightened overall responsibility, because they’ll have a greater stake in the success of their employer’s business.

A narrower job description working within a large organisation can have benefits for employees who want to grow and specialise in a specific area or role. Having a more defined job description can fast track career progress, as staff have the potential to be given more responsibility within their field as they master different tasks.

For recent graduates who aren’t yet certain of their career path, large companies can provide a range of different role opportunities which allow an employee to try out other jobs while maintaining continuous employment with one organisation.

Location and relocation of work

There is a fairly clear-cut difference between small firms and large ones when it comes to employee location.

Multinational companies can present excellent opportunities for staff to change cities or even countries to experience different roles and responsibilities. There is a negative, though: in some organisations, relocations are expected if an employee wants to climb the career ladder, or if it benefits the company. If a candidate isn’t keen on leaving Canberra they may be a better fit with a boutique or small business which operates from the ACT and has no plans for expansion to other states.

Assessing the overall fit between an employer and a candidate, whether the recruitment is for a large organisation or a boutique firm, requires consideration and openness between both parties. In the ACT market, where competition for quality candidates is a given, employers must understand the benefits their company can offer, and use these to attract not just the most qualified people, but ones who are likely to fit in and thrive.

Our specialist consultants are experts at placing Canberra’s best people in the right jobs. Speak to us today if you want help finding your ideal candidate.  

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