SMEs vs. large companies, the match of attractiveness

SMEs vs.  large companies, the match of attractiveness

As the levers for attracting Generation Z, born after 1996, to businesses are still little known, questioning the relevance of the attractiveness models developed for the generations that preceded them is therefore useful. To better understand them, we conducted, with the support of the Regional Union of IT and Digital Professionals (SYRPIN), research on the attractiveness of digital service companies (ESN) in New Aquitaine.

Companies in this sector, very small businesses (VSEs), small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and large businesses (GE), are today particularly affected by recruitment difficulties, due to the shortage of sought-after profiles. According to a study by the Montaigne Institute published in mid-2023, nearly 10% of jobs are not filled in the digital sector, or around 85,000 positions.

The scarcity of sought-after skills emerges as the main cause of this difficulty. Small businesses, faced with competition from national and international companies, are particularly affected. They do not benefit from significant notoriety and cannot deploy such convincing means and arguments to attract future graduates.

In the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, the digital economy has gradually established itself as one of the areas of excellence, notably with the creation of the Digital Aquitaine cluster in 2014. This political display has had numerous consequences, including strong tension in the labor market relating to digital technologies. The ESNs of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, mainly SMEs and ETIs, found themselves in competition with large groups choosing to locate their headquarters there (such as the online betting site Betclic in Bordeaux, in 2017) or to open a branch (establishment of a Ubisoft video game development studio that same year). This context therefore constitutes a textbook case in terms of the “war for talent”.

Three levers of attractiveness emerge

To study the comparative attractiveness of SMEs and digital services GEs, we interviewed, in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, future digital and IT graduates registered in schools or at university (N = 143 end-of-year students). cycle). We asked them to evaluate five levers describing the attractiveness of ESNs.

The research made it possible to identify three levers of attractiveness that emerge: interest value, social value and economic value.

First of all, the interest value has a positive impact on the attractiveness of SMEs. Zs are attracted to SMEs that offer a stimulating work environment, focused on creativity and innovation. It should be noted that this factor does not emerge as a lever for the attractiveness of GEs in the digital sector. Zs tend to perceive them as bureaucratic organizations in which tasks are repetitive.

To counter this obstacle, some large companies adopt a hybrid structure to maintain a “start-up spirit”. For example, Airbus UpNext, an entity of the famous aircraft manufacturer whose mission is to propel technological breakthroughs, seeks to operate like a real start-up.

Then, if offering a good salary and prospects for advancement proves to be a particularly relevant lever of attractiveness for GEs, conversely, the economic value has a negative impact on the attractiveness of SMEs. Two factors can explain this result. First, Zs do not expect SMEs to offer high salaries and job security. Secondly, the Zs make a trade-off between the quest for meaning at work and salary.

If our results show that a good salary is a lever of attractiveness for GEs, the interest of this lever could be limited to hiring because money is no longer a sufficiently powerful engine to motivate and retain loyalty while the guarantee of being able to progress, evolve and train is becoming more important.

Finally, no significant relationship is observed, for SMEs, between the social value and attractiveness. For large companies, if there is indeed a relationship between social value and attractiveness, it is negative. These results are not those expected. The beginning of an explanation can be found in the desire for a better balance between private and professional life. Zs attach more importance to the success of their private life than to that of their professional life.

Social ties in the workplace are not an end in themselves for Zs and could even be seen as a risk of becoming more involved, to the detriment of private life. The craze for teleworking could be a corollary of Z’s disinterest in social value. Gorgias, a Franco-American e-commerce support company, for example, has integrated this new data by allowing its developers to telework 100%. They can thus live in the country of their choice.

What recommendations for businesses?

This research helps ESNs identify the arguments on which they should focus their ME communication in order to attract Zs. For SMEs, rather than the promises of remuneration and career prospects for which they would have difficulty competing with companies with a national or international dimension, it is the elements linked to a stimulating work environment and to practices which promote the creativity of employees which will make the difference.

The future employer would thus benefit from positioning itself as a company that puts innovation at the center of its concerns, both in the products/services offered and in the organization of work and the work environment. Since young people from Generation Z are more inclined than their elders to earn less as long as their work is meaningful and/or allows them to maintain a balance with their personal life, SMEs must also use this argument in their communication.

For large companies, attracting with a high salary can pay off in the short term, but it would be risky to base attractiveness solely on the lever of salary and job security. According to a recent study, 67% of Zs plan to earn less money but have more free time and 87% do not plan to pursue a career in the same company. Creating a start-up atmosphere within GEs in the digital sector, as Airbus does, would improve their attractiveness to Zs by providing a response to the fear of an organization that is too bureaucratic and work that is too repetitive.

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