Small businesses boast employee happiness, loyalty

By Abigail Loop
Staff Writer

Big business doesn’t always matter.

A new study published by two Baylor researchers reported that small and local businesses have a history of better employee satisfaction and commitment compared to bigger companies.

Wausau, Wis., doctoral candidate Katie Halbesleben was the lead researcher for the study.

Halbesleben said the objective of the research study was to find commitment levels of small and big business employees, then analyze their differences or similarities.

“We came to find that small businesses have more committed and happy employees,” Halbesleben said. “I think this is because in a small business, one is more likely to work with people who become friends or work alongside family members. You have a connection.”

Halbesleben said research was conducted for the study by taking data from a previous Baylor religion survey published in 2010. With 1,714 people represented in the survey, only 763 were used for the study.

While the survey included information on workers’ attitudes, beliefs and practices, Halbesleben made the connection between small and large business employees.

“The people were given statements to agree or disagree with, such as how they feel about belonging to their organization or if they feel emotionally attached to their business,” Halbesleben said. “We found that many of the workers in a small business had more positive answers than that of those working for a large business.”

According to the published study, more than half of small firm workers score in the highest commitment category compared to 40.5 percent of large firm workers.

Also, 56 percent of workers in locally owned firms had high commitment scores relative to 38.7 percent of workers in non-locally owned firms.

Dr. Charles Tolbert, professor of sociology, co-authored the study alongside Halbesleben. Tolbert said while it’s always been assumed that small businesses had a higher connection with employees, there was no evidence to back up that claim. Now, when analyzing data from the Baylor religion survey, the signs are clear.

“We’re able to see the questions about employee commitment and make a connection that hadn’t been made before,” Tolbert said. “We’re able to see how it’s more of a relational employment system than individuals rotating through a large business. People involved with small business know each other, they go to the same churches and they bump into each other at the store.”

Halbesleben said she was glad to be part of a study that helped highlight the connections made in small and local businesses today.

“It was really interesting because we’re becoming a more global society with large scale businesses,” she said. “It’s nice to still see the value of small and local businesses.”