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Small Business Employees' Top Concerns

Employees of small and medium-sized businesses (SME) report low self-confidence and little motivation for professional development.


Yulia ChilipenokHead of Department of General and Strategic Management, HSE Nizhny Novgorod.
Olga OsipovaAssociate Professor, Department of General and Strategic Management, HSE Nizhny Novgorod.

Employees of small and medium-sized businesses are generally happy with their health, somewhat less happy with their income, believe they are working too much at the expense of personal and family life, but admit they lack qualifications and fear losing their job, according to Chilipenok and Osipova's paper "Resources Available to SME Employees and Self-reported Well-being in the Labour Market."

Resources: From Skills to Health

Based on data from the HSE's Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS-HSE), the authors examined six types of resources available to employees, including job qualifications, finance, social and biological (health) resources, information and time.

They found fairly low qualifications determined by the amount of vocational training, skills, work experience, etc. in about 60% of SME employees surveyed. Yet only 4% of employees have taken any training to upgrade their skills.

A significant proportion (42%) of employees assess their qualifications and skills as low. In contrast, their self-reported biological resource, i.e. health, appears to be quite high: the vast majority consider their health normal and report visiting a doctor just one to three times a year, while more than 30% make medical appointments even less frequently.

Average Income and Little Power

While 60% of respondents describe their financial status as average, nearly 80% were earning 15,000 to 25,000 rubles a month at the time of the survey, which is only two to three times higher than the subsistence minimum.

Almost 60% are not quite happy with their financial situation, but believe it to be neither much better nor much worse than that of most other people.

While SME employees report being respected by other people, they do not necessarily associate such respect (i.e. social resource) with their power and authority: 59% assess their personal power as high and 40% describe it as quite low.

Not Advanced Users

Surveyed SME employees tend to describe the informational (IT) resources available to them – such as using a personal computer and the internet and owning a mobile device – as more or less normal, but the authors found this resource to be low for one out of every three respondents.

Almost all SME employees own a mobile phone (90%), use a computer (over 70%) and have internet access (over 80%). Beyond that, their informational resources are limited:

  • just one-half use a computer for work or study;
  • about 60% do not own nor have unrestricted access to a PC, laptop or netbook;
  • only 20% have a device for their personal use and as many share it with other family members;
  • 17% own some type of a smartphone.

Nothing Personal

Having assessed SME employees' time resource, based on the number of working hours, weekends and vacation days, the researchers found an imbalance between work and personal life and limited opportunity to use one's time as one chooses.

One-third of employees surveyed report working more than eight hours a day, both at their workplace and at home. While they are generally allowed to take their legal days off, 41% of employees reported having a shorter than normal vacation in the previous year or no vacation at all.

Despite the long working hours and little rest, only one out of every five employees would want to change jobs, while 57% are concerned that they might lose the job they have.

Not an Optimistic Portrait

According to the study's authors, the types and quality of resources available to employees determine their social well-being and labour market behaviour, such as mobility, independence and freedom to make decisions. Confidence and self-perception as a sought-after employee tend to increase with higher levels of informational, educational, financial and health resources. People who are well-resourced in these areas tend to be less concerned about losing their current job and more prepared to look for better options.

But this description does not seem to apply to most SME employees, whose access to the above resources can be described as "low to normal," according to the researchers. This affects employee optimism and confidence and can cause them to be afraid of losing their current job and hold on to it even at the expense of their personal time, making their situation in the labour market particularly vulnerable and unstable.

In preparing their paper, the authors examined the RLMS data from 2013. The survey base was the most recent one available at the time of the study (2015). The sample included 1,629 respondents from Russian private small and medium-sized enterprises each having 250 or fewer employees. The sample did not include SME owners.

August 23, 2016