Look carefully at why the smaller business is recruiting a new person into the role. It could be a reaction to something that has happened on the legal front. The company may have reached the stage where there is a need to minimise employment risk.
Who you report to will denote how much of a difference you can make. For example, reporting to the chief executive could be a very different experience from reporting to the finance or operations director. Ultimately, with the smaller company, you can’t be 100% sure you are going into a business that will align HR to the business strategy, even though it may profess to want to.
It is important to know that going to a smaller business is a risk. If the whole business plan is flawed and the company goes under, it does not matter how wonderful your HR business strategy is.
Whether you should stay with a large firm will depend on your long-term goals and ambitions. If you intend to be an HR director at an FTSE business in the next five years, I would advise you to stay with a blue-chip, on a more structured career path.
As an HR business partner in a larger organisation, you may find your client base is still fairly small, and not unlike being head of HR for a small business. You may also find the role brings you further away from operational HR, which is dealt with by a shared-service operation. In the smaller business you may get bogged down in administrative tasks, so you will have to be the kind of person who likes to roll up their sleeves.
Ultimately, it is down to your individual drivers and deciding which role will allow you to achieve the job satisfaction you require. However risky, it is possible to survive in a small business without it harming your career, and many HR professionals do just that.
Hugo Tucker, Manager, Ortus