Good Work for All: Tackling underemployment at EE

The mobile phone operator EE saught to differentiate themselves in a competitve marketplace by improving customer service. One of the barriers to achieving this goal was the high staff turnover rates among core retail staff as result of the extensive use of short hour contracts. To tackle this problem, EE offered all retail staff who wanted it an uplift in their basic working hours as well as introducing new recruitment, induction and target setting processes. After six months, the rate of staff turnover among the group who chose the uplift was 25% lower than other retail employees. 

The mobile phone operator EE operates within a highly competitive industry, which is undergoing rapid change and facing increasing customer expectations. To differentiate themselves, EE have sought to improve customer service by investing in staff skills and engagement.

One of the barriers to achieving these goals is the high staff turnover rates among EE’s core retail staff. In mid-2015, over 60 per cent of employees working less than 25 hours a week were leaving within the first 12 months of joining. The negative impacts of high attrition include the cost of changing staff; lower productivity; understaffing; recruitment costs; and the loss of knowledge and skills. The extensive use of short hour contracts was regarded to be the main driver of high staff turnover.

To tackle this problem, in December 2015 EE offered all retail staff who wanted it an uplift in their basic working hours. This was supported by earlier changes to standardize the company’s recruitment process for stores across all regions; reform KPIs to incentivise greater focus on customer service; and introduce a new three-week induction and buddy process for all new starters, scrapping the probationary rate of pay and introducing a softer launch into targets.

The Living Wage Foundation has been working with EE to monitor the impact of these changes. In total, 650 employees from 330 stores chose to increase their working week by an average of 9.2 hours. In earnings terms this is about £4,500 extra a year. After six months, the rate of staff turnover among this group was 25 per cent lower than the rest of the retail population. EE also expects to see improvements in customer service and sales as their workforce becomes more stable and experienced.