at a glance
Based in London, Utility Warehouse is a multi-service utility provider offering gas, electricity, broadband, telephone, and home insurance to over 800,000 customers in the UK. They take pride in acquiring new customers primarily through word-of-mouth, and not by advertising their services.
Utility Warehouse partnered with Oyster to acquire the engineering talent they needed to scale quickly while also offering a strong employee proposition. Thanks to Oyster, they now have about 30 people working remotely from four countries across the EMEA region.
As a leading utility service provider in the UK, Utility Warehouse needed to build a world-class software engineering team. But engineering talent is in such high demand that they needed the ability to hire anywhere—and to do so quickly and without unnecessary risk.
Robbie McMillan, People Business Partner at Utility Warehouse, says they avoided the hassle of establishing entities by using a third-party payroll entity for their international hires. But they struggled to support an international workforce because they “didn’t have the resources in the Finance and HR teams to support those international hires,” he explains.
The administrative and legal complexities of navigating local employment laws in other countries meant the team was getting bogged down in the details. Without the right infrastructure or setup, Utility Warehouse couldn’t scale as quickly as they wanted to. “It takes weeks, if not months, to hire people if you haven’t got the right organizational setup,” says Robbie. It also meant they couldn’t be a competitive employer in the global market for engineering talent.
“As we started to hire more and more internationally, it came with complexities and challenges, like understanding the tax landscape, employee benefits, how to even hire people or let people go, or if somebody was to resign. We really struggled to get ourselves into a good position to scale up and ensure that we’re providing a strong employee proposition.”
Utility Warehouse needed to overcome these challenges in order to acquire the best engineering talent and ensure their continued growth and business success.
After looking into various options, Utility Warehouse chose Oyster as their global employment partner in December 2021 because of its user-friendly platform that simplifies the process of bringing on new talent.
“Oyster’s platform came across as really user-friendly. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the platform was from the admin side to get somebody set up. From a HR perspective, that’s what you’re looking for—something to take the weight off your shoulders, to take that burden away from you. That’s exactly what the Oyster platform does for me.”
For Robbie, Oyster seemed like a trustworthy partner they can count on, and not just a company with a slick sales pitch. “I want to know that I’m not going to be dumped the moment I sign the contract,” he laughs. He was also impressed by the breadth of country coverage offered by Oyster.
“The relationship we have with our key account manager—it gave us a really good sense of actually being looked after. I felt like we could trust Oyster, especially given the size, the scope, the geographies that they’re working in. It gave us a lot of trust and confidence to know that they’re going to help us with our problems rather than put that heavy lifting back on our shoulders.”
The Oyster team’s knowledge and expertise gave Utility Warehouse the confidence to transition their international teammates from the provider they were using before. According to Robbie, the process was smooth thanks to Oyster being flexible, adaptable, and proactive in offering solutions, even in tricky situations.
“They were proactive in giving us answers and solutions to problems. For example, we wanted to hire somebody in Poland, but they didn’t have the right citizenship. Oyster gave us a really easy solution and it was resolved within a week, whereas historically, we’d have to explore visa situations, get legal advice, and go through a load of different hoops.
Beyond the initial hiring, Robbie appreciates Oyster’s light-touch onboarding process, which makes it one less thing for him to worry about. “Oyster has an onboarding coordinator who owns that entire journey,” he explains. “They’ll loop you in when you need to be looped in, but typically it’s very much hands off, and that makes my life far easier.”
Once the new joiners have started working for Utility Warehouse, they can use the self-serve platform to submit expenses, timesheets, and more—which reduces the admin burden on the People team.
One year in, Utility Warehouse now has about 30 people working remotely from four countries across the EMEA region. With the knowledge and expertise provided by Oyster, they’ve been able to scale quickly while also saving time and money since they don’t have to look up employment laws or hire lawyers.
“Having that expert partner to say, ‘here’s how to do it, here’s what to consider, here’s how we can help’ means that I literally do not have to go out and do that research. I don’t have to pay a legal advisor for that guidance. It makes my life so much easier.”
For Utility Warehouse, the biggest impact of using Oyster has been the speed of hiring, which makes it possible for them to be fast and nimble with their talent strategy. As Robbie puts it, “that kind of speed—just being able to turn things around really quickly” has been a game changer for him, especially when they need to act fast or pivot.
In addition, Oyster’s in-depth knowledge of various countries has enabled Utility Warehouse to confidently enter new geographies and talent markets. “That kind of expertise where Oyster has multiple geographies under their belt and can provide assistance and insight is immensely powerful for me,” Robbie explains.
“If we want to create a hub in any new geography, I literally drop an email to my account manager, and within an hour, I have a response. Typically, I’ll probably have a meeting set up. I’ll have a load of experts from Oyster who will jump on that call and help guide me. So I feel like I’ve actually got support in that process rather than being a lone ranger trying to figure it all out myself.”
Oyster’s localized guidance is helpful, Robbie says, because “they actually understand the landscape, the norms, and what we need to consider,” which helps him and the tech leadership team build holistic and locally competitive packages. “I wouldn’t have had that insight without Oyster supporting me in that kind of localization,” he adds.
The Oyster team supports Utility Warehouse throughout the employee lifecycle by providing a consistently high level of service when it comes to tackling any issues that may arise. Robbie has received positive feedback from Team Members thanks to the Oyster team quickly resolving problems.
Looking ahead, Robbie is excited about the benchmarking data and insights Oyster can provide in the future based on “first-hand, on-the-ground” experience of hiring thousands of people around the world.
“Salary benchmarking is still in relatively early days. But the insight Oyster can provide through having such a large talent pool under the Oyster umbrella means that their data is really valuable. It gives me the confidence that we can rely on them as another point of reference when looking at cost of living increases or bonuses or just general baseline salaries.”
What insights can Robbie offer about the future of hiring? He believes that “the future of the workforce is distributed.” With an increasingly mobile and global workforce, and given the fierce competition for talent, there’s simply no going back, he explains.
“From an employee proposition, allowing your team to work remotely, or hybrid, while also reducing the admin burden of setting up your own entities, means that it’s a no-brainer. If you can do it really easy and relatively cheap, and if it means you can attract and retain top talent—why wouldn’t you?”
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