E-business calls for rules to be rewritten

Creating a different culture from parent company Dixons was vital to success in the Internet market, Freeserve’s talent development manager told the conference.

Stephanie Oerton said the traditional banding, pay and benefits structures at Dixons were inappropriate for attracting and keeping people in the fast-moving e-business environment.

The two-year-old company, which pioneered free Internet access in the UK, cut the 13 pay grades in the Dixons structure down to four broad bands and introduced a performance-related element and quarterly bonuses to attract the talent it needed. It also introduced share options and flexible benefits.

Staff can choose when to claim bonuses or cash in shares and can buy extra benefits from their salary or trade holiday for them.

“Freeserve works on an adult-to-adult relationship. You are in control and you know what is best for you,” said Oerton.

“At Dixons staff expect the employer to look after them. It is very structured.

“Because our industry is new it is less secure. There were no procedures or policies but that allowed for innovation. People had to be resourceful and find new ways of doing things.”

She added that the more relaxed atmosphere at Freeserve was having an impact on the parent company which has introduced a dress-down policy.

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