Improving the Uber experience: Working together with Drivers

An artist, a bouncer and an MBA student walk into a room, and they all have something surprising in common… they all drive from time to time with Uber. It’s a common misconception that Uber only caters to drivers who use the app full-time.

In fact, people partnering with Uber come from different backgrounds and have different aspirations: some use the app around another job or project; some go through college, a training course or job search; while others have responsibilities at home. Drivers who use our app choose if, when, where and for how long they want to drive and they have full flexibility to make these decisions in real-time. There’s no exclusivity, no shifts or minimum commitments.

As revealed by a recent Oxford University study on drivers using our app in London, it’s this genuine flexibility that appeals most. The study showed that 80 percent of drivers say that they prefer flexible over fixed hours and that many would only accept fixed working hours if receiving a significant increase in hourly income.

However, based on the feedback we continue to receive from drivers, we also know the challenges they are facing. Many of these go well beyond and long predate their independent work with apps. We believe that in order for people to fully benefit from independent work opportunities, broader policy changes are needed now. That’s why we published a White Paper on Work and Social Protection in Europe earlier this year, sharing some ideas for reforms, such as more portable systems of social benefits, simplified business reporting and tax registration processes, updating employment law, and investing in lifelong learning.

In addition to advocating for policy reforms, there are also things we can do directly to help address some of the longstanding challenges independent workers are facing. Acknowledging that access to meaningful protection options is an issue for many independent workers, we launched Partner Protection in June 2018 – an EU-wide insurance package designed together with AXA, providing a range of protection options such as injury and sickness cover and maternity/paternity benefits for independent drivers and delivery partners using the Uber apps.

We have also started looking into how we can improve the way we receive and integrate feedback from drivers, to give them a stronger voice within our business. Having trialled different formats such as roundtables, we realised that we wanted something more permanent. This was an important moment at Uber, as it was the first time we had decided to take a step back and dedicate time and resources to working with a group of drivers to have them develop a programme of their own. This was the start of UberEngage.

We set out by asking 70 drivers across Portsmouth, Southampton and Merseyside to commit to attending a series of workshops, aimed at developing new ways to improve communication between drivers and Uber, giving them greater voice in the process. Some of the key questions we focused on were:

  • How can Uber better communicate with drivers?”;
  • How can Uber help them to take a greater role in the business?”; or
  • How can we make Uber more transparent going forward?”

A direct result of this engagement was the formation of “Advisory groups” made up of drivers from every city. Their role is to host meetings in their city to collect feedback from fellow drivers and to share feedback with Uber staff via action-driven and regular meetings.

The UberEngage pilot launched in February across five cities in the UK. 25 drivers successfully passed the independent application process to join Advisory Groups, and we set up an “Independent Review Board” as suggested during the workshops.

It’s still early days, but we’re starting to see real impact: so far our Advisory Group members have held over 300 individual appointments to date. For Uber’s part, we have received, and more importantly, responded to 350 unique pieces of feedback, resulting in some fundamental changes in the way the platform works, making the Uber experience better for everyone. Some of these changes include: increased base fares in some cities and ratings protection for drivers (where they had been unfairly down-rated due to things out of their control, such as app issues).

Based on this positive development, we also introduced our first ever Women’s Advisory Forum, bringing together female drivers from across the UK to discuss how we can challenge the societal norms (of driving being a male profession), and actively involve them to make the platform more accommodating for female drivers and riders.

As we continue to launch the programme in more cities and countries across the world, we are really excited about the potential of UberEngage and where it goes next. Even more so, to see the further impact the collaboration with drivers will have across the business.

Find more information on UberEngage here

Read the full White Paper on Work and Social Protection in Europe here

Alex Thompson Armstrong
Alex Thompson Armstrong
Social Impact & Engagement @Uber

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