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Dave Foxall Payroll in the Telecommunications Industry: 3 Sector-Specific Issues

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 By Dave Foxall

3 Payroll Issues for the Telecommunications Sector

Undoubtedly, the telecommunications sector plays a crucial enabling role in modern life. Without mobile web access, smartphones, tablets and notebooks, the current global society would operate very differently. In the more focused purview of payroll management, it is the advances of the telecoms industry that are driving mobile access, software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployments and other such trends. According to the Internet Engineering Task Force in June 2010, the anticipated service revenue of the global telecommunications industry is estimated to reach $2.7 trillion by 2013. And in what may be seen as the industry of innovation, one would expect that innovation to extend to other systems such as payroll; an expectation that happens to be true. In fact, the Cedar Crestone 2011-12 HR Systems Survey noted that the telecoms sector has a 92% adoption rate of basic automated HR and payroll systems. Although this may be a single point below the worldwide average (93%), this vertical is still classed as a high adopter compared to “slower” industries such as higher education and government/public service. However, when it comes to payroll automation and outsourcing in the telecommunications sector, there are several factors of prominent importance.

Telecommunications Payroll Issue #1: Multi-Country Scope

As networks connect and overlap, the world gets smaller and devices are increasingly global in functionality and application. As a result of this market homogenization, many telecommunications companies have a significant global presence (e.g. AT&T, Telefónica, British Telecom, etc.); as well as a workforce that cross national boundaries and cultures. Moving onto the global stage naturally gives rise to certain payroll management issues of consistency and compliance. An example case study is found in the payroll support British Telecom (BT) receives from business software giant ADP. At the time the relationship began, BT had more than 16,000 employees in 45 countries across the Europe Middle East & Africa (EMEA), Americas, and Asia-Pacific regions; with larger staffing concentrations in 12 nations and smaller populations the remaining 33. In order to provide the necessary service, ADP was faced with issues of multiple languages, currencies, compliance with differing legislation, and creating an appropriate balance between centralized payroll control and local management—all payroll issues to be addressed by a global telecoms provider.

Telecommunications Payroll Issue #2: Employee Access

Ironically, although one of the leaders in the use of payroll (and HR) automation generally, the telecommunications sector as a whole has been lagging in its adoption of self-service and other staff-enabling technologies. In fact, a 2010 report from the HR Outsourcing Association, (Optimizing HR Channels) noted at the time that, “There is a 12 percentage-point difference in adoption rates between the top five industries (averaging 94 percent) and the bottom five industries (averaging 82 percent)… [And]…access to computers at work and the education level of the workforce are key contributors to higher adoption”. Where did the telecoms industry sit? They had an adoption rate of just 83%; and drilling down to examine just how much of that figure includes access to actual payroll data revealed a lower percentage still. The 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek report, (Leaders and Laggards in Mobile HR Apps) asked the question: What types of corporate information are accessible today by your organization’s employees via a smartphone or other type of device equipped with a web browser? The answer for payroll/benefits information was 67%. This acknowledged a general need for mobile access for more operational purposes, and according to the report, “field technicians need lightweight, powerful devices that work in any number of conditions and while accessing information about parts and troubleshooting tips”. Still, despite this, the level of employees in the sector with mobile access to any type of corporate information remained at 56%, barely more than half. It would appear then that the industry that provides the enabling technology is itself playing catch-up to the high-adopters on payroll and HR self-service.

Telecommunications Payroll Issue #3: Wider Integration

Telecommunications companies that specialize in networks, access, etc. tend to deploy a high level of field personnel, engineers, and the like. This provides certain challenges in terms of time & attendance tracking and workforce management. By extension, any difficulties in these areas have the potential to translate into inaccurate payroll. Therefore, not only do such organizations find sophisticated mobile workforce management apps a benefit (e.g. GPS Xora’s GPS TimeTrackTM—which provides mobile job management, forms, and timesheets), but their payroll accuracy also benefit from data-sharing capabilities that enable the payroll software to tightly interface with the workforce management system.

Managing Payroll in the Telecommunications Sector – Final Thoughts

Although the basic principles of payroll management are universal, much like payroll in the healthcare industry, the telecommunications sector carries some peculiarities of its own that any payroll software vendor or third party service provider must be able to address. Not least among these is the apparently contradictory factor that the purveyors of communications technology are far from early adopters of the same. The key challenge then would appear to be one of connection; that is connecting the different HR and payroll systems; connecting the employees themselves to relevant information; and connecting the data from varying staff populations to provide a single, cohesive (and accurate and compliant), payroll service. End

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As a result of this market homogenization, many telecommunications companies have a significant global presence (e.g. AT&T, Telefónica, British Telecom, etc.); as well as a workforce that cross national boundaries and cultures.”



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