Mobile Communications

SMBs: How to Offer Employee Mobile Perks Without Breaking the Bank

Martin Morgan has worked in mobile billing software for over 25 years. In that time, he’s spoken at over 50 telecoms conferences worldwide and had a similar number of articles published in the telecoms trade press.

As an added job benefit, many SMB owners across countless industries are known to pay for employees’ cell phone usage each month. A great incentive for employees, this “perk” has potential to become a major issue for business owners if the company’s monthly data allowance is exceeded. If data usage does not remain within the constraints of the organization’s plan, overage fees, in time, could really affect the business’ bottom line. For some business owners, this may push them towards reverting back to the archaic method of requesting that employees purchase their own mobile device plan under the expectation that the employee will submit their bill each month for reimbursement. To prevent this regression, wireless carriers have developed an alternative solution to meet the needs of small businesses in terms of paying for employees’ mobile usage, while adhering to business objectives, staff needs and budget. This solution is shared data, allowing everyone under the company plan to draw from a monthly pool of data and sanctioning employers to see the costs up front and in turn control usage amongst their staff.

This wireless plan approach for small businesses involves a bucket of data that is shared amongst the staff, preventing monthly overages through insight into employee data usage on an individual level. Employers are empowered to set data limits amongst employees, based on job title or usage history. For example, if certain staff members use their devices for email, while other employees are on their devices to stay up-to-date on social channels and industry news, business owners can ensure that the employee who uses more data owns a larger piece of the company bucket. This insight into data usage in real-time also empowers small business owners to move data allowances from one device to another, if a data heavy user on staff starts to run low on their allotment, while another employee has barely used their share for the month.

What does a shared data approach mean for business owners who are wary of employees abusing the system and using data to stream video and download music, instead of for work related activities? Wireless carriers are ahead of this issue, using policy control software to manage how employees on a company mobile plan use their data. Employers are able to set up policies on their companywide shared data plan that restricts access to non-work related platforms such as Facebook, Netflix and YouTube during work hours. However, shared data policies such as these do raise the issue of BYOD within small businesses, with more and more employees wanting to use their personal smartphone or tablet for work use in an effort to maintain control of access capabilities. In these cases, employers have the power to commit to a company standard of only covering mobile fees for business sanctioned devices. Alternatively, the employer might elect to work with their wireless carrier to put a different policy in place, enabling only certain work based apps to be counted against the shared data plan. This method helps to preserve consistency across the organization and avoid issues with employees regarding data usage.

Employers are encouraged to set data usage limits per employee, with the understanding that if an employee reaches their limit prior to the end of the billing cycle, they are then responsible for purchasing data add-ons or requesting that their employer transfer unused data from another employee, if available. This method leaves the control with the employer in terms of data usage amongst their staff, but allows for flexibility where appropriate, without incurring extra fees on the business’ dime.

What about employees who travel for work? Employers should keep in mind that doing business on the road is typically more data-intensive compared to being in the office. This variable is an important consideration for many small business owners, as fees incurred from abroad can dramatically impact the bottom line of their business’ data plan. A best practice for business owners is to plan ahead in terms of employees who travel often, sharing the necessary amount of data with them while they are away from the office. This ensures that mobile use is available for their travelling employee at no additional cost to the business. When calculating how much data they’ll need on the road, employers should consider how often their employee will be checking email from a cab as opposed to in a client’s office with Wi-Fi.

While customer needs and expectations may have changed for consumers with individual or family plans, what hasn’t changed is the small business need for a mobile plan with focus on cost, efficiency and a solid personal connection with their wireless carrier, reflective of their own customer relationships. Shared data plans were designed to give small businesses a simple mobile package, eliminating risk of bill shock while allowing those on staff to use their devices as necessary, an important value add for the business’ bottom line. Shared data doesn’t force business owners to sign up for plans with big data allowances if their consumption varies from month to month as well, encouraging the purchase of a core plan with shared data that works for everyone on their payroll.


Martin Morgan is Director of Marketing for Openet


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