In partnership with Glassdoor, our investment analysts are taking a closer look at some of the most popular companies in Glassdoor's career community.
Look up "telecommunications" in a dictionary, and you'd probably be satisfied if the definition was a simple AT&T (NYSE:T) logo.
With over 243,000 employees pulling in $129 billion in 2013 revenues, a leading position in the American wireless communications market, and a seat among the 30 elite Dow Jones (DJINDICES:^DJI) members, AT&T is about as big as businesses get.
However, bigger doesn't always mean better. How does AT&T treat its biggest stakeholders?
How does AT&T treat its employees?
Let's start with the good news: Working at AT&T brings a decent salary and strong benefits.
According to data collected by Glassdoor.com, AT&T employees give the company a strong 3.8 grade on a 1 to 5 scale when it comes to pay and benefits.
"The pay and benefits are pretty good for a job you can walk into from high school," says one Glassdoor reviewer. Others highlight AT&T's generous discounts on the company's own products and services. The health plan is reportedly comprehensive, but of the restrictive HMO variety.
And for AT&T workers with a yen for investing, AT&T matches 401(k) contributions dollar-for-dollar up to 6% of the base salary.
Here's another positive tidbit: AT&T workers are getting happier over time. Two years ago, the company scored just above 3.0 on Glassdoor's overall satisfaction scale, and that metric has climbed steadily to 3.3 today.
But AT&T's workers still find plenty of room for improvement.
That 3.3 overall satisfaction score is improving, but still not great. Salaries and perks push that score up, but Glassdoor's other four core metrics on employee satisfaction are much lower.
Above all else, workers worry about the quality of AT&T's senior management team, and CEO Randall Stephenson only scores a 67% approval rating from his own troops. By comparison, T-Mobile U.S. (NASDAQ:TMUS) CEO John Legere has the support of 91% of this Glassdoor reviewers and freshly appointed Sprint (NYSE:S) CEO Marcelo Claure has impressed 86% of his employees. Stephenson's score is roughly on par with arch rival Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) leader Lowell McAdam, who inspires a 63% approval rating.
How about investors?
Despite a generous 5.3% dividend yield, AT&T shares have struggled to keep up with industry rivals and the broader market. Over the last five years, AT&T's stock has delivered a modest 11.6% dividend-adjusted annual return to shareholders, well below Verizon and the Dow.
Are AT&T's customers happy?
AT&T's customers have a bittersweet attitude to their cell service provider.
This is one of the largest mobile networks in America, sporting 116.6 million wireless subscribers and a mild growth trend.
The company reaches more than 300 million Americans with 4G LTE signals.
AT&T has invested a staggering $140 billion in wired and wireless infrastructure over the last 6 years. Management claims that no other public company has matched AT&T's contribution to the U.S. economy over this period.
Those 116 million subscribers have come to expect LTE coverage wherever they go, and AT&T works hard to deliver on that promise.
On the other hand, AT&T customers are prone to ranting over the company's pricing and service quality.
Big carriers with fantastic networks have been charging higher rates for many years. Smaller operators like Sprint and T-Mobile still use cut-rate pricing to chip away at Verizon's and AT&T's enormous user bases.
The company often lands dismal scores in customer satisfaction surveys. In a recent American Customer Satisfaction Index poll, AT&T scored 68 out of 100 in wireless service satisfaction and only 65 for its wired broadband Internet services. In both cases, the company trailed Verizon by a significant margin.
Overall, both of these industries are mired in terrible customer ratings. "Internet service providers at rock bottom without much incentive to improve," says one troubling headline in ACSI's report. Among the 43 industries covered by ACSI reports, all three of AT&T's core businesses rank among the bottom five in overall satisfaction. That's just below perennial consumer villains like the health insurance industry and the USPS.
Sustainability and community outreach
To end this report on a positive note, it must be said that AT&T does a lot of good for the world at large.
We already looked at AT&T's massive impact on the American economy. Beyond that, the company issues annual sustainability reports, detailing its efforts in philanthropy and environmental stewardship.
In 2013, AT&T reduced its water use by 42 million gallons and recycled 220 metric tons of lithium ion batteries. More than $130 million was donated to various charitable programs, and AT&T hired five times more military veterans year over year. Looking ahead, AT&T is investing in recycling programs for end-of-life handsets and providing free mobile broadband access to many educational services.
The Foolish takeaway
So, how does AT&T serve its investors, customers, employees, and the world in general? It's a mixed bag.
AT&T can be a great place to start a career, thanks to generous pay and benefits plus a great 401(k) matching program. The company employs nearly a quarter million people, pumps a ton of cash into the economy via network upgrade and maintenance projects, and takes sustainability seriously.
On the downside, customers have mixed feelings about the expansive but often disappointing service and smaller competitors are looking to capitalize on these issues to grow market share.