Growing up in the Midwest meant long and cold winters, thick layers of clothing, and endless board (bored?) games. But the first moment that temperatures creeped above 50℉, kids were donning shorts and t-shirts in a frenzied embrace of an unnamed sun god. And while our parents glanced knowingly through the living room windows, we thought this was the beginning of Spring. They knew February heat waves were an anomaly and should therefore be treated with a cynicism born from life experience. Okay… maybe a little too much cynicism here, but they might restock on salt, fix that broken shovel or snowblower, ensure groceries were in the house, and do their best to keep us alive. Why? Because another storm was just around the corner.
This week has proven to be somewhat similar as shockingly cold temperatures gave way to unseasonably warm weather, the paralysis of snow and ice retreating to reveal an unprecedented failure of infrastructure and basic services. For millions, the temptation to get outside and “enjoy” was mitigated by water damage, recovery from carbon monoxide poisoning, and a fear that blackouts might return. Texas caught the worst of it by far and stories from friends and family reveal a disaster of shocking proportion.
If you work in payroll, this is probably your life as well. You’re the infrastructure that’s taken for granted; the steady service that is foundational to the most basic promise made to your employees. And while your internal clients get to bask in the glow of your work product, all hell breaks loose the moment something goes awry in your department.
So now that year-end activities - and the activities after year-end activities - have passed, it's the perfect time to bolster your infrastructure before the next storm. This means deconstructing and redesigning your processes, absorbing those deferred features from your service provider partners, checking in on succession plans and key person dependencies, and ensuring your most volatile use cases are tested in anticipation of what might come.
It also means giving your payroll team both recognition and relief in the form of spot bonuses and time off. Most payroll leaders may not take a break (“because there’s always another payroll cycle”), and that’s part of my point. You need to be intentional in recognizing the relentless nature of payroll. And if Jane and John taking a few days to step outside results in crumbling infrastructure, it’s everyone’s responsibility to find a better way.
As my puddled snowman can attest, things are changing quickly and very few of them are within our control. For those that are, let’s get to work.
With warm(ing) regards,
Founder/managing principal/payrOlaf, IA