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

Where You Can Find Us

There are hints of in-person conferences on the horizon, but in the meantime, here are some of the virtual events and publications we have been invited to contribute to:

  • February 2021: Mary Faulkner shared her thoughts about the danger of bad job titles in a recent column for

  • March 3, 2021: Mark Stelzner and Mary Faulkner present a webinar hosted by HR Executive and sponsored by Accurate Background - The password is “Adaptability”: Unlocking the keys to work in 2021 and beyond. They will examine the challenges of hiring and working with teams in 2021 and beyond. Registration information to come! 

  • March 8-12, 2021: As a panelist for Hacking HR’s 2021 Global Conference, Mark will weigh in on what’s on the horizon for the evolution of HR and the future of work.  

On Our Radar

While Spring is on its way, a lot of us are bundled up and staying inside, and the IA team searches the internet for some interesting stories about the world of work and the people who inhabit it. Here are a few that we liked:

  • We continue to learn more and more about the potential - and limitations - of AI. In this eye-opening analysis by BR (Bavarian Broadcasting), data journalists share how a personality assessment powered by AI can be swayed by appearances. 

  • As organizations and workers alike keep up with the ways work continues to evolve, some states are trying to help. Take a moment to read about how Michigan is working to offer free community college for people looking to reskill. 

  • And finally, the search for effective team building continues. Companies are still trying to figure out how to keep camaraderie alive in a virtual environment, and some are doing better than others. This article from Fast Company shares some ideas of how to move beyond the virtual happy hour and try new ways to keep the team spirit alive.

About IA

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