Payroll News

Finding Path to Success Through Payroll Wilderness Takes Teamwork

June 29, 2020, 2:57 PM

In the wilderness, it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees. The same might be true of finding the path to success in the payroll profession.

Mark Scharenbroich, a motivational speaker with an alter ego, camp leader and counselor Wally Bowers, offered several tips for surviving in the payroll wilderness. But it takes more than earning merit badges to succeed at camp, Scharenbroich said.

Scharenbroich, who won an Emmy Award for producing a TV special, took a comedic approach to inspiring payroll professionals June 25 at the American Payroll Association’s 2020 Virtual Congress. “Most camps teach you how to build a fire,” he said. “We teach you to put out a fire.”

A key survival tip, one of several Scharenbroich offered, is to support one another, foster personal growth, and learn to ask for help. “A little less me, a little more we,” he said.

As with any camp, merit badges go with the territory, and for payroll professionals these could be awarded for proactive thinking, problem solving, and strategic thinking. “What can go wrong and how can I avoid it,” is a common phrase for many professionals, Scharenbroich said. For example, when two people are paddling a canoe, who thinks about a possible capsizing?

A proactive thinker would consider that the canoe could tip over on a lake outing and remember to bring a life vest, Scharenbroich said. A problem solver would assess the situation and determine how to right the overturned vessel and bail out the water.

Strategic thinkers, meanwhile, learn from mistakes they have made.

“We are human. We all make mistakes,” Scharenbroich said. “The key is, OK, I made a mistake. What can I do in the future to avoid a mistake? How can I see a bigger vision of how to fix things down the road?”

Breaking Down Tasks

The best way to tackle big projects is to break it down into little pieces, Scharenbroich said.

The new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, was a daunting problem but it was not impossible to solve, he said.

“Can you lift 1,000? Yes, you can,” Scharenbroich said, offering a solution: carry 10 pounds at a time or persuade 40 friends to each carry 25 pounds. “Ask for help, because we are stronger together,” he said.

Technology also is useful and can save time. In the case of trying to lift 1,000 pounds by hand, a lever and pulley would make the job easier. With Form W-4, a computer can help break down calculations into manageable portions, Scharenbroich said. “You’ve got to run toward technology, not away from it,” he said. Discussing a project such as the W-4 with co-workers and applying research and analytical techniques also can make the task go smoothly, he said.

Watch for Roadblocks

Maintaining focus on a project or position can be difficult, especially since the unpredictable coronavirus shook up the workplace and the world early in 2020, Scharenbroich said.

“The year started out just fine on Jan. 1,” Scharenbroich said. “Weeks later it was hand sanitizers and masks. Instead of counting payroll, we were counting toilet paper rolls.”

Even in a pandemic, payroll professionals still have a job to do—ensure employees are paid, Scharenbroich said. “The key is to focus each day,” he said. “When things get blurry, focus on what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have.”

To achieve personal growth, learn a new computer skill, take an online class, or read a book on leadership, Scharenbroich said. Striving to be a leader also can help one become a better employee, he said, adding that success must be won.

“You don’t earn a merit badge just for showing up,” Scharenbroich said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Trimarchi in Washington at mtrimarchi@bloombergindustry.com

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