Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself

01 July 2020

Carsten Staehr, chief executive officer of Cintra HR & Payroll Services, provides an inspirational view 

Like John Dewey (to whom the quote in the title is attributed), I am a firm believer in continual learning; and certainly, in the payroll industry, it is an absolute necessity.

Even without the recent demands resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, we are constantly alive to new challenges, using juggling skills that would be the envy of any top-class circus act.

Payroll has become increasingly complex over the years and the ability to learn, question and adapt are now staple requisites in a payroll professional’s skill set. Strong foundations are vitally important when building a payroll career, which is why it’s a must that all Cintra bureau staff are CIPP-qualified with many continuing their education to the highest level.

There is a raft of software available now to help take some of the pain away, but I am a firm believer in the importance of maintaining a basic skill set so that, should the need arise, manual calculations can be performed, without the need for a drop of WD40 to oil the wheels. This education also helps to hone the keen eye of the payroller, so that they have the ability to question and spot potential anomalies, rather than purely rely on the software output.

Studying for a qualification takes a tremendous amount of drive and dedication. The fact that most people in the payroll industry achieve this whilst juggling a full-time job, family responsibilities and the many other commitments that our incredibly busy lives throw at us is outstanding. Cintra is a proud supporter of the annual CIPP Graduation ceremony and the level of commitment and enthusiasm I witness there leaves me in no doubt that that the future of the industry is in good hands.

The fact that there is now a defined route into the profession, through the Payroll Apprenticeship Scheme is also a great step in establishing payroll as a desirable career. Cintra embraced the scheme and its working incredibly well, with an apprentice added to each of our outsourcing teams. The apprenticeship has a well-defined framework that provides the opportunity to learn and then put that knowledge into practice, enabling us to grow future talent that takes great pride in being counted as one of the professions that keeps the wheels of industry turning.

I genuinely believe that during the coronavirus pandemic payroll stepped up to the mark as the fourth emergency service, adapting so well it would have made a chameleon jealous. In addition to year end and the start of a new tax year, thrown into the mix we had new processes and legislation to understand and implement in the form of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the changes to statutory sick pay, social distancing, isolation, home working and home schooling…and payroll prevailed. Probably the most extreme example of on the job learning I have ever encountered. As a result, however, the profile of payroll has probably never been higher: it is important that we capitalise on this and continue to raise our game, demonstrating the value added by a profession which is continually learning, adapting and developing.   

Learning, however, comes in many guises, such as:

  • formal courses which result in a qualification
  • training workshops and updates that help us stay abreast of legislative changes
  • conferences and webinars that open our minds and broaden our perspective on future trends
  • networking with likeminded individuals which allows us to drink from the fountain of knowledge and experience of our peers
  • industry blogs and articles which give us fresh perspective.

The opportunity to learn faces us at every turn. In fact, there is so much out there it can be overwhelming. Where do you start? For me, the natural starting point is always the CIPP: as industry bodies go it really is at the top of its game. The information sharing, courses, networking – they are all first rate.

What really makes the institution great, however, is its members. They are the heart of the CIPP: their drive, professionalism and thirst for knowledge is what really sets it apart. Indeed, collaboration and knowledge sharing across the profession, particularly during the coronavirus crisis, has been second to none.

For me, payroll is an industry which demonstrates a willingness to invest in continuing education. Payroll professionals demonstrate an overwhelming desire to do a good job, to have the expertise and knowledge that enables them to face future challenges with confidence.

As Confucius said: education breeds confidence, confidence breeds hope, hope breeds peace.

Featured in the July/August 2020 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.