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Excel for payroll staff (useful tools)

Excel is used in all industries but one of the most common areas is in the HR and Payroll departments. Like it or not Excel for payroll skills are a must. If you work in HR you will also be interested in our new website, Excel Skills Assessments, which allows you to check all those ‘Advanced Excel’ claims on CV’s which turn out to be a misinterpretation of the word Advanced Excel.

Tools and formula that all Payroll staff should master (and why with some surprises in their use) include:


The VLOOKUP formula allows you to lookup an item in a list. A key feature is its ability to create an approximate match. In the payroll environment it is used to:

  • categories employees
  • calculate commissions based on scales
  • combine databases into a single database
  • compare databases to identify differences
  • calculate taxes due
  • and much more

To see how VLOOKUP works register for the free online VLOOKUP tutorial

Data Filter

The Data Filter is typically used to find data in a list but it is as useful when it comes to cleaning up databases. Instead of spending hours deleting individual rows, you can do this in one go!

You achieve this by asking the filter to show you the rows you DO NOT want and then deleting the rows. You can see how this works on

Flash Fill

Excel 2013’s best new feature.

Almost any splitting or combining of cells can be done with no formulas. So if you need to split first name and surname, or combine first name, middle initial and surname you can do it as easily as typing it out.

In fact this new tool can be used to clean a multiple of typical spreadsheet problems.

You can see some examples on

excel for payroll


The IF function is the function you fall back on when you can’t think of another way to do it.

Useful for calculating overtime it can differentiate between normal hours and overtime hours. If also allows you to identify above or below average performances by employees.

The IF function is available in our free Excel Fundamentals Course


One of the many date formula, this one will automatically calculate the number of WORKING days between two dates taking into account weekends and public holidays. Exceptionally useful in calculating leave days taken. See how it works on

To find out more about useful functions and tools for HR and Payroll staff, email


Convert Timesheet Roster To Payroll Upload

Online Excel course for HR and Payroll professionals

Excel not recognising formula

Free VLOOKUP online course