Thursday, June 25, 2009


Version 3 Market Pricing Overview

This is a quick 4 minute overview of how to market price a job using NEXTCOMP.NET Version 3. It covers the highlights of finding a survey match, editing matches, and running a Custom Query.

This video is available in high quality on YouTube at:

This video is also available on the public NEXTCOMP.NET website in the Demos section and on the NEXTCOMP.NET application Help page.

Stay up-to-date on our latest videos by subscribing to the NEXTCOMP.NET video podcast on iTunes by searching for NEXTCOMP.NET in the iTunes store or clicking the iTunes link in the sidebar (over there on the right of the page).

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Saturday, June 20, 2009


Interview with Bob Johnson for Father's Day

I have an amazing Dad. We've been working together since 1990 when we started a firm called Johnson/Lindstrand Consulting with my Mom. The firm changed names to Johnson HR Consulting, Inc. in the mid-90's and then in 2001 Bob and I started NEXTCOMP.NET together with Chris Cardwell. The firm is now wholly owned by Bob and me and we really enjoy the opportunity to work with each other. I thought it might be a nice tribute to him to interview him for a Father's Day video podcast.

You can subscribe to the NEXTCOMP.NET video podcast in iTunes.

Click the iTunes button in the sidebar, or just search for NEXTCOMP.NET in the iTunes podcast store.

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Friday, June 19, 2009


Volunteering - Intangible non-monetary rewards that are good for the soul

This is a story about volunteerism. It's also a story about the power of non-monetary, or intangible rewards.

The setting is a middle school library. The event is a volunteer "thank you" breakfast.

I walk into the library and the first thing I notice is the amount of food that has been prepared for the event. It's a full breakfast, with quiche, eggs, muffins, donuts, fresh fruit, coffee, juice. Someone really put effort and thought into this event. The second thing I notice is that I'm the only guy in the group. That's not so surprising, but it does make me wonder the real reason behind the lack of male volunteers. The last thing that surprises me is that there are less than a dozen people in attendance. I expected maybe twice that many.

I've been volunteering in the middle school library every Tuesday morning at 7:00 AM. The school district has a budget shortfall and they needed help in running the library. I shelved books, monitored computer usage, helped kids find books, and generally kept order.

The breakfast this morning was the school administration's way of rewarding the volunteers for their service. After about thirty minutes of chatting, I start to get up to leave, as I had some other commitments. But immediately I sit back down as the Principal tells me that she has a few words to say. Apparently, she also has something to hand out, I see as stack of papers on the table next to her.

She looks directly at me and asks if I would introduce myself, tell the group about my daughter at the school and what I learned from volunteering this year. "Then we can all have a chance to tell the same." she concludes.

"Hi, I'm Matt Johnson...." I introduce myself, talk about my daughter, and get to the part about what I learned. My mind is racing through the year trying to come up with something witty to say. So I just start talking and hope that something intelligent comes out of my mouth.

"I learned that kids this age, middle schoolers, really do have a love of reading. I also learned that having a functioning library is important to their well-being. Many mornings I would arrive and see a group of kids waiting outside the library for me to arrive and open it up. Their faces would light up and they would smile. They wouldn't say much, but I could tell that they were glad that I was there to let them in. I had some issues with a few kids throughout the year, playing games on the computers, being too loud, eating in the library. But I also learned that they were basically good kids, they're just kids. Those same kids by the end of the year were helping me with shelving books or letting me know when someone else was playing games on the computer. So I learned that having a role model and sticking to something has a reward in the way the kids turned around and began respecting the library and the rules."

Whew, that sounded pretty good, and I realized after hearing others speak that we all learned something by volunteering. One woman learned that she could get help on projects if she gave short specific tasks to other volunteers. Whereas if she just asked for a broader general assistance she didn't get as much help. "Keep the requests specific and smaller, and you'll get a much better response." she said.

Good lesson I thought, that could apply to a whole lot of the work I do.

The conversation goes around the group and a few of the volunteers tear up when talking about their experience this year.

It's at that point that I realize that this is more than just a "thank you" breakfast. By sharing our experiences and our learnings, we are all re-enforing our commitment to volunteering. Everyone is providing positive feedback to the others. I'm feeling really great about being a part of this group at that moment.

And that's part of the reward, the intangible, non-monetary reward for the effort we've expended that year. We we'ren't paid for our time, we did it because we were passionate about affecting positive change in the school.

There's also a wonderful side benefit to volunteering. The primary benefits are more obvious: helping where help is needed, the feeling of being a part of something bigger, the sense of contribution. But there's a less obvious benefit which surfaces on a more internal level.

I volunteer at my younger kids' elementary school by participating in a group called "Dads Of Great Students" or D.O.G.S. which is organized by the National Center For Fathering and organized locally by Geoffrey Doy, who is also running for the school board this term.

Last month I had a chance to volunteer in the school's preschool class. This is a class with several developmentally challenged children. They are so sweet, so caring and loving little kids, but they need extra time and extra attention. We played a game where they looked at two similar objects and decided which was thick and which was thin. It was great to sit with them and watch them succeed. They smiled and I could tell they felt great when they choose the correct answers. Then we headed out to the playground and within a few minutes I had a group of them following me. I had a packet of stickers and they all wanted one. It was so fun to watch them playing on the slides and generally run and have fun. I remember one little boy in particular. He had some issues with motor control and it was difficult for him to keep up with the other kids. But he sort of hung out next to me and then unsuspectingly he reach out and put his hand in mine. It was just one of those moments. I looked down and smiled at him and he smiled back and we walked hand in hand back to his class at the sound of the bell. It was a small moment, nothing big or extravagant. But it left a lasting impression on me. He just wanted someone to hold his hand and spend some time and attention on him. That's an easy thing to do. It doesn't cost anything but the returns are great.

Even writing this I start to smile and feel really great about volunteering.

Back to the "thank you" breakfast, after we've all spoken, the Principal hands out a certificate and laughs saying "we don't have any money in the budget for anything fancy and I don't want to spend the PTSA's money, but we do want you to all know how important you are and how much we appreciate your time and effort." She also hands out a small token of appreciation. A "Ravens" carabiner, which I'm now using for my key holder.

I will volunteer again next year. I may even do a bit more next year than this year. And I would do that because I want to help, yes, but I also want to continue to reap the non-monetary, intangible benefits of being a part of something that I feel passionate about and that affects positive change in many of the kids' lives.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009


Time Management - It's all about focus and flexibility

Even during an economic downturn, organizations struggle with retaining top talent. It's especially difficult when pay increases and salary ranges are frozen. How does an organization offer incentives and rewards to top talent when cash based incentives are not an option?

A trend of offering flexible schedules, four day work weeks, reduced work days and other work-time arrangements seems to be emerging. I've read several articles related to flexibility with time and I decided to post a few of my strategies for dealing with the multiple demands of work and family commitments.

  • Have a routine for getting started in the morning. Routines are necessary to free your mind from having to think about the small details of just getting out the door and to work.

  • Create a focused work environment. This means closing non-essential applications such as Twitter and Facebook. You may have to leave e-mail open and the phone on, as I do, in order to answer important customer related questions, but shut down other non-critical applications. I enjoy Twitter and Facebook and I check them several times throughout the day, but I don't need to know when a friend posts an update at every moment.

  • Try to stay in the productive work zone for at least an hour. Studies show that it can take up to 20 minutes to get back into the zone of really productive work.

  • Write a list of tasks that must be completed during the day. I write my list the night before so I don't forget or have to think about it in the morning.

  • Check e-mail before leaving for work in the morning. This will give you a heads up on important or urgent issues that have to be dealt with first thing.

  • Take a break from work, even during busy times. Go for a walk, practice a hobby, spend time with family, anything that takes your mind off work. This can really free your mind up to be more creative when you do get back to work.

  • Stay positive and try to control anxiety or fear. Fear shuts down the analytic areas of your brain. Staying positive and staying on top of urgent or priority issues will help relieve stress at work.

Here's video podcast episode 4 talking about a few of these items:

Note: I'm still figuring out the format and style for my video podcasts. I want to keep them short. I plan to have more interviews with leading human resources and compensation professionals in the near future. Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Here are some links related to this topic:

"8 Liberating Strategies for Clearing the Queues in Your Life"

On the flip side, things to avoid!
"The 10 worst work habits"

"Key to happiness?"

"Happiness at Work - Does It Matter"

"Work is something you do (duh!)

"What makes a great place to work?"

"What's more important, time or money?"

"How to Motivate Workers in a Downturn: Be Honest, Don't Pander"

"Does Employment Equal Engagement"

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Saturday, June 06, 2009


Support Local Charities With Branded Tees and Caps

I had some nice comments on the NEXTCOMP.NET logo during the WorldatWork expo this year. At the same time, I've been wanting to get some new branded tees for myself. Not to mention my kids asked if they could have a shirt with the logo. So I've opened a storefront on Cafe Press where you, and I, can purchase branded tees and caps.

I don't expect to sell tons of them, but any profits made from the sale of the clothing will be donated to local non-profits charities in the Snoqualmie Valley that lend assistance to families and children in need.

So go ahead and visit the NEXTCOMP.NET clothing store and purchase a tee or cap.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009


WorldatWork 2009 - Day 3 - Expo

It was a successful exposition this year in Seattle. I feel energized and optimistic this evening. The traffic at the booth yesterday and today was great. Bob and I met many new people and had the pleasure of seeing some familiar faces, including Kelly, Brett and Shannon from, Yvonne and Michelle from City of Bellevue, Cathy from Newmont Mining, Leigh of Culpepper and Associates, Debbie and Colleen from BECU, and many more!

I had a chance to visit with Larry Daniels from Milliman USA. He and I have known each other for over ten years, and he was very supportive and encouraging back in 2001 when we first started developing NEXTCOMP. Thank you Larry for taking time to talk today.

I also had the pleasure of speaking with Leigh Culpepper. I actually approached Leigh yesterday regarding the video journal that I'd been doing for the blog. I asked if he would be willing to participate in an interview. He asked me what the questions would include. I thought of asking him about pay trends in merit budgets and what he was seeing in overall market adjustments. He said that he would give it some thought. Today, he came by the booth and we picked up our conversation, though it took a different turn, away from data. I really like Leigh's insights and this conversation really got me thinking about why we attend conference and what we take away from the experience.

This video is also available on YouTube.

The booth is packed up, exhibit is closed, and I made it home this evening in time for dinner. It was a treat for me to have the conference in Seattle. I want to personally thank Audrey Johnson for her tireless dedication managing a seamless and successful show. I also want to thank the WorldatWork and Convention Center staff that work behind the scenes to ensure a great experience for the conference attendees. Thank you to Doug Sayed and Leigh Culpepper for the time and allowing me to video them at the expo. Also, a huge thank you also to everyone that stopped by the booth. You're the reason we attend the show each year.

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Monday, June 01, 2009


WorldatWork 2009 - Day 2 - Expo

Another great day at the WorldatWork conference today: I had a chance to talk with several existing subscribers including Susan from Harvard University, Tammy and Ann from the Port of Seattle, Michelle and Nile from, reacquainted with some folks I hadn't seen in a couple of years, met many new people, learned quite a few new things about what is happening in the compensation world, had a chance to interview Doug Sayed of Applied HR Solutions, and met a fellow HR/Compensation blogger Ann Bares.

I participated in a fascinating discussion on the state of compensation design in Venezuela and how the culture of pay there differs from the United States and also Brazil. This was just one of the interesting topics that came up in conversation at the booth. I have to give extra thanks to Tammy from the Port of Seattle for the rave reviews and sharing her experiences with NextComp with a group of prospective customers today. Thank you Tammy! Also thank you to my Dad for helping out this afternoon. You're a life-saver!

Today's video blog from the conference has the interview with Doug Sayed. Doug is a co-author of the just released "Base Pay Toolkit" which is part of the Strategic Pay Series. It looks like a fantastic series that will meet the needs of many HR departments.

Also, if you're not already reading Ann Bares' "Compensation Force" blog, I highly recommend it. She writes in a very approachable and understandable style. The topics are timely and well thought-out. I also highly recommend "Compensation Cafe" which Ann and Doug as well as several others contribute to on regular basis. Links to both blogs are on the blog roll to the right of the page.

Here's the video for the WorldatWork 2009 Exhibition - Day 2...

This video is also available on Youtube.

A couple of notes on the video.

The map fly-overs are generated using Google Earth and screen captured using Screenflow.

Ann Bares is a Managing Partner with the Altura Consulting Group LLC based in Medina, Minnesota. The firm's website is I know Ann from her blog "Compensation Force" so that's how I referenced her in the video.

Also, at the very end of the video you'll see that I look up out of the frame before the fade to black. Apparently I was causing some concern for one of the people in the neighborhood. He thought I was taking photos of his house. He came out and asked what I was doing and why was I taking photos of his house. I assured him that I wasn't taking any pictures of his house and that I was shooting some video for my blog and I wanted to get the great scenery in the background. I think this caught him off guard and he seemed OK with that answer, maybe a bit perplexed though. I wrapped it up and thought that maybe he was overreacting a bit, but perhaps that's just a sign of the times we live in. Anyway, I think I'll find a different spot in the future!

Here are the photos from today. These are also shown in the video.

The "sky bridge" exposition hall. I needed special permission to take pictures here today.

Thank you to Rodney with the Washington State Convention Center security department for taking this photo of me.
"Freeway park" where I ate lunch and enjoyed some quiet time in the sun today.

Some of the view of downtown Seattle from the Conference Center.

A group photo with Doug Sayed, Ann Bares, me and Bob. Thank you to Meg from Univar for the photo.

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