Editor's Note: This week's Thought Leader is Ryan Johnson, CCP, vice president of publishing and community for WorldatWork. Ryan is responsible for the WorldatWork member community, communications, research and publishing. He currently serves as chair of the board of directors of Association Media and Publishing, the Washington, D.C.-based society of association publishers. Ryan obtained an M.A. from Arizona State University and a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He is a regular blogger for WorldatWork Post and a host for workspan TV. (Ryan helped lead WorldatWork into the blogging arena, which is where I first connected with him; I have since come to greatly admire his work in directing the association’s research efforts and in developing – and opening up – its online community... which has become an incredible resource and forum for the profession.)
Compensation Force: What led you to choose (or land in) a career featuring the field of rewards?
Ryan Johnson: I grew up in California but started my career in Washington DC, working on Capitol Hill. Eventually, I moved back to the west to attend graduate school, and to take my career more firmly down the line of public affairs. I was already in Arizona when Scottsdale-based WorldatWork posted an ad for a public affairs manager. I applied and was hired, mostly because of my experience. Over the past ten years, my responsibilities have expanded beyond public affairs into managing a variety of things, including the WorldatWork monthly magazine (workspan), our website and our online community. Along the way, I also earned a CCP designation.
Compensation Force: What person and their ideas/teaching/writing has had a significant influence on your thinking and your work?
Ryan Johnson: Because of WorldatWork’s unique position as the neutral not-for-profit “home” of the profession, I’ve had an experience here that many practitioners probably only dream of. Through interactions with our boards and volunteers, and in gathering content for our magazine and website, I’ve been able to regularly interact with some of the legendary thinkers and practitioners in the HR and total rewards space. I know I’ll leave someone out, but I’m talking about people like Mike Davis, Dow Scott, Fred Cook, Kevin Hallock, Jac Fitz-Enz, Brent Longnecker, Ed Lawler, Schuster & Zingheim, Jerry Colleti, Dave Smith, John Boudreau, Tracy Kofski, Sara McAuley, Jeff Chambers. I could go on! In addition, WorldatWork president Anne Ruddy is simply the finest talent manager I’ve ever worked for. I told her that if she ever runs for Congress, I’d be proud to work on her campaign. (She told me I was crazy to even think it!)
Compensation Force: Is there a book you’d recommend to others in the reward field that has impacted your thinking and your work?
Ryan Johnson: Of course, I’m partial to anything WorldatWork Press has published, but setting those great works aside, I’ll mention two books: one modern, the other classic. First is Dan Pink’s Drive, which I think has advanced a very solid argument for intrinsic motivation. There are problems with some of Pink’s rationale, but I think it has boldly and publicly advanced an argument that has real implications for professionals who are attempting to attract, motivate and retain workers today. Pink is the keynote speaker at our annual Total Rewards Conference and Exhibition (San Diego, May 23-25) and I’m really looking forward to meeting him. The second book is Milkovich’s (and Newman's) Compensation text, which was first published in 1984 and is now in its umpteenth edition. It’s always been a great go-to resource for me.
Compensation Force: Looking to the future, what trend or development do you think will significantly impact the reward profession and those of us working in it?
Ryan Johnson: I’ve been watching the confluence of technology and the reward profession for the past couple of years and I think we are rapidly approaching a point where we’ll be able to use data and analytic capability to discern a very good ROI assessment of pay and reward programs. We’re already getting there with some reward elements, but the capability is increasing quickly. When we get to the point where we can reliably discern the ROI of extrinsic and intrinsic reward actions, I think it will cause a big shift in this field.
Compensation Force: What are you currently working on?
Ryan Johnson: I’ve been spending time recently on something that only WorldatWork—as the professional association—is in a unique position to champion. We were contacted a few years ago by some of our members who were frustrated by the lack of a common LTI valuation methodology across salary surveys. They simply wanted to be able to compare LTI values across different surveys in an apples-to-apples way, without trying to figure out what was in the survey providers’ methodological assumptions or paying for the survey providers to do it for them. We’ve been working on this for a couple of years and I’m happy to say that we’re very close to a solution. The April issue of Workspan magazine will include a big feature on this initiative.
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Our special thanks to Ryan for participating in the Compensation Force Thought Leader series and taking the time to share some of his history, thoughts and ideas with us today!
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