The New Year will bring changes, as Minnesota-based Rita Maehling is leaving the RPI board – but certainly not leaving the world of recognition professionals – after serving a term-plus. We had a conversation with her about her time with RPI and the industry’s changes over the past nearly two decades.
Tell us a little about when and why you got involved with RPI.
I joined RPI in 2002 when I became an independent consultant. I had a passion around recognition and had actually co-authored a book on the topic in 1990. I wanted to share my experience and continue to work with others, so I was thrilled to find a bevy of like-minded practitioners and service-providers with whom I could learn and contribute.
Initially I was a member at large and then in 2004 I got involved in setting up the certification process. I was a member of the education committee and we presented a proposal to the board which was accepted, to embark on what we now call the Certified Recognition Professional® certification program.
CRP is one of the hallmarks of your time with RPI. How did that start?
I became the instructional designer for the original four courses. That was a paid position that I bid on and was selected. We started with CRP 1 in 2006, then launched CRP 2 in the fall of that year. In 2007 we launched CRP 3 and 4. We selected instructors and continued doing training both at the conference and on-site.
We had lots of opportunity to work with some great people at Rideau and trained 60 of their staff members, which was a huge undertaking for them. We worked with lots of great organizations to bring CRP into their workplaces. It’s been an honor to watch that grow and expand.
Making CRP available online has been a big change. What was your role in that transition?
I served as the project manager on the first conversion of CRP 1 to an online format. Subsequently I worked on all of the online conversions.
It allows people from the comfort of their own home or from their workplace to do self-paced learning and become a Certified Recognition Professional® within probably a third the time of the classroom program.
When did your role on the RPI board start?
I joined the board around 2012 and stayed on for one term, then I filled in for someone who had to roll off the board, so I’ve served for around four years.
I retired from working last year, so I’m kind of scaling down my professional organizational role somewhat. I still plan to remain a member and attend the conference, participating with the education team. I won’t have a leadership role any longer, but I am sure I will be a sideline coach moving forward. From a legacy standpoint, everything is in pretty good shape and people can build on the foundation we started in 2006.
How has the industry changed most significantly during your career?
The technology has been the biggest change, for sure. Everything was paper-based when I started and things were more laborious from an administrative standpoint. The technology has added speed, efficiency and the capability for social media recognition. We’re finding new and great ways to recognize people like internal Facebook pages, for example. Tracking and even fulfillment have changed greatly due to technology. It’s really streamlined and added much ease and capability to the industry.
What are the plusses of serving on the RPI board?
If people are considering a board position, even longer term, I think it’s the best was to leverage your membership, by getting involved in the strategy of the organization. There is such a wealth of knowledge within the board and within the organization itself from myriad perspectives. You have huge organizations like Wells Fargo and Cargill down to the little fish in the big pond. You’ve got government and healthcare and business providers, so everyone brings a different perspective and it really is the melting pot and the pushes all those organizations forward.
From a resume-builder standpoint it looks good to say you’ve been on the board of directors, and it’s great from a professional development standpoint. There are many great benefits to getting more involved.