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Full Schedule
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2018 Annual Conference

Detailed Agenda 

Sunday, April 29

8:00am – 6:00pm

CRP II: Creating a Recognition Culture*

Rita Maehling, CRP, Achieve Consulting

8:00am – 5:00pm

RPI Board Strategic Planning Meeting (invitation only)

2:30pm – 5:30pm

Recognition Fundamentals*

Barbara RuddyCRP, Department of Economic Securities

6:00pm – 7:30pm

Welcome Reception

With musical guest Brent Gafford
(entertainment sponsored by C.A. Short Company)

Monday, April 30

8:00am – 9:00am

Breakfast and Mug-of-Motivation

with Jason Thomson, Creative Mercenary  

9:00am – 9:15am

Conference Welcome

9:15 - 10:00am

A Modern Framework for Building an Engaging Culture

by David Sturt, O.C. Tanner

An engaging culture is a magnet for talent, innovation, and accomplishment. Organizations that have shaped and nurtured great cultures consistently outperform those who don’t. But how do you shape and improve your organization’s culture. How do you measure it? And where should your organization be focusing to ensure your culture becomes a magnet for talent and engagement? In a landmark Culture Study, the O.C. Tanner Institute surveyed 10,000 employees on 6 continents in 12 countries around the globe. The newly released findings and insights shed new light on how to assess, shape, and optimize company culture. This session will address the following questions: What are the 6 core magnets of an engaging culture? How do the 6 magnets impact engagement, retention, recruitment, and innovation? Why is a strategic and intentional focus on culture essential to your success? How to build an effective recognition strategy?

10:00 - 10:45am

World at Work Panel Presentation

by Alicia Jenkins and Lindsay Strack

Due to a perceived lack of return on investment, recent history shows organizations stepping back from recognition programs. But the tide has turned, and employers once again see the value in these offerings and their ability to attract, retain and motivate the workforce. In this session, presenters Alicia Jenkins and Lindsay Strack share the results of WorldatWork’s latest “Trends in Employee Recognition Survey.” Attendees will hear how employers are using specific types of recognition programs and the effect on the workforce. Learn how the prevalence of recognition programs is changing, and the best ways to invest in workplace culture.

10:45 - 11:15am

Networking Break with Exhibitors

11:15am – 12:00pm

Breakout Session A-Series

A1. Measuring the Value of Employee Recognition
Cord Himelstein, HALO Recognition

HR leaders are frequently asked, what is the ROI of your recognition program? Fortunately, today, there is a breadth of data and ROI analysis available. A session by Cord Himelstein, Vice President of HALO Recognition, will share how to effectively measure recognition programs with the power of data-driven systems. This includes identifying and measuring the key performance indicators (KPIs) of recognition programs and determining how they can be tied to critical business objectives.

A2. 2017 BAE Systems Best Practices Winner Case Study
Dan Stern, BAE Systems

2017 Best Practices winner BAE Systems walks you through how the organization has achieved improved engagement and employee satisfaction every year over a 5-year period. By leveraging mobile technology, strategic communication and data-driven ROI tools, BAE Systems has driven results and gained a seat at the executive leadership level. Come find out how we broke the code.

A4.  Transforming Engagement through Effective Recognition Program Design using RPI Best Practice Standards
Tonda Ferguson, CRP, Southwest Airlines; Ashlee Green, CRP, Verizon Wireless; David Klein, Carnival Cruise Line; Carl Anderson, Delta Air Lines; Theresa Harkins, CRP, Inspirus, LLC

The formula is no secret: Engaged employees are happier, deliver better customer service, and drive business results. Companies today use many engagement strategies to attract and retain talent. Feeling appreciated and receiving recognition for your contributions are top drivers of employee engagement. Recognition Professionals International is the leading organization exclusively focused on recognition innovations and education as a systematic method for improvements in the workplace. RPI s seven best practice standards are based on knowledge gained from academic literature, professional conferences, and shared experiences in developing successful recognition programs. Designed to be useful for the creation and evaluation of recognition programs in the public and private sectors, large and small organizations, and organizations with single or multiple locations or functions. Join us for a panel discussion to learn how leading companies like Delta Air Lines, Carnival Cruise Lines, Southwest Airlines, and Verizon Wireless have designed effective recognition program using RPI s best practice standards. From strategy to design to measurement, the best practice standards provide a step by step framework to ensure a successful program.

12:00pm – 12:15pm


12:15pm – 1:30pm

Awards Luncheon

1:30 - 1:45pm


1:45 - 2:45pm

Breakout Session B-Series

B1. What does Recognition have to do with Workplace Health and Safety?
Theresa Harkins, Inspirus, LLC; Gail Rawlinson, Alberta Health Services; Barbara Ruddy, Department of Economic Securities; Roy Saunderson, Vistance Institute

Do you ever feel intimidated at work? Are you nervous to share your ideas and speak up in a meeting? Many factors can have a negative impact on the physical and mental health of employees. Having a psychologically safe workplace enables people to feel they can value one another and express recognition. Recognizing an employee for their contributions is one way to positively contribute to their well-being.

B2. A.I., Behavior Science and Breaking out of Traditional Recognition Program Design
Chris Dornfeld, Maritz Motivation Solutions

As AI and behavior science begin to transform the employee experience, traditional recognition programs struggle to evolve and engagement remains elusive. Chris Dornfeld, Vice President and GM of Employee Solutions at Maritz, will share thoughts on this exciting transition, lessons learned from some big mistakes in program design, and a framework for thinking beyond the status quo and planning for a technology-driven future.

B3. Maximizing the Impact of Recognition Through Effective Implementation Techniques
Karen Gray, O.C. Tanner Company

You’ve selected your business partner to implement a new appreciation strategy — now what? This course will teach you proven methods to: Identify and engage key stakeholders and required resources; Define the validation and decision-making process to ensure an efficient implementation; Consider organizational priorities and anticipate business requirements; Execute new tools with supporting strategies that will help you measure success; Integrate plans for immediate adoption and long-term cultural change.

2:45 - 3:00pm


3:00 - 4:00pm

Breakout Session C-Series

C1. Improving the Vendor Selection Process
Dr. Bob Nelson, Nelson Motivation Inc.

The RFP (Request For Proposal) process is in need of improvement. Companies lose sight of what they truly want and vendor offerings tend to blur together. Dr. Bob Nelson, the leading advocate for employee recognition shares experiences and recommendations for how companies can best prepare for and navigate the RFP process to better select the best service provider for helping them create a culture of recognition that drives performance and competitive advantage for their organization.

C2. Measurement and Reporting in the Employee Recognition Function at the University of Calgary
Iryna Leonova, The University of Calgary, Elena Rhodes, The University of Calgary

In 2014, understanding the key role recognition plays in employee engagement, the University of Calgary developed a recognition strategy in alignment with its strategic plan. The successful implementation over 2014-2017 involved developing a variety of metrics and KPIs to measure and report the progress of the implementation and its impact. See for more background and attend the session to learn about the metrics and KPIs effectively used in this case.

C3. Linking Rewards and Recognition with Engagement to Improve Employee Well-being
Theresa Harkins, Inspirus, LLC

Engagement and well-being are linked. This session will elicit creative thinking and introduce you to a transformative approach that motivates employees to achieve lasting behavior change, with evidence of how this is already being implemented. You’ll discover that by leveraging recognition and rewards to encourage healthy behaviors — while also empowering employees to choose the path that is right for them — organizations can achieve business goals and improve the quality of life for employees.

4:00 - 5:30pm

Exhibit Showcase Reception

7:00 - 9:30pm

Special Wild Horse Reception

Join us at the world famous Wild Horse Saloon in the heart of honky-tonk central in downtown Nashville for a special networking event in honor of RPI Best Practice #6: Celebrations & Events. RPI conference attendees will take over the entire 3rd Floor of the venue, complete with appetizers, our own private bar, pool tables, giant Scrabble and other activities starting at 7pm. Our entertainment sponsor, The C.A. Short Company has planned a fantastic evening complete with the Nashville Singer/Songwriter experience from local conference favorites Steve Mogck and Traci Snowe (with special guests), leading up to a set by RPI’s very own current Vice President, R Scott Russell who will be opening for country superstar Ty Herndon who will be performing his string of #1 hits and more for the RPI audience. Ty is a Dove Award winner and Grammy nominated artist who garnered five #1 singles, including his smash, “What Mattered Most” and more than 17 top country charting songs throughout his career. He was most recently the host of the Nashville Christmas Parade in 2017. There will also be country line dance lessons for those excited to take to the dance floor for the real Nashville experience. This is the event not to miss and it comes with your conference registration. This event is sponsored by the C.A. Short Company with & Inspirus.

Tuesday, May 1

8:00am – 9:00am

Breakfast and Mug-of-Motivation

with Jason Thomson, Creative Mercenary  

9:00am –10:00am

The Best Team Wins. The New Science of High Performance

by Chester Elton, The Culture Works

A massive shift is taking place in the business world. In today’s average company, up to eighty percent of employees’ days are now spent working in teams. And yet the teams most people find themselves in are nowhere near as effective as they could be. They’re often divided by tensions, if not outright dissension, and dysfunctional teams drain employees’ energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. In this session, proudly sponsored by the Rideau Recognition Solutions Company Chester Elton will share the proven ways managers can build cohesive, productive teams, despite the distractions and challenges every business is facing.

10:00 – 11:00am

Plenary Presentations

by Kimberly Huffman, Dollar General and Dennis Borchers, Tractor Supply Co.

11:00 – 11:30am

Networking Break with Exhibitors

11:30am – 12:15pm

Breakout Session D-Series

D1. Two-year Anniversary: MIT Recognition and Strategic Talent Management
Cori Champagne, MIT

In January 2016, MIT’s RPI-award-winning Recognition program joined three other HR teams to create an integrated Strategic Talent Management Team. What can your organization learn about the intersections of staff recruiting, employee development, and recognition? How have these connected projects changed and re-focused MIT’s recognition program? This presentation will take you into the culture of MIT, the projects underway, and the ways that recognition has grown.

D2. A Roadmap to Recognition: Case Study in Biltmore Rewards
James Robinson-Long, Biltmore Estate & Jeff Ross, CPA, CRP, C.A. Short Company

Join us for the journey as we review with our session attendees how Biltmore created its new and exciting Biltmore Rewards program — complete with the hurdles they faced, the challenges they overcame, and the insights on how they built the best program to drive engagement and recognition. Biltmore Estate is a large private estate and tourist attraction near Asheville, North Carolina. Biltmore House, the main residence, is a Châteauesque-style mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet of floor space. Still owned by George Vanderbilt's descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age. The estate today covers approximately 8,000 acres and is split in half by the French Broad River, overseen by The Biltmore Company, a trust set up by the family. The company is a large enterprise that is one of the largest employers in the Asheville area with more than 3000 employees. Restaurants were opened in 1979 and 1987 as well as four gifts shops in 1993. The former dairy barn was converted into the popular Biltmore Winery in 1985. The AAA four-diamond 210-room Inn on Biltmore Estate opened in 2001, and in 2010, the estate debuted Antler Hill Village, as well as a remodeled winery, and connected farmyard.

D3. Health Care Panel
Amy J. Hurley, Ohio State University – Wexner Medical Center; Susie Lyons, Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Melissa Minkow, St. Joseph's Healthcare System

The healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the U.S economy, while also facing enormous pressures to improve Quality, Safety, and Service. Recruitment and retention efforts are further stressed in the healthcare by the number one reason employees leave: lack of appreciated from their managers. Employees simply do not feel valued. This panel of healthcare professionals will share with you stories, challenges, and best practices from their unique organizations on topics including:

  • The important connection between patient and employee satisfaction
  • The important connection between patient and employee satisfaction
  • Recognizing a diverse population
  • Senior leader support
  • The impact of Patient Experience Improvements with Employee Recognition strategie
  • How has recognition evolved in healthcare over the past 20 years

12:15pm – 12:30pm


12:30pm – 2:00pm

Awards Luncheon & Special Presentation

by the 2017 Best Practice Award Winner: Royal Bank of Canada

2:00 – 2:15pm


2:15 – 3:15pm

Breakout Session E-Series

E1. Rock, Roll & Reinforce: How Music Makes Recognition Memorable
Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

Building on the three-dimensional model of day-to-day, informal and formal recognition, we'll have a rockin' good time translating key concepts into songs that stay with you and solidify your recognition strategy. Music is a time-honored mnemonic device that has helped "sell" everything from cereal to sea cruises. Why not learn how to harness its power for your purposes and have the whole organization singing the praises of your program? It's worked at Disney and RPI award-winning organizations!

E2. From Best Practices to Next Practices
Roy Saunderson, Vistance Institute

Recognition practitioners responsible for managing recognition programs work diligently to incorporate all of RPI’s 7 Best Practice Standards into their strategy and recognition plans. But what is more challenging for you now is the day-to-day operations and implementation of recognition throughout the organization.

  • How can you get leadership commitment?
  • What does it take to get managers to actually use your programs?
  • Why are your recognition programs not producing the metrics you had anticipated?

Too often we seek out other organizations to learn about their best practices. Unfortunately, their best practices started several years ago and there’s no guarantee you could apply them in your company today. What’s needed is an upgrade of your “best practices” to become tomorrow’s “next practices”. Come prepared with your written questions addressing your current needs under any of the 7 Best Practices Standards. Or simply bring along one recognition question or challenge you’re struggling with right now.

E3. Overcoming the Most Common Obstacles to Building a Culture of Appreciation
Dr. Paul White, Appreciation at Work

Moving an organization from negativity or being marginally positive to a culture of appreciation is not easy. Numerous challenges are commonly encountered along the way. Dr. White will share from the research, which identifies the most common obstacles experienced, the dynamics which create those barriers and practical steps for overcoming them — helping your organization continue to move toward building a culture of appreciation.

3:15 – 3:30pm


3:30 – 4:30pm

Ted-Style Talks

We’re all familiar with TED talks, those terrific short speeches that present “Ideas Worth Spreading” in 18 minutes or less. So we decided to close out the 2018 RPI Conference with insights from some of the top names in the recognition profession.  

4:30 – 6:00pm

Closing Reception

Wednesday, May 2

8:00am – 6:00pm

CRP III: Building a Recognition Blueprint*

Scott Russell, CRP, C.A. Short Company


*Separate Fee