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About RPI

We make thanks matter

Recognition Professionals International is the only professional association at the forefront of workforce recognition through its sole focus on recognition innovations and education as a systematic method for improvements in the workplace.


RPI is a non-profit association for HR practitioners and business professionals who are committed to the art and science of employee recognition.

Our mission is to enhance organizational performance through employee recognition by:

  • providing access to best practice standards, education, research, and the exchange of ideas,
  • creating opportunities for our diverse membership to grow professionally, and
  • advocating recognition and engagement strategies as a means to promote organizational excellence.

Our Story:

RPI was born out of frustration. In April 1995, Debbie Patrick of AT&T Universal Card and Rafik Bishara of Eli Lily Pharmaceuticals set out for a performance management conference. To their mutual disappoint, they were met with only a few breakout rudimentary sessions devoted to recognition.

Not to be thwarted, they joined forces and decided to create their own “sharing conference.” In September 1995, colleagues were invited to Jacksonville for a daylong event designed to provide expert advice, intensive networking and a chance to see recognition in action. The new manager for Cast Recognition at the Walt Disney World Resort, Dee Hansford was so inspired by the event that she hosted next sharing conference. What followed were events hosted by Kathe Farris of BankBoston, Pamela Sabin of Chevron and in 1997 the Incentive Automation hosted the first “conference style” event with keynote speakers and breakout sessions. It was at this conference that RPI’s board of directors began to form. By then, the number of attendees was growing and represented private and public sector organizations as well as a healthy contingent of service providers.

As the organization started to take shape, three companies (Sears, BI, and the O.C. Tanner Company) made significant financial contributions and became the original Platinum (Founding) sponsors of RPI. In 1998, RPI was officially founded with the first conference held in Atlanta, GA.

Word spread like wildfire that there was now a resource for the growing number of recognition professionals who were struggling to retain and motivate an increasingly fluid workforce. In just a few short years, RPI grew into the powerhouse association it still is today.

Now, RPI is the only professional association at the forefront of workforce recognition through its sole focus on recognition innovations and education as a systematic method for improvements in the workplace. RPI is endorsed by top authorities in the industry, has an impressive membership of Fortune 500 organizations and is the only association offering Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) courses. As advocates for positive employee experiences that foster engagement, we share best practices, and provide tools, strategies, thought leadership, education and professional certification.

Become a Member of RPI