by Incentive Staff | November 21, 2017

CEO and Director, HALO Branded Solutions

As a recent IRF study pointed out, far more companies of all sizes have relationships with promotional products distributors than they do with national marketing organizations and distributors of name-brand merchandise awards. Which is why the purchase this year of nearly 50-year-old Michael C. Fina Recognition by HALO Branded Solutions, one of the largest promotional products firms in the country, could make 2017 a turning point for the recognition and rewards business. With Fina renamed HALO Recognition, the acquisition "put many key operational elements in place to become a truly comprehensive and universal recognition and rewards provider," says Simon. By leveraging its existing contacts, the HALO acquisition has the potential to dramatically increase the market for brand-name merchandise awards.

The time is ripe because an increasingly mobile and remote workforce is boosting the need for incentives and recognition programs that "engage employees through multiple channels across large networks," says Simon. "Incentives and recognition used to be two separate things, but are becoming one as these technology platforms are now widely available and companies look to consolidate their efforts."

Rhea Stagner

Division Vice President, Sourcing and Supplier Relations, Maritz Travel -- A Maritz Global Events Company; SITE Foundation President 2017

Stagner's substantial title at Maritz Travel doesn't even cover all of her roles at the leading event management company, where she also supervises sales support and business intelligence. As president of the SITE Foundation, she has overseen growth in both the quality and breadth of its research and education. Along with its premiere SITE Index, the organization also completed a job study, created the new content and case study hub "Motivate," and is rolling out a new advanced industry certification, the CITE. Beyond that, Stagner is co-founder of a new organization called The Above and Beyond Foundation (, which was created to recognize and reward people employed in the hospitality industry.

Looking at 2018, Stagner wants to get TAABF partnered up with other industry organizations and will be involved in implementing the new organizational structure of SITE and the SITE Foundation. Like other individuals on this list, Stagner sees 2018 as a year in which the impact of ongoing industry consolidation will be an even bigger challenge. "With air, it made pricing less competitive and some could argue it has decreased the level of service," she says. And with hotel consolidation and venture capital investment in DMCs, size and relationships with supplier partners "will be key to ensure the best experience we can for our clients."

Donna St. Louis

Service Award Enterprise Administrator, The Boeing Company

This has been a busy year for St Louis as she has worked to improve Boeing's employee recognition experience through improved customer service, a redesigned recognition platform, and continual process improvement. She has become a member of the Recognition Professionals Board of Directors, co-chair of the Recognition Professionals International (RPI) Nominating Committee, participated on a Request for Proposal (RFP) Panel as a practitioner at the RPI Conference, and contributed input and ideas, along with other board members, to a strategic action planning session.
In the future, she plans to be a co-chair of Best Practice Awards for Recognition Professionals International (RPI) and to continue working as a member of the RPI Board of Directors. She will also continue working to improve the recognition culture and to drive engagement at Boeing.

Looking at the incentive industry as a whole, she says companies want to save money while at the same time continuing to recognize their employees. There will continue to be increased demand for non-cash rewards and recognition, she adds.

Assistant Vice President, Director of Meetings and Events, Voya Financial

In 2017, Stern was tasked with bringing seven different distribution channels together for an inaugural One Voya meeting. Previously, the sales meetings were held on different dates and in different cities. Orchestrating one combined meeting and leading her team in planning for the pre- and the post-meetings, was the kind of puzzle that Stern enjoys doing in her job at Voya Financial.

"More and more we are combining meetings and incentives; bringing attendees across divisions to network together and build on best practices. It's not just happening at Voya Financial, it's across the industry," she says.

University Curriculum Advisor, Former Chief Research Officer, Incentive Research Foundation

Having overseen the IRF's research for a decade, Stotz has been central to making the organization what it is, and paving the way for its continuing growth in research output with the goal of incorporating material on non-cash awards into hospitality and business schools' curriculum. Under his guidance, the IRF has converted research into valid, actionable insights for the industry and business community, through white papers, infographics, webinars, social media, and more. For example, recently the IRF supported a new Meetings, Events, and Incentive Travel certificate program at the University of South Carolina. Stotz has helped expand its Academic Network to include more than 50 academics, and it is now deepening its study of international programs.

More broadly, Stotz has championed the use of credible, objective research in the industry for years, and his success in pushing for this can be seen in the wealth of studies that have been conducted and published beyond the IRF itself. Over the past decade, the incentive industry has seen significant growth in the demand for data to back up claims about how rewards and recognition impact motivation and performance.

President, Incentive Research Foundation

Over the past eight years at the helm of the IRF, Van Dyke has helped to triple the organization's footprint in terms of education and research. She has worked to make it the go-to resource for actionable research, and the IRF continues to follow its "Vision2020" mission to guide the industry with education through "unity, universal resources, and university efforts," as Van Dyke puts it. The effort has led to an expansion of the organization's relationships with almost 40 partners and a current pipeline of 17 ongoing research projects as well as the launch of a new series of university research grants, and will be introducing five "Signature Studies" next year.

This year, Van Dyke oversaw the inaugural Leadership Insights Forum, and next year will be at the center of things as IRF celebrates its 25th annual Education Invitational at The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun, in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Director of Corporate Travel, Meetings & Events, Mutual of Omaha; Past Chairman, FICP; Member, IRF Board of Trustees

Zint has been successful leading high-performing teams, maximizing strategic meeting management initiatives and implementing "high-touch" experiential events throughout his career. He is an active member with the IRF, serving on the Invitational committee, which has contributed to increased attendee participation and revenue for the foundation. He also actively participates on industry panels and regularly contributes industry articles that offer actionable insights. "The event industry continues to evolve and requires the patience and fortitude for ongoing listening, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing," says Zint.  

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This article appears in the November/December 2017 issue of Incentive.