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by Alex Palmer | October 15, 2015
Recognition Professionals International (RPI) has announced plans to bolster the offerings at its annual RPI Summit, bringing new speakers and educational offerings to the 2016 event. Taking place Jan. 9-13, 2016 "The Recognition Experience" will be held in Las Vegas at The Mandalay Bay Hotel, with an extensive lineup of incentive experts and planners from a number of industries. Incentive caught up with Kevin Cronin, Co-Chair of the 2016 RPI Summit and member of the board of directors of RPI, to discuss what attendees can expect from this year's show, whatever their level of experience in the industry.

Incentive Magazine: What would you say are the overall themes of the show this year?

Kevin Cronin: Why employee recognition matters and how to plan and implement meaningful programs to drive success. 

We know through formal studies and unofficial data that all companies benefit when employee morale is high. When employees feel appreciated it leads to increased engagement, productivity, and improved customer service. And, when companies train their executives, supervisors, managers, and any staffer who has direct reports, with the proper way to communicate "thanks" for a job well done -- this has a positive result in employee attitudes which increases productivity, engagement and retention while reducing turnover, absenteeism, and distracted employees. 

The 2016 RPI Summit "The Recognition Experience," will be tremendously valuable for companies looking to build a culture of recognition. Because while it is easy to use existing procedures and goals as a guide to create recognition tools and events -- serious recognition programs must be constantly evolving with new, relevant ideas and direction while keeping managers trained on what it means to show appreciation. 

Incentive: What are some of the things that are different about this year's RPI Conference compared to years past? 

Cronin: RPI conferences have always had strength in networking, which has been important because recognition is an entirely human experience so the ability to connect with people who deliver those experiences is valuable. For 2016, we have four spectacular keynotes at the beginning, middle, and closing of the summit and the breakout sessions are particularly strong this year -- going beyond in practical information and conference excitement. 

First, we have Dr. Paul White, co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Then we will have a series of practitioners from major corporations, educational institutions, and SMBs sharing their success and knowledge on employee recognition programs including Wells Fargo, IBM, Southwest Airlines, Monmouth University, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, CARE.com, and R Squared Resources, and more. There will also be a series of presentations from leading formidable providers in the employee recognition industry sharing trends and tips on implementation and budgets. 

Next is Ginger Hardage, SVP of culture and communications of Southwest Airlines Co. The company is a perpetual standout on Fortune's Top 10 "Most Admired Companies in the World" and Ginger oversees the activities that nourish that culture. She will discuss their employee recognition programs which align with the company purpose, vision, values, and mission. We also have O.C. Tanner Company EVP David Sturt, the author of the recent New York Times bestseller, Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love. He was born in England, raised in South Africa, educated in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific, and has a passion for doing things that make a difference.

Wrapping up will be a final keynote and singing performance by American Idol Season 6 Top 3 Finalist, Melinda Doolittle. This will surprise many but once they hear Melinda Doolittle speak (and sing) her presence and participation will be quickly understood. She is both a magnificent vocalist and an inspirational person with her life story. 
 
Incentive: Beyond the speakers, what are some other offerings at this year's summit?

Cronin: All attendees of "The Recognition Experience" will also be eligible to walk the PPAI Brand Show Floor and attend their general session, which has speaker Seth Godin -- author of 18 bestsellers including Purple Cow and The Dip, and has been inducted in the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. RPI registrants will not earn CEUs from this event, but it will be convenient for them to attend as it takes place at the same location of the RPI Summit in the Mandalay Bay Hotel on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016 from 8:30-9:50 a.m.  

Quite simply, the 2016 RPI Summit "The Recognition Experience" will showcase the RPI mission by presenting sessions that enhance organizational performance through workforce recognition by 1) providing access to best practice standards, education, research, and the exchange of ideas; 2) creating opportunities for our diverse membership to grow professionally; and 3) advocating recognition and engagement strategies as a means to promote organizational excellence.