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2019 Total Rewards Conference Recap

#TR19 Delivers an Authentic Experience to People from All Walks of Life

The inclusive WorldatWork community proved in May that highly committed and dedicated professionals still very much appreciate the impact of an in-person experience, especially when it’s chock-full of networking, education and vibrant social activities.

From a three-day itinerary of workshops and interactive sessions to a wide selection of eats and drinks, the 2019 WorldatWork Total Rewards Conference & Exhibition (#TR19) in Orlando accommodated nearly 2,000 individuals from 20 countries.

Keynote speaker Chris “Bash” Bashinelli kicked things off on a high note with a speech that challenged the audience to be present and “authentic” in everyday conversations. He encouraged attendees to connect with people of all backgrounds and ethnicities by conveying to them that “this person has my best interest in mind.”

“The only way employees will share with you is if they feel comfortable with you,” he said.

This sentiment aligned with the message of WorldatWork CEO Scott Cawood, who told Bashinelli during the on-site WorldatWork podcast, Work in Progress, that the main responsibility of total rewards professionals is to “empower people to be their best.”

A Time To Shine: Local Networks Lauded at #TR19

WorldatWork held its annual Local Network Leadership Conference on May 5 in Orlando, just ahead of #TR19.

As part of the Local Network event, WorldatWork honored those associations that had demonstrated excellence in one of the following categories: advancement of the profession, professional development of members, member engagement, community involvement and operation of a professional association. Additionally, the network that demonstrated excellence in all of those areas was awarded the Local Network of the Year award, while a new honor was bestowed upon a network that showed tremendous resilience and promise. And the Outstanding Star winners are…

Local Network of the Year: Greater Toronto Area Rewards Association

The Greater Toronto Area Rewards Association (GTARA) was selected as the year’s top network for their overall excellence. Some highlights of their 2018 program included:

  • Outreach to local universities to educate and promote careers in total rewards to post-secondary level students (undergraduate through master’s-level).
  • A membership engagement survey to ensure members were receiving what they needed/wanted from the association.
  • Succession planning for its board of directors.
  • A corporate membership engagement program that helped increase engagement by 40%.

Advancement of the Profession: Total Rewards PDX

Total Rewards PDX (TRPDX), formerly known as Columbia Willamette Compensation Group, grabbed the Advancement of the Profession award as the association sought to expand from its compensation roots into the total rewards space. To that end, it increased the number of events and meetings it hosted, including practical, hands-on Excel training taught by one of the group’s own board members. The network also held a full day total rewards conference that included separate tracks for compensation, benefits and total rewards professionals. TRPDX also started an outreach program at Portland State University to teach students about the total rewards profession. That program included guest lectures from members of the association.

Professional Development of Members: Rocky Mountain Total Rewards Association

The Rocky Mountain Total Rewards

Association went home with the Professional Development of Members award for its succession planning/nomination selection strategy. Future board members are sourced from chair positions across all board functions. As chairs emerge as future leaders, they are paired with current board members that act as leadership mentors. The association also conducts a Strengths Finders Assessment for all officers, which provides awareness for individual officers on where their talents lie and gives other members insight into who excels at what, thereby enhancing teamwork.

“ We knew what the community was hungry for. We felt strongly that this program would include all levels of an organization and really help get them engaged.” — Marlene Rogers, TRASF

Member Engagement: The Columbus Compensation Association

The Columbus Compensation Association won the Member Engagement award for their stellar program aimed at attracting new members, while also engaging existing members. Some highlights include:

  • Creating a pricing structure that is not only affordable at $75 per member, but also includes a breakfast bar and/or hors d’ouevres (depending on when the meeting is held).
  • An association newsletter that includes a CCA Member Spotlight section for introducing new members or engaging existing members.
  • Providing members with advance copies of speaker presentations in order to anticipate member requests. The presentations are released just one day ahead of time in an effort to encourage members to attend.

Community Involvement: Total Rewards Kansas City

A previous Local Network of the Year award winner, Total Rewards Kansas City earned the Community Involvement award for its work within its community. That included:Partnering with Connections to Success, an organization that provides a comprehensive network of services and support to help people living in poverty become economically self-sufficient.

  • Increasing outreach for sponsorships and partnerships with other local organizations. Part of that effort is aimed at having each meeting sponsored.
  • Reaching out to local “Best Places to Work,” touring their locations and discussing that makes them “the best.”
  • Continuing an outreach program to local colleges, providing a college student membership price and meetings close to local campuses.

Operation of a Professional Association: Houston Compensation & Benefits

Houston Compensation & Benefits was in the red in 2017. By the end of 2018, it was well in the black, due in part to a higher-than expected number of sponsorships, and in part to a total rewards summit that the organization hosted. Other highlights include:

  • Creating a corporate membership where three to five people could sign up under one corporate membership.
  • Introducing “table topics” at Happy Hour events. A list of pre-planned total rewards-related topics would be set at each table and a table moderator would facilitate discussions on those topics.

On that last point, Robert Pesch, past president of the association, noted that the group’s Happy Hour events “were dying.” With little detail as to the agenda of each event, the Happy Hours were seen more as networking opportunities, which tend to only bring in people who are looking for new opportunities.

“But if people are interested in those table topics, they will show up,” Pesch said.


Honorable Mention: Total Rewards Association of South Florida

Just three years ago, the Total Rewards Association of South Florida (TRASF) was struggling to stay open. Membership, which at the time was focused on Broward County, had fallen significantly. But after attending a WorldatWork Total Rewards conference, the network decided it was time to take action. In 2018, it rebranded and expanded its reach to the Tri-County area, which added Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties to the mix. It added programming in compensation, benefits and wellness. The crowning achievement, however, was the association’s first Total Rewards Conference in 2018. The event was considered a success and drove membership from a mere four members to over 150.

“With so many talented networks out there that have been doing this longer than us, we were taken aback [at the award, which is the first of its kind],” said Marlene Rogers, president-elect. “But we knew what the community was hungry for. We felt strongly that this program would include all levels of an organization and really help them get engaged.”

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