Conference Details

The RCIO 2018 conference will take place from Friday afternoon, October 26 through Saturday, October 27, 2018. All conference sessions are hosted in the University Center at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Questions? Contact Dr. Chris Cunningham via email at or by phone at 423-425-4264.

Conference Schedule

NOTE: The schedule for 2018 will not be finalized until late Summer 2018. Below is the schedule from RCIO 2017, to give you an idea of how this conference is structured each year.

Friday afternoon - free student-focused sessions

Note: Free parking in UTC Lot 10 from 12:00 - 5:00 pm 

Sessions held in the UTC University Center, Raccoon Mountain Room

Presenters: Dr. Chris Cunningham, Dr. Alex Zelin, Dr. Jacqui Bergman, and other guests

  • 2:30 - 3:25 PM, Taking your education to the next level: getting into graduate school

  • 3:30 - 4:20 PM, So you want to get a job with a psychology major 


  • 7:00 - 9:00 PM,  Student social and networking event
    • Big River Grille & Brewing Works
    • 222 Broad Street, Downtown Chattanooga
    • Ask for the CHAIOP/RCIO group and have fun 

Saturday (full-day; registration required)

8:00 AM, Registration Opens (by UC Auditorium). Light refreshments.


8:45 - 8:55 AM, Welcome Address (UC Auditorium)


9:00 - 9:55 AM, Keynote address (UC Auditorium)

Awareness of the importance of culture is growing at a fast rate but there is no consistent understanding about how to effectively evolve culture with a direct and sustainable impact on performance.  This awareness-understanding gap helps to explain why most organizations report they don’t understand their culture and believe change is needed. Culture crises (Uber, etc.) gain widespread exposure and superficial tips and keys dominate the popular press. Leaders and change agents often feel lost in the wilderness as they try to piece together improvements that will impact culture.

This will likely be the most performance-focused culture educational session you have experienced.  The foundation is a series of insights about culture, climate and culture change from some of the top workplace culture pioneers in history. These insights are not widely understood and they are integrated in visual tools, flow charts, timelines and examples to accelerate learning regarding this important topic.  

You will learn a general framework for

  • Combining qualitative and quantitative methods to understand the current culture, climate and impact on outcomes
  • Engaging leadership and team members in improvement efforts
  • Techniques to sequence, prioritize, and phase improvement efforts to build momentum, deliver initial results, and sustain change efforts

The session will also include a discussion about common obstacles and how to overcome them with a focus on shared learning as part of a phased improvement approach.

10:00 - 10:55 AM, Poster Session (UC Tennessee Room)


11:00 - 12:00, Presentation Session One (various rooms)

Diversity management is both a strategy and a capability. Properly executed, managing diversity can add tangibly to the performance of teams. Without proper management, diversity can result in lower performance. Unfortunately, most if not all businesses that invest in diversity efforts fail to realize any business benefit from their investment. Based on current research efforts, there are simple and effective methods available that can help organizations realize the promise of diversity management. Among these tools are improved management skills at the line manager level, better metrics, experimentation, and sustainability.

After 30 years as a leading practitioner in the field of diversity management, I am currently involved in scholarly research on the subjects of diversity, management and team performance. That research has revealed some clues about why companies continue to promote diversity despite the lack of evidence that it improves performance. It also is uncovering what line managers think is necessary to improve performance using diversity management as a catalyst and management discipline.

In this session, you will learn:

  • The history, intent, and evolution of the diversity management movement.
  • The role of diversity management as a strategy and capability.
  • How to conduct a demonstration project (beta test) to confirm the efficacy of diversity management.

Big data and analytics has been recognized as fundamental to an organization’s success has consistently identified as one of top 10 workforce trends in recent years.  One of the final steps in an analytics or applied research project is deployment where a solution is integrated into business practices.  Without cultural acceptance, however, organizations risk missing out on the full impact that data and evidence-based practices can deliver.  Even with data and analytics solutions deployed in business procedures, employees may still make decisions based on hunches and instinct.  In order to harness the full potential of data analytics, organizations need to develop a culture that moves from “What do we think?” to “What do we know?”.  However, cultural change can be one of the most difficult things to affect in an organization and transitioning to a data-driven culture has numerous challenges.  Presenters will discuss strategies for gaining organizational commitment to data-driven decision-making, by increasing employee understanding of the value of evidence-based practices, and how data and analytics can be applied to decision-making. 

12:10 - 1:20 PM, Lunch & Discussion (UC Chattanooga Room)


1:30 - 2:30 PM, Presentation Session Two (various rooms)

The future is an opportunity for companies and people to grow and thrive.    A culture that embraces change, responds quickly to changing needs, and connects everyone as business owners is an exciting future for companies, employees and our world.  In this culture leaders learn to unleash the potential in everyone to solve problems never solved before. The opportunity for positive impact goes far beyond our daily work. It spills into every area of our lives.

Performance metrics and engagement only put you in line for this door to the future. The door can get locked when organizations become lulled into thinking “good-enough” by focusing only on these indicators. Culture work can be seen as separate “other work” set aside when business demands increase and any improvement achieved gets lost being perceived not relevant to achieving business objectives.

Creating a context for culture work is powerful. By orienting culture work to key business priorities it makes it “the work”. Having the context enables effective doing/not-doing choices allowing pace to the journey by focusing precious limited resources on what is most important. The question is not “what can we do?”… the question is “what must we do?”

Sharing from an Operations perspective… In this session you will see:

  • How strategy deployment can enable an organization to orient culture work to key priorities.
  • Why the process of strategy deployment alone is not sufficient; it only creates the context for culture work.
  • How to begin shifting behaviors by practicing with an effective strategic context in place. 

Organizations that promote a culture of learning and development among their employees are more likely to adapt and remain afloat in the turbulent environment in which most business are facing today. This symposium will discuss how assessing employee performance using varied methods and at different times can help to create culture change over time. The symposium will address the implementation of these methods as well as help practitioners to better understand the implications of changing assessment scores form time-one to time-two. The symposium will address the processes and the obstacles involved with using individual assessments to create long term change in the learning and development aspects of an organization’s culture.

A recent focal article submitted by Cortina et al. (2017) to the Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice journal discusses the need for workplace literature to move away from victim precipitation. Essentially, we as I-O Psychologists need to follow the path of researchers in areas such as criminology and stop placing blame on the victims for being recipients of certain behaviors. The problem with this sentiment is that if we do not measure others’ perceptions of victim behavior in our research we are effectively ignoring the realities of workplace culture, especially when it comes to sexual harassment and sexual assault. As is, our culture perpetuates the ideations of a “rape culture” in that gender-based and sexual harassment are often ignored or excused, and women are considered at fault for being victimized (e.g., “Did you see what she was wearing?”).

Much of my research and applied work on this topic focuses on dispelling the rape myth ideology that exists on college campuses in three ways: debunking rape myths, teaching students how to be empowered bystanders, and challenging the presence of a rape culture. This session will focus on applying these principles to workplace culture to be welcoming for women of all backgrounds. By making this culture change we really can leave behind the premise of victim blaming.

In this session, you will learn:

  • How to be an empowered bystander when witnessing sexual harassment/sexual assault
  • How to challenge the presence of a rape culture

2:40 - 3:40 PM, Something Completely Different Session (UC Auditorium)

Stories shared either publicly or privately within work environments influence schemata that in turn can affect employee performance. These myriad stories may include how a problem was solved, how productivity was increased on a particular task, or in less positive instances whom is to blame for an unmet expectation. Such stories may also serve to illustrate how and why employees find meaning in their work and/or the broader organization and its mission. This presentation will begin by exploring academic research regarding how the culmination of these stories about the past, present, and future predictions can shape both positive and negative attitudes and beliefs that shape the “culture,” and therefore the desired KPIs, of an organization.

Next, challenges will be explored beginning with how management sometimes lacks a holistic awareness of what stories are being told that make up the authentic culture. Instead, in an effort to foster peak performance, a counter-productive and autocratic approach is commonplace where values are disseminated regardless of input from employees, stakeholders, or outside research findings. This comes at opportunity cost as well and in other cases a direct financial cost as well.

Chris Cummings, CEO and Alex Lavidge from Pass It Down, an award-winning Chattanooga-based storytelling agency offering internet-based storytelling-software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, propose that by collecting stories from employees both anonymously and through multimedia online around specific questions, time and money can be saved when compared to lengthy interviews or relying on online surveys. From there, the outcome from presenting these stories using established story arc templates includes a variety of benefits that can both theorized as well as measured for enhancing the workplace in both tangible and intangible ways. 

Cummings and Lavidge will present a framework for compartmentalizing subcategories of knowledge transfer for companies and organizations as well as different metrics for how the costs of storytelling might be justified. This session will end with an interactive and audience-involved discussion about the themes covered in this presentation.

3:50 - 4:30 PM, Poster awards & Wrap-up panel discussion, all conference presenters (UC Auditorium)


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