OMERS on People Analytics, Peer-to-Peer Recognition, and Reward Choice

October 2, 2018 Sarah Mulcahy

Rahim Bhayani

Are you thinking about updating your recognition program, but not sure where to begin? Why not learn from one of your peers?

We recently sat down with Rahim Bhayani, vice president, total rewards and HR shared services, at OMERS, a Canadian pension plan. While the industry may differ from yours, we talked about common challenges when looking for a recognition partner – from catering to different employee groups to ensuring the user experience is seamless with mobile and single sign-on.

Read the interview below to learn more about why enabling peer-to-peer recognition was so important to OMERS and how Rahim is using the treasure trove of recognition data now at his fingertips.



Globoforce: Can you share a bit about your role at OMERS?

Rahim: I am accountable for designing and delivering a cohesive total rewards program that is employee-focused, globally minded, yet locally relevant – all in aid of ensuring we attract, engage, and motivate global talent to deliver on the OMERS pension promise to our plan members. This program includes “table stakes” like compensation, benefits, and retirement plans, but also employee-focused holistic offerings such as wellness and peer-to-peer recognition to ensure we continue to attract and engage the best talent globally.


Globoforce: Can you tell us more about the different employee groups at OMERS? How do they impact the type of recognition program you need?

Rahim: OMERS has built and nurtured fantastic businesses, from Oxford Properties, our real estate business unit, to capital markets, private equity and infrastructure. We have a wide variety of employee groups and types, from our guest services representatives at one of our many shopping malls, to investment teams that deploy significant capital around the world. It is important for us to not have a “one-size-fits-all” philosophy. In terms of employee recognition, the program needed to appeal to employees at all ages and stages of their career, in a number of business units, in a number of different geographies. I think of it as a global program, made locally relevant.


Globoforce: What did recognition at OMERS look like before you chose Globoforce?

Rahim: Historically, we focused on service recognition anchored around the attribute of longevity. That was pretty typical in the industry a few years ago – the proverbial gold watch at 25 years of service. Inherently, we always provided ad hoc performance-based recognition, but it wasn’t necessarily tied together in a cohesive way. We knew we needed to provide more meaningful and more frequent recognition for daily contributions that employees make and that sometimes get forgotten in the span of time.


Globoforce: Being in the finance sector, were there special considerations when choosing a recognition program and partner?

Rahim: Being a global investment manager, we have a very sophisticated employee base. They are analytical by nature and expect flawless execution. We needed a partner that could deliver a beautiful, single-sign-on, mobile-enabled experience for our employees. We also needed a partner who understood sense of urgency and could work through different time zones with ease. Happy to say that the end product matched our ambition and desires!


Globoforce: Why did you choose Globoforce?

Rahim: The two areas where we felt that Globoforce really stood out from competitors was the digital platform and a philosophy anchored in making work more human – emotionally connecting with our employees as fellow humans on a shared journey. Globoforce viewed recognition as way more than gift fulfillment. We felt Globoforce viewed recognition as critical to the overall employee engagement agenda and that makes us perfect partners as we deeply believe in that philosophy.


Globoforce: How did you get executive buy-in for the program?

Rahim: Our talent attraction and engagement agenda is top of mind for our senior executives and our board, so buy-in was straightforward, championed fully by our chief executive officer and chief people officer. For a global investment manager like OMERS to drive a winning culture, it is critical to have the best people. We view recognition as part of our holistic total rewards strategy, where we go beyond the table stakes of compensation, benefits, and retirement plans to holistic programs that emotionally connect employees to OMERS. It’s a “head and heart” approach. Gaining executive buy-in was the easy part. Creating a program that matched our very high ambition was where we spent a lot of energy.


Globoforce: Why was peer-to-peer recognition so important to OMERS?

Rahim: We see peer-to-peer recognition as an opportunity to continue to drive a vibrant, employee-focused culture. Historically, recognition came from the top down, which was fairly standard practice in the industry. But in the age of crowdsourcing, employee empowerment, and low bureaucracy, it just felt right to let our employees recognize each other and take a shared accountability in driving our culture forward. The fact that we have made it a peer-to-peer program is mainly why it is so successful. It’s less about approvals and more about people feeling empowered to recognize colleagues for a great job!


Globoforce: How is your team leveraging recognition data?

Rahim: We have created really impactful dashboards to take advantage of the rich data that we get from each recognition moment. The way we look at it, each recognition moment produces 15–20 pieces of rich data and over the course of a year. That’s approximately 20,000 data points, which is fertile ground for deep people analytics. As an example, one of our cultural goals is more cross-business unit collaboration. Theoretically, if that is happening and people are appreciating each other more, it should show up as recognition moments delivered across business units. So we measure and map that out and look at trends to see if that is increasing over time. We intend to enhance our people analytics capabilities over the next year or two to take better advantage of the data coming out of our recognition program.


Globoforce: What’s next for Spotlight? How do you see the program growing and evolving?

Rahim: We see the program evolving in several ways – the biggest this year will be service recognition through the platform and a further exploration of video. We started playing with video for a couple of employee retirements. They were hugely emotional for the recipients as well as the people contributing to the videos. They are becoming a beautiful shared human experience in and of themselves!


Globoforce: How have employees responded to Spotlight? Has there been a culture shift?

Rahim: Big response to Spotlight, our peer-to-peer recognition program. We feel the biggest cultural shift we have seen is empowering employees to make decisions without bureaucracy or multiple layers of approvals. This builds trust within the organization and will pay dividends long into the future!

About the Author

Sarah Mulcahy

Sarah is senior content marketing manager at Workhuman. When not writing and reading about all things culture, leadership, recognition, and appreciation, she enjoys iced coffee, running, and spending time with her daughters, Mabel and Eva.

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