Expert Speak With Ms. Shanta Vallury Gandhi, Head HR, CSR and Internal Branding at RBL Bank

Ms. Shanta Vallury Gandhi, Head HR, CSR and Internal Branding at RBL Bank, speaks to the Confluence team on talent management, talent pool and more.

About Shanta

Ms. Shanta Vallury Gandhi, brings with her over 26 years of experience in the financial services sector. She joined the Bank in 2010 and is part of the core transformational team of RBL Bank. In her previous role, she was managing Retail Branch Banking and distribution for The Bank. Prior to joining RBL Bank, Ms. Gandhi was Vice President, Acquisitions and Partnerships with American Express in Gurgaon. She devoted almost 10 years to ICICI Bank prior to that from 1999 to 2008 where she was managing multiple roles.

Ms. Vallury has a Masters in Marketing Management and a Masters in Economics from the University of Mumbai. A go-getter who believes that to achieve something in life just luck will not do; you definitely need to work hard. Never compromise your integrity and be a great team player, success will be at your feet. 

What is the importance of talent management in an organization?

We use the nine-box principles of talent management which have been tried and tested in the banking and financial services over decades. All these tools were best suited in a rising economy.  Now with the economy not doing so well, we need to add behavioral characteristics to it. 

Also, there is an acceptance that everything you do in life is not growth led. It’s also about consolidating, stabilizing process and management. So most talent sitting in roles in multiple banks includes people who came in the growth era, they specialized in a particular vertical, say Branch Banking. So, if you’re a branch manager, you become a cluster manager; zonal manager would have become branch banking head for a large private sector bank. So when you bring them to pure nine box, you know what they will contribute to an organization. 

So first talent management has to be linked to the strategy of the organization –where we are, what we want to do and where we want to grow. If the company is evolving and has a strategy with the changing times, then your talent management will take a different path. Second, we believe that ‘you catch them young, you get them big,’ but certain areas like risk, credit, compliance, regulatory framework and experience also matters. 

Another aspect of talent management is, are we today aware of what are the latest tools for assessing talent? Because every person, every company that you talk to, still believes in practices like self-tools. Only a 360-degree assessment will give you a complete understanding of what and who you really are. That is also assuming that the people who are assessing you are not just your friends but they’re a neutral body. So talent management needs to have a complete relook to really get the most from the employees for the organization, but in the changing strategy of the bank, even the existing talent needs to be relooked and reworked.

How does learning and developing impact this Talent pool? 

There are 2 legs to it,  it depends on our balance system. When we started, we would have looked at typical entrepreneurs, people who fold up their sleeves and just get to the ground and float with it. Such people are great when it comes to innovation, trying new things, getting things done at any cost. However, when you are in an environment that is process-oriented, these loyalists may not be the right people to continue your next journey. So you may have to build that talent from some other loyalist in the organization, I strongly believe that in an organization you need to have 20% of loyalists because they are your culture anchors. At the end of the day, they know who you are, what you are, how do you navigate! 

For me personally, learning agility is the key to the future of HR. Your employees need to have learning agility. Given a choice between doing learning intervention through a standardized model, and putting the guy on the job and testing him, I would go with the second option — put him on the job, check his learning agility, set him up for success, make him the talent of the future. I would put a lot of emphasis on ability, aspiration, learning agility and EQ. An employee becomes a valuable asset if he possesses these four qualities. EQ  and aspiration cannot be learned while technical ability can be acquired. In isolation, the technical ability will not help to become successful considering the growing needs of the economy and changing situation. 

When you acquire talent, do you look at experience and culture or both go together? What is the ideal way of looking at it?

I experimented with the behavioral event interview (BEI) form of interviewing. It may sound like a jargon but it uses something called a star, which is basically a situation, task, action, and results. So when you discuss with somebody, you notice his actions when he’s talking to you. You notice the number of times he says the word ‘I’ and you know that this guy doesn’t fit into my behavioral criteria. 

Personally, if I look at it, I would give more marks to behavior over technical competencies because attitude matters. If you have your attitude right, everything else will navigate. I mean, all of us have had enough experiences to prove that attitude matters. 


Do you see technology impacting talent acquisition/HR Operations in a big way going forward?

Completely! Technology is the only enabler for me for talent acquisition. Talent acquisition tools like Oracle fusion, Taleo are available and are immensely popular. Most companies use Taleo after they have identified a potential candidate for a particular role. It’s about how we as HR would like to use it. 

For example, If a candidate applies for the job of a computer analyst in an organisation and their skill set also mentions that he/she is a data scientist. 

He/ she might get rejected for the existing role, but their name will remain in the database forever. When you do a keyword search, you should be able to pick up profiles that are available in the pool of talent. So does it work as a tool? Completely. This is one area where technology definitely matters. 

Second is the simplicity of making it to hire a particular person. So, we use analytics to say if a guy is likely to succeed in RBL bank.  You’d be able to read it through his CV and know that this guy fits the role. It depends on how much we are able to use our last data to bring in the right kind of candidate for the right kind of job so that we interview a lesser number of people. 

The third one is you have an opportunity today to do a video recording of interviews. You can use technology to actually reach the candidate and not have them fly down, so your cost of acquisition actually comes down. Honestly, without technology-enabled talent acquisition, we would still be working on the age-old practices of RPO, mass hiring, etc 

No amount of data is good enough. Today I may have about 7500 employees, but my scroll is running at about 18000. That means I had a database of 12,000 – 13,000 people that have moved out in whichever form from the bank. That’s alumni data, which probably today I need in my growing stage. At that point, it was not useful but at this point, it is very useful. How do they get back to me? Only technology could have done that. I think it’s about how you look at them as enablers. They are partners. Without them, you know, things are not moving. 

The other area is Chatbot. We tied up with somebody where we’re doing a pilot project only to understand what is my employee asking me. So I just want to ask him three questions. What went well? What do you think we could have done better and what did you really like? What do you think we should not have done at all? If I ask three questions, I will know the pulse of my organisation and get a response from remote locations. 


What support does the organization give to employees looking for a change?

We have something called an internal job post. When we make an internal job posting and the applicant is a  frontline employee, I’m already aware that they can only do one branch banking job. I have got 30 cluster heads and five zonal heads but only one guy is going to become branch banking head. I open an internal job posting to look for a risk head. 

People are responsible for their own career – they need to skill themselves through classrooms or through a job. 

In the future, more emphasis will be given to qualities like emotional quotient and empathy. Till recently it was always IQ. Now it’s all about EQ. This comes from the manufacturing era where we said that salaries are liabilities for the business. Human beings were always looked at as a liability. Today human beings are an asset. If you don’t have good people, nothing’s going to happen. You may have the greatest technology, greatest resources, everything, but at the end of the day, if you don’t have good people, you’re not moving the needle.