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Officers of the central bank have written to RBI governor Shaktikanta Das on 25 June, seeking his intervention into the matter. (Photo: Mint)
Officers of the central bank have written to RBI governor Shaktikanta Das on 25 June, seeking his intervention into the matter. (Photo: Mint)

At RBI, the bell curve is being seen as counterproductive

  • Introduced during the tenure of erstwhile governor Raghuram Rajan, the bell curve is causing delays in appraisals
  • The bell curve methodology is more suited for appraising employees in sales function who have specific targets to meet and it does not work in a central bank, said an official

MUMBA : There is disquiet in the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ranks over the central bank's adopted promotion policies. The bone of contention is bell curve, a common statistical tool once used by many companies to assess productivity and performance, with RBI officers demanding a relook at the process.

Introduced during the tenure of erstwhile governor Raghuram Rajan, the bell curve is causing delays in appraisals, said an officer who did not wish to be named. Officers of the central bank have written to RBI governor Shaktikanta Das on 25 June, seeking his intervention into the matter.

According to the officer quoted above, the bell curve methodology is more suited for appraising employees in sales function who have specific targets to meet and it does not work in a central bank. “Such a system does not befit a public institution like RBI," the officer quoted above said.

The bell-curve is a graph representing statistical distribution of data; the bell curve allows for symmetrical distribution around the mean and is used by companies to rank employees based on their performance, the bell curve methodology, once popular among many human resource departments across organisations, classifies people into three broad categories: top performers, average and poor performers.

The bell curve methodology has been discontinued in many organisations because, one, it force-fits pre-designated proportions of the staff to the high and low performer categories and, two, because most organisations do not fall into the normal distribution pattern.

In their letter to Das, Reserve Bank of India Officers’ Association (RBIOA) said that this process has led to forced banding of officers since certain percentage of officers have to be invariably considered as high performers or under-performers.

Human resource (HR) experts said that the bell curve method of appraisal does not help people who fall in middle rung of performers or those who are trying to upskill themselves for better performance.

Veinu Nehru Dutta, director (financial services), ABC Consultants said that it impacts bottom-most category of employees, specially if the organisation has done well in that particular year. “The bell curve makes sense only if you have clear measures. There needs to be enough agility in one’s mind while drawing the bell curve linking it to the performance of the organisation so that it’s a fair representation of performance across all categories," said Dutta.

The officer quoted above said that prior to the bell curve, RBI followed behaviourally anchored rating scale (BARS) for appraisals, which emphasises on the job-related behaviours of employees.

Am email sent to RBI spokesperson Yogesh Dayal did not elicit any response till the time of publication.

To be sure, this is not the first time that RBI officers have raised the issue as it has affected their promotions. In December 2018, they held a protest against changes in promotion policy of the central bank. At RBI, the grades are between the levels A and F, with A being the assistant manager and F being chief general managers. The association claimed that, under the current promotion policy, there is a stringent filtration process being implemented in the name of time-bound promotion (TBP) by not promoting 25% of the officers under the zone of consideration.

Further, while reckoning the zone of consideration, the letter said, around 10% of officers are excluded and therefore effectively around 35% of officers are not being promoted. The time-bound promotion (TBP) policy was introduced on 16 March 2012 and since its introduction, has been modified several times. In year 2018 alone, the promotion policy was changed twice, the letter noted.

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