All Things HR with Mafalda Halligan and Scott Shane

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives. TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and having the cultural mindset to embrace the needed diversity of the workplace.

Today’s guests are Mafalda Halligan, Founder & President, River Run HR and Scott Shane, Managing Director, Talent Acquisition and Staffing at MUFG Americas. To hear the entire show, click here.

These two extremely passionate HR professionals talk about their love for the field and discuss all things HR on the show today.

Mafalda Halligan HR

Mafalda Halligan started off her career in the hospitality industry with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. After working in the hospitality industry for several years, she decided to venture into the consulting world in search of an industry she would be really passionate about. She instantly fell in love with consulting because of the long term impact her work could have on her clients. Just a few years down the line, Halligan branched out and started her first company, Project HR, which she eventually sold. In November 2014, realizing how much she really missed consulting she decided to return to HR. Thus, came about her latest company, River Run HR, where she continues to pursue her love for HR.

Halligan migrated to the U.S. from Portugal and like most immigrants it was ingrained in her mind that the right way to go about life is to finish college and take up a job and stick with it for about 30 years and then retire. It was only when she started meeting a lot of entrepreneurs that she began thinking differently.

Project HR vs. River Run HR

Halligan’s first company, Project HR, focused on improving operational capabilities of companies that had been around for a long time and had no sense of where they were going. She would conduct an assessment to identify areas that needed help and then offer solutions on how to improve them.  Project HR was a tactical-based company that helped clients achieve operational excellence in their business.

Halligan explains that alternatively, River Run HR is a strategy-based company that is more of a partner to its clients and helps affect the bottom line. “The new model is very practical. It focuses on people, company’s financial equity and its sustainability,” says Halligan. She reveals that she has applied all the lessons she learned while running her previous company to this new one. Currently, she is in the early stages of her new venture and is very involved in every single aspect of the business – whether it’s chasing a business development prospect or attending board meetings.

Whiners Beware!

Halligan’s LinkedIn profile reads – “She does not wait for orders and is comfortable in her skin as well as on the hot seat.” Explaining this outlook of life, Halligan says that she has always had a lot of self-awareness. Ever since she started working, she has constantly questioned herself about how can she be better at her job and achieve better results. She refuses to wait for others to give her orders and tell her what to do. She believes in focusing on what needs to be done and how to do it.

A word of caution – Don’t be a whiner if you want to be in Halligan’s good books! “I have a huge distaste for whiners,” she says. According to her, learning how to lose is very important. It’s all about learning your lessons from your defeat and taking responsibility for your losses. “If you can learn how to focus on the solution and not the problems, how to take action and not sit around and to take responsibility for the losses and not make excuses – it goes a long way,” she adds. She says that there are times when she gets upset about her losses and indulges in self-pity. “But that’s what happy hours are for!” she jokes. “You wallow in it for ten minutes and then you move on. But don’t make excuses.”

Traits of Good Leaders

Having worked with several business leaders, Halligan has identified some common traits that most effective leaders have. For starters, all of them exude confidence. They are all very good at delegation, which according to Halligan is a great strength and not a weakness. The key to delegation is to capitalize on the strengths of your people. Leaders who delegate well are often very successful and effective. Good delegation of responsibilities motivates and inspires the team. Thus, it is not just good for the leaders but also for the team.

Another trait Halligan has observed is that most successful leaders are excellent communicators and also have a great sense of humor. They don’t take things too seriously and accept a setback gracefully. They keep up their confidence level and move forward while keeping their people working and motivated.

What Are You Reading?

Mafalda Halligan is currently reading Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman. The book explores how companies can create rabid fans that regularly seek out your brand and share your brand with their networks as well.

How Can People Connect With You?

Reach Mafalda Halligan via the Contact page on her website

Scott Shane HR

Scott Shane is the Managing Director, Talent Acquisition and Staffing at MUFG Americas which is headquartered in New York City. A leading global bank, MUFG has a staff of about 14,000 people in Americas which covers U.S., Canada and Latin America. MUFG is one of the largest global financial institutions with over $2.3 trillion assets and 350 year-old history spread across 1100 locations and 40 countries.

Losing Talent to Silicon Valley

Leading talent acquisition for a huge global bank comes with its set of challenges. Shane explains that most recruitment for the Americas is done in the United States. Currently, the job market is hot and unemployment is really low. But the banking industry is still suffering from all the reputational damage that was caused by the banking crisis of 2008. It is difficult to attract talent with all the “bank bashing.” Luckily for Shane, MUFG avoided a lot of issues and challenges that other banks suffered. Shane says that they managed to come out unhurt and have been in growth mode for many years while the other banks were shrinking. “It’s all about flipping the challenges into opportunities,” explains Shane.

Another major challenge that the financial institutions are currently confronting is that of losing talent to tech companies. Being a tech person in banking doesn’t seem as appealing as working in a startup in Silicon Valley. Shane points out that some of innovations that the banks are driving in the technology space are “enormously exciting.” There are opportunities such as mobile banking, fiber security and so on but it’s still a challenge to attract talent in this hot job market.

Transition from Number’s Person to People’s Person

Shane started out as a CPA before his foray into HR. He was mentored by the Chief Human Resources Officer of a Fortune 500 company who was also a former partner at Arthur Anderson. Shane’s mentor advised him to build his own brand. That is when Shane, who once aspired to become a professional athlete, decided that he wanted to be an HR professional. But when Shane graduated, the job market was really poor because of a recession. “I had to distinguish myself among a lot of people competing for very limited jobs. One way to do that was to be a business professional first and to be an HR professional second,” recalls Shane. Thus, he became a CPA. This helped him demonstrate that he could read an income statement and balance sheets and figure out how businesses made money. This eventually led him to pursue his dream of becoming an HR person.

Corporate Culture & Identity

Inculcating a common culture and identity across a global organization is a profound challenge in the 21st century. Shane believes that a company’s vision and values are very important for a company’s culture. “For most big organizations it is very important to have a compelling global vision anchored in values which is communicated in a very compelling way,” he elucidates. “Values are a public declaration to our current and future employees, customers and clients of what we value. If we are not living our values we have an enormous disconnect,” he adds. Through things like their annual global engagement survey, the company tracks and measures how effective it is and whether all 140,000 of their employees can clearly articulate the company’s vision. “Your people are in fact your brand. My role as the head of recruiting is to hire talent that can deliver the promise we make to our customers and clients – that is to be the most trusted bank in the world. So we interview candidates against very specific criteria, not the least of which is our core values and core competencies.”

Team Dynamics

Shane looks at his role as that of a talent scout. He explains that it is not just about bringing extra talent to the bank but also about building teams within the bank. “Like any coach or leader we need to identify the skills you need on the team. Do you need an outfielder, a catcher, a pitcher and you build the team accordingly,” he further explains.

What Are You Reading?

Scott Shane is currently reading Living a Simple Life by  Elaine St. James and is also re-reading Good to the Core by John Blumberg. He also loves catching up on the “Annual Best Places To Work” and “The Greatest Leaders” annual issues of Fortune magazine.

How Can People Find out About Job Openings at MUFG?

Visit the Careers page at

Date: April 14, 2015