A night before Dinesh Karthik hit unbeaten runs in T-20 against Bangladesh (on 15th of March, 2018), the scores before that match caught my attention. Since his return to the Indian Team, he got the opportunity to bat at Number 4 in ODI, he had the score of 37,64*,30 and in T-20, his average has risen from 16.7 to 30.0 in the last year or so. He even earned a recall to Test team after seven long years.
Looking at his stats in Cricinfo, I was amazed as to how the guy who lost out in shuffles has risen above the rest of his competitors and now a prominent part of playing eleven. Having been ardent followers of nuisances of the game of cricket and people management in a firm, I was looking after articles where I can do micro-analysis on Dinesh Karthik 2.0.
“Karthik was a senior player in Tamil Nadu team who had experience of playing for India and was part of winning team for World-Cup (in 2007), Champions Trophy (2013) and IPL (2013). Just dropping him would have left a huge gap to fill.”
A Top Career going Downhill
I came across Indian Express’ narrative of how Karthik’s career was reinvigorated. I would break down the sequence into three parts-
1. A year earlier, after being out of the team for more than two years and his age running out as well, he was 30 years and was already halfway through his playing career. Another 2-3 years in a slump meant his international playing career was over. Even his position in his Domestic team became uncertain and he got dropped from his state team. This event marked the lowest ebb in his playing career considering age, competition and his form with the willow.
2. That's when he got in touch with local coach Pravin Amre and the local lad of Mumbai, Abhishek Nayar. Abhishek Nayar realized that to do the unthinkable we need to get out of the comfort zone, challenge and push ourselves. He made Karthik live in a small room, where the shower worked rarely and bucket, mugs etc. were broken. That itself was big torture for someone who resides in a luxurious bungalow and rakes up money in crores. Away from the comfort of the life and change in routine of training, Nayar placed him on meditation and visualization.
3. Months later, he was one of the leading run scorers for his IPL Franchise team, Gujarat Lions and among leading run scorers in First Class cricket and List-A cricket (He scored 704 runs in 14 innings with an average of 50 plus and followed that up with 607 runs in nine games at an average of 118 in the List A format). He was back in the mix. Karthik was picked for Champions Trophy and tour of West Indies and he has been among mix since the middle of 2017.
This incidence brings us to understand and learn many aspects of training, underperformance, mindfulness, and visualization.
“Firing an employee takes some time to fill with same skills, knowledge, standards expected apart from required qualifications. So what can a team such as learning and development or HR do to get that employee to the required standards?”
Lessons for organizations about underperforming employees
Let's try to analyze this from the point of an organization and individual behavior at a given point in time.
First, let’s assume that a person X in an organization goes through under-performance cycle for some months. It could either be that he switched to a new job or career shift or unable to keep up with the demands of work, personal reasons or perhaps being stuck in one place and find himself doing repeated chores with no view of growth in foresight.
What can the management do to motivate such employees to make them perform better than before? After all, it's the hard-earned money a firm has invested in training them and hiring a new candidate again doesn't serve a purpose as that means preparing them, reviewing their performance and establishing the connection between manager and team. Firing should be last option unless and until there is no other way or replacement is readymade, there are enough spots covered for the same role etc. But in any case, it doesn't put the organization in good light when the news of firing breaks out in media. The stakeholder and stockholder position get affected as well and more importantly, they miss out on the experience of work the employee has gathered during his professional career.
In drawing parallels to Dinesh Karthik’s situation, Karthik was a senior player in Tamil Nadu team who had experience of playing for India and was part of winning team for World-Cup (in 2007), Champions Trophy (2013) and IPL (2013). His experience would come handy when he is out playing in a pressure cooker situation or guiding youngsters who are batting with him at another end in partnership to take him through the innings. The younger players could also take his inputs off the playing ground and in team selections for the best playing team to take the field for matches. Just dropping him could have been big boots to fill.
What can the HR do to help the employees?
In the same way, firing an employee takes some time to fill with same skills, knowledge, standards expected apart from required qualifications. So what can a team such as learning and development or HR do to get that employee to the required standards?
In Dinesh Karthik’s case, he was made to come out of the comfort zone, change the schedule of training, which was difficult for him to get used to and working under present and on the process here is what did the trick. I must add that, Abhishek Nayar did iterate in the news piece how Karthik used to get frustrated from a change in routine of training from morning to now evening and repeatedly he would ask him all day long when the practice was due.
“Let the underperforming employees re-integrate with new joiners, as their knowledge would help the new trainees learn how they could work better. In this way, they not only mentor the new-comers but in teaching others they too get a firm grip on the process.”
Similarly, even employees can be made to work on things differently. Perhaps start with the anti-clockwise routine, go through the basics or just a few days away from work pressurize them to improve the current state. Later on, they can be re-introduced back into the system. Once they clear the hurdle of improving their thought process on work and strategy, they could follow on to improve performance along with the mock practice.Let them re-integrate with new joiners as their knowledge would help the new trainees learn how they could work better. In this way, they not only mentor the new-comers but in teaching others they too get a firm grip on the process. It's like being back to square one but sometimes just being away from work, change in routine and some mental drills could do the job.
How the firm does it and budget that goes into it is the responsibility of manager and HR. But it does help old employees get a warning. Moreover, they get time to reflect what they could do better in coming days and it makes the employees feel being valued in a firm for their talent. Karthik during his training had the able support of Nayar, who would guide him through the process, workout with him along with Pravin Amre, a Ranji Trophy winning coach of Mumbai. It pushed him to the limit to work hard in uncomfortable position and as results showed, later on, he credited his comeback to those hard days.
These are just a few things which could work in favor of turning under-performing employees into productive ones. As it did for Dinesh Karthik, someone who is really willing to make a difference, it would help the employees in getting back to good mental space.
Image Source: Zee News India