IT industry in India is a young industry. Percentage of younger people employed in this industry, is much higher compared to other industries. Average age of an IT project team is around 25 years. To keep the costs down this industry recruits fresh graduates, enables them through some training and uses them in project deliveries. However, this has inherent risks which if not managed well, will cause project failures; whereas, if managed well, they can take the projects to glorious heights. Fresh graduates come with high energy, strong desire to learn, lot of enthusiasm and willingness to work hard. However, they lack proficiency in the tasks to be executed. So, most organizations arrange a fresh graduates training program and expect them to start delivering after the training. However, it is necessary to recognize that depending on their background, knowledge and skills, different individuals need different treatments for their evolution. This fact is overlooked and as a result, organizations achieve suboptimal results. It also causes stress to trainee individuals, impacting them negatively. Here, we present an approach that can avoid these unpleasant consequences and help inexperienced individuals evolve naturally and be effective, in course of time. This approach is based on the model shown in Figure 1 – “Aptitude Experience Model”.
Figure 1 : Aptitude – Experience Model
Using this model team members could be placed in one of the four quadrants depending on their Aptitude (x-axis) and Experience (y-axis). Aptitude is the capability to perform certain tasks. This aptitude would be rated as high when the individuals have gone through some good training, have performed these tasks on trial assignments, have familiarity with pitfalls in the execution and can perform the tasks with relative ease. It would be rated as low when individuals have not gone through sufficient training and do not have good hands-on experience with the tasks to be executed.
Sometimes people get into tasks which they do not know about and have lot to learn before they perform that task. Fresh graduates with degree in core engineering (electrical, mechanical etc.), getting into an IT company to become software engineers fall in this category. Although they may have good academic background and may be very talented, they score low on Aptitude Axis as they have to learn a lot, to perform as software engineers.
Some people study software development as part of their academic curriculum, are familiar with sound software engineering practices, have gained good experience through delivery of useful software and enter IT industry with good abilities as programmers. These people score high on Aptitude Axis. However, to ensure right placement, we recommend use of an aptitude test.
Experience Axis refers to the useful experience of an individual in performing the desired tasks. Here, what matters is whether the individual has gained desirable experience that makes him productive. We recommend use of a suitable test for objective rating of individual’s Experience.
Quadrant 1 is low Aptitude, low experience quadrant. Here team members need to undertake significant learning effort to be productive. They need to be guided and usually have to work hard to deliver acceptable performance. They can be expected to make mistakes and hence their work needs to be reviewed carefully. Team lead should expect lower productivity from the members in this quadrant. He should assign mentors who can spend more time with these team members and they need to be actively helped and guided. Good guidance and training act as motivators to the team members in Quadrant 1.
As members in quadrant 1 gain experience, their mistakes will decrease, quality of their work will increase and need to monitor them will go down. At this stage, they will begin the transition to Quadrant 2.
Quadrant 2 is low aptitude, high experience quadrant. In this quadrant, productivity of the members is at acceptable level. They can be given more responsibility and eventually be assigned to higher roles.
Quadrant 3 is high Aptitude, low experience quadrant. Team members in this quadrant have requisite background and some useful experience. These individuals are fast learners. They not only learn fast but also start delivering faster, making fewer mistakes. Their productivity could be at acceptable level and their mentors need to be intelligent people who could understand and address their intellectual needs. Team members in this quadrant usually get frustrated when they are made to undergo the training that is meant for Quadrant 1 team members as they they already know those things. For them such a training is waste of time.
Fresh graduates start either in quadrant 1 or in quadrant 3. There is no possibility of transition between these two quadrants.
As the members in quadrant 3 gain experience, their knowledge and productivity increases and they transition to quadrant 4. For a team leader, members of quadrant 4 are most desirable. They are the best, a team can get. They deliver high quality and grow fast. They are reliable, deliver with higher productivity and can contribute to creativity and innovativeness. They contribute handsomely to making the team, self organized.
When members in Quadrant 2 work closely with members of quadrant 4, their thinking and way of working also evolves and they transition to quadrant 4 in course of time.
Organization should make a conscious effort to retain the quadrant 4 team members. In the absence of such efforts, they may just leave, taking away their expertise and experience. Therefore, they need to be given proper roles and responsibilities, they should be intellectually challenged and avenues for faster growth should be made available to them. Their contributions should be recognized and they should be rewarded well.
Conclusion – Team leaders need to understand which quadrant their team members belong to and provide appropriate inputs and mentoring to chart out their path to Quadrant 4. Building a capable team needs time and patience and specific actions customized for an individual. In short, the team leader needs to adopt the role of a coach; understand where his team members stand and actively help them to evolve. If team leader does not have the necessary skill, time and experience for this important task, they should take help of a professional coach.