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I am a Technology Lead for a US based Organization. My Organization outsources some of the work to various Indian Outsourcing Companies. We started a new project with a new team 6 months back. It is a very critical and revenue generating project for my organization. Due to these reasons, I asked for highly refined, technically mature and analytically competent individuals. To the same end, we are paying candidates higher than what we pay for the candidates who work for other projects in the organization.

One of the Indian Companies, Company A, approached me for opportunities. Initially they provided good candidates who are doing well. Three months back, A's manager proposed two more candidates. A said that they will take care of screening with the help of their employees who are already working on the project. A claimed they would provide the best candidate as per project requirements. I trusted them and took a chance. They recently come up with a candidate, named Ram. I trusted their decision and accepted to take Ram into the team.

After one month with Ram, I have noticed several things. Ram is a super hard working and dedicated person. He gives more than 100% to deliver the assigned task. The problem is he is a novice in the skills required for the project. We need expertise for this project. Also; this is his first on-site opportunity also and he has no prior on-site experience.

Ram works continuously - more than 10 hours a day and even on week ends - to deliver his tasks on time. For three months, he has worked late nights and from home on week ends. Despite that, he requires help from team members to minimally reach just below the QA standards. In order to sign off his work to production, I have put a lot of effort to convince the QA team Lead.

My problem is that I can not allow this to continue further. Ram is not a slave, but he is working like that for the project. I am very hesitant to give any bad feedback to A's manager. If I give any bad feedback they will fire him and replace him with another candidate. Although it is not my problem, I feel this may be inhumane.

How can I improve the situation professionally without hurting Ram?

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    Can you explicitly allocate him any support from the team? I wouldn't work this hard for you, so I'm well placed to recommend that you give him a fighting chance. If Ram is trainable, that is. People who know less tend to work a lot harder, so if you manage to feed him some extra knowledge through the team members, he may mot have to work so hard. I am always reluctant to let go of a good guy - they are not that easy to find. – Vietnhi Phuvan Dec 31 '14 at 23:59
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    "Still, he requires help from team members to just minimally reach just below the QA standards. In order to sign off his work to production, I have put lot effort to convince QA team Lead." Not enough for an answer, but don't do this! Convinving the QA Lead to accept substandard work will only hurt everyone. – jcm Jan 1 '15 at 7:18
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    I'd say to those who recommended Ram for hiring: "Ram is barely adequate, just barely. And that's only because he puts in those humongous hours. Since you recommended him to me in the first place and I took your recommendation at face value, you are going to have to take time out of your lives and work with him to improve his performance. Or I am putting him out of his misery and he is out. I expect continuous, visible improvement. It's up to you to make it happen" If you don't see progress within two to three weeks, give him a good reference and wish him luck. You've got a business to run. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 1 '15 at 10:33
  • Does Company A work on other projects for your company? Can you simply shuffle him around to a different project that requires less expertise? – dyeje Jun 7 '16 at 18:38
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TL;DR;

Basically I think you have two options here:

  • You see a chance that he may improve and want to keep him on the team, then you can try to renegotiate a training period.
  • Ram is desperately under qualified and won't be able to improve that fast. In that case, you simply need to get rid of him.

Things to have in mind based on the described situation:

  • In most consulting environments (whether onshore or offshore), employees are expected to train themselves on the job. Consulting companies just don't invest that often in pre-job training because the contracts are not of a long-term kind (they don't know for sure if this investment will pay off).
  • On the other hand, you can be glad if you have hungry people on your team who will invest their spare time and energy into your project - that's nothing you can expect from anyone.
  • I don't know how experienced you are in employee management, but be sure to keep in mind that you are employed by your company to get the best value for their money. In the end, you are committed to this and not to anything related to Company A or Ram when making any decisions.
  • If a employee is hopelessly under qualified for the particular job, you need to get rid of him. That's a professional move you may need to take now or then. In the end, it's not your fault if Company A overestimated Rams skills entirely or if Ram faked his resume to get this job even if he is lacking major skills, etc. - you don't have to feel guilty if this is the case.

Based on the above: How to improve the situation professionally without hurting Ram?

If your only point is that you don't want to hurt his feelings because he invests so much spare time and tries so hard, but from a neutral viewpoint you have to admit, that he won't be a valuable part of the team anyway soon, you just need to tell Company A this. It's their problem and they will need to act accordingly to handle it. No room for personal feelings in this.

The easiest way to handle this if you really want to keep him on the team is to approach the managers of Company A and tell them that you are not satisfied with the current performance of Ram and that you indeed see good prospects for Ram in the long term, but that you feel like they are selling you a junior dev for the price of a senior dev.

Once you have taken this step, there will be of course no way back, but I feel you'll have a good chance to negotiate something like:

"I want to have Ram on the team, but he needs at least one month training to be able to contribute anything productive and I think it's fair if we only pay half of the normal hourly rate for him in that month since he clearly lacks some skills we agreed on before."

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    If you do decide that Ram can't stay on the team, perhaps you can offer to give him a good reference (talking about how hard he worked and how dedicated he is). – mhwombat Jan 1 '15 at 1:18
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Something which you could try: Find a mixture of simpler tasks (Documentation proofreading, code review, simple but time-consuming tests, collecting information to reproduce bugs, come to my mind) where his motivation contributes to the team. If you can enable him to stay longer by this, he has a change to grow and be respected enough that people don't consider him a burden, then he can learn. Explain to him that instead of investing all his time there he should read something about the topic.

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If Ram has been working around the clock for 3 months and is still falling short, it is unlikely that there is a path that would get his skill level up to par for your project. Your company is overpaying for his skills and the outsourcing company realistically needs to replace him with a real senior developer.

Since your company works with a number of outsourcing companies on a number of other projects, could you approach someone that is on one of the other projects that your company uses Company A for and see if they can find a spot for Ram? It sounds like those other projects would be much better suited for someone with Ram's drive that isn't as experienced as the candidates you need. If you can arrange the swap, everybody wind. Your company would continue to benefit from Ram's hard work (probably at a lower cost), Ram doesn't get fired, and your project can continue on with a more senior developer. Of course, that would require some amount of work on your part to figure out which other projects use Company A and to find one of those projects that would be willing to take on a really hard working novice developer.

If moving resources isn't an option, your duty is to your employer not to Company A or Company A's employees so you'd have to cut ties with Ram.

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