Companies are struggling to find top talent who have more choices and opportunities than ever before. Those companies are also struggling to keep talent within their four walls. Burnout and the great resignation are real. Hybrid work is still in its infancy.
Many product leaders are trying to figure out the current workforce economics and adjust to the inflated salary expectations of top product talent. They are trying to balance building a high-performing culture with remote and asynchronous work from their digital teams.
Here’s some insight into the market for top product management talent, including how to attract more talent and keep the talent you already have.
What Is Top Product Management Talent?
When you look for product management talent, it’s reasonable to look for product management experience and knowledge of modern product management frameworks and methodologies.
To get the top product management talent, you also want to make sure they exhibit curiosity, regularly challenge their assumptions, and can use data to make the right product decisions. You’re also looking for someone who can communicate and collaborate at a high level.
Finally, you’re looking for someone who can drive results and get stuff done. The product manager is not the CEO of the product, but top product management talent needs to take ownership and accountability and treat the product as if it’s their own.
What you should expect from the product talent market
From product owners up to Chief Product Officers, the product market is in a different spot than it’s probably ever been before.
Product Managers can pick where and when they want to work
The market for top product talent, whether that’s a product manager or a chief product officer, is far tighter than anything we’ve experienced at Fahren. Finding talent of any kind, but certainly ‘A’ players, is challenging for almost every organization.
The pandemic has sped up the shift to distributed product teams, a situation that some product teams were already prepared for, given their use of remote engineers. The big difference now is that product managers themselves have a much bigger say in where and when they work.
Because it’s easier for product people to work from anywhere, they can choose to work for a “sexy” Silicon Valley tech company without having to live in Silicon Valley. That puts companies in less exotic industries such as insurance, manufacturing, healthcare, or agriculture at a disadvantage.
Because most product people don’t perceive these companies as hotbeds of innovation and cool new things to work on (an incorrect perception most times), they struggle to get people to interview. They also struggle to fit top product people’s compensation expectations in with their normal compensation bands.
The upside to product managers being able to work from anywhere is that it allows you to get talent from anywhere in the world if you’re prepared to set them up to succeed.
Top product management talent can afford to be particular
The great resignation has convinced product people to rethink what they should look for in their careers. As a result, they pay much more attention to the working environment, culture, and leaders that they report to than ever before.
The top talent want to be given problems to solve, not a roadmap to go build or deliver. So they’re looking specifically for companies that provide that autonomy.
They also want to understand how product and engineering work together, how decisions are made, and how prioritization is done.
Not all top talent want to be in a company that’s transforming
If a company doesn’t provide autonomy and a strong product culture, there’s a sizable percentage of product people who don’t want to be the one that has to go through the trials and tribulations to get the company where it wants to go.
Those product people have been there, done that, and now they want to find a company that already has a product culture in place so they can focus on solving problems. Their ideal job is not transforming a company; it’s working in one that has already transformed.
If you’re in a company that’s just figuring out product management, this can be disheartening. After all, the people who have gone through a digital transformation and come out the other side are just the type you want to help you.
Don’t worry; there are still some experienced product people who enjoy guiding an organization through a digital transformation. The trick is to find the people who have done it and are excited about doing it again at another company.
How you can make your open roles appealing to top product talent
If you’re an organization that’s not considered “sexy” or may not have as mature a product practice, put a bit more effort into attracting and hiring the right candidates.
Market the role to candidates
You can no longer just kind of post a job description on LinkedIn and expect to get top talent to respond. You’ll have to market your role and company to potential candidates.
Your marketing campaign includes explaining why the role is critical to your organization.
You need to be clear about the values of the company and explain what makes the company a great place to work. Stress things like a great leadership team, high energy team culture, or your compelling mission, as long as you actually have those things.
If your culture is not where you want it to be, you can’t hide that fact. You need to take a pragmatic approach where you level with candidates about where you want your culture to get to and the challenges you currently face. You need to sell that aspiration.
That may scare some people away, but it will also attract those product people who get excited about changing culture. That’s good because those are probably the people you should target anyway.
The job description is still critical
Going beyond the job description is essential to attracting the right talent, but there are some things you can do with your job description as well.
Don’t create job descriptions that are too ambitious. For example, it’s usually not a good idea to combine the Director of Product and Customer Service in the same role.
Make sure that your job description communicates the right message, the appropriate level of seniority, and the skills and behaviors that you’re looking for.
Don’t be afraid to get some help with your job description. It’s a healthy thing to do so that you get some insight into how to structure your job descriptions properly.
Don’t just google the director of product job descriptions and cut and paste them. A generic job description that’s full of jargon can be a huge red flag. It won’t attract the talented, highly experienced people you’re looking for.
How to keep the product talent you already have
If you lose an employee and have to replace them, you effectively lose a year of productivity at a cost of 1.5 X of that previous person’s salary. Keeping your existing employees is especially critical in product where the role is essential to the success of the company.
The companies that keep their talent are challenging their own assumptions around compensation, benefits, and work location (i.e., Totally in person, hybrid, or totally remote). They also realize that it’s not all about having beers in the fridge and a ping-pong table in the break room.
In effect, they’re asking employees what’s important to them. They’re looking for flexibility in your HR policies, great benefits, work-life balance, working situation, accountability, and career path.
You also want to make sure that your employees have clarity on your company’s values and vision. You want to make sure everyone’s moving toward the same place, and it’s really important for people to know where that is.
Of course, those actions may not be enough. Sometimes you do all the right things, and you have an employee who just doesn’t want to work at your company.
So you need to be pragmatic and blend the strategies to keep your talent as well doing the right things to find and hire new talent.
A strong culture is a good way to find and keep the best talent
If you’re looking for product talent, make sure you set your product teams up for success and stay out of their way.
Creating an environment and a culture where your product teams are really successful is one of your best strategies for keeping your talent and finding new talent.
Building that culture doesn’t have to be sweeping changes like how you finance product teams or whole new tools or frameworks.
Some of the best things you can do are revisit your corporate policies and see which ones are outdated.
It really does often come down to communication. If you’re actively talking to your people, removing the barriers and the frustrations that they’re facing, you’ll have a highly engaged team that’s attrition resistant.
You’ll be the company where people are going to want to go versus the company where everyone wants to leave from.