"Not again! Our Chief Product Officer has just been offered a mega salary to join a well-funded start-up. How can we possibly compete? In every geography, and at every level in our business, our best product people are being poached.”
Over years of helping clients across Europe and the US I have heard similar stories from clients losing critical product talent and have witnessed some impressive counter offers, the majority of which were unsuccessful.
The problem is not a lack of available talent. Nor is it chiefly about the money. What it usually boils down to is clients hiring product people in an environment where the Product Management function is neither understood nor set up for success.
To get the best out of product talent you have to ask yourself ‘How can the talent get the best out of the company?’ In the end, you can’t have one without the other.
The nub of the problem lies in power, ownership and influence. The Chief Product Officer often reports to the CMO or CTO and is one step removed from the decision-making top table. The four P’s of the marketing mix may now be outmoded, but it is no coincidence that ‘Product’ has always been the first P. In most companies it still rules, yet some lose sight of that.
If product is king, it must be treated accordingly. Product Management drives a company’s long term growth and profitability: it stands to reason that the Chief Product Officer should be involved in first-hand decision making and the entire product team should be recognised, motivated, accountable and rewarded on measured success.
Here are my top tips for getting the best out of your product talent:
- Create a centralised Product Management function as the powerhouse of your organisation.
- Appoint a product leader to the executive team – or at least an active executive sponsor for your Product Management community – to promote product-led decision making.
- Understand what makes top product talent tick – not just money but the chance to influence, learn and achieve.
- Encourage a rapid ‘test-and-learn’ approach to product releases, putting the customer experience first and focusing on solutions to pain points.
- Forge an identity as a company where top-calibre product people can build and own significant new products within a flat organisational structure.
- Partner with a leadership advisory firm that can offer strategic advice, from organisational design and market intelligence to executive search, market mapping and on-boarding.