It is common for our clients who build their first mobile or web app with us to have a very small, or even no, in-house product team. After the successful launch of their MVP, they reach a milestone in determining the best path forward for maintenance. Engaging with thoughtbot again is always an option, but there comes a time when it makes sense for founders to consider investing in their own product team, which we recognise as an indicator of successful growth.
When hiring your first product team, there are a lot of considerations at play - the investment, your culture, organisational structure, career paths for growth, etc. and in recent times for our UK clients, the cost of living crisis is having a sizable impact on market conditions.
The cost of living crisis highlights the increase in inflation, goods, and services and the decrease in individual disposable incomes. Individuals’ budgets are stretched making take-home salaries of primary importance. As a result, a study from Personnel Today found that a third of employees have considered or applied for a new job, while 65% now feel a salary increase is their main priority when looking for a new role.
Employers have been impacted by the crisis as well, and salary increases across the board aren’t always a realistic option, particularly when trying to keep up with inflation while managing increasing costs across their businesses. Yet, they are faced with the challenge to offer competitive salaries to attract and even retain key employees.
It’s also worth noting that the same skills shortages remain in the technology sector, despite high profile tech companies reducing their workforces this year, and therefore competition for top-level talent is still strong. When making your first product team hires, it’s incredibly important to bring in the strongest candidate possible, and in this environment, it is challenging to meet everyone’s needs. According to the latest Labour Market Outlook from the CIPD, “although 72% of employers expect to recruit in the next three months, almost half (47%) have vacancies that are hard to fill.”
There are a few options and strategies to think through to ensure retention. For hiring, if bringing on a full-time employee hasn’t been successful, you may want to also consider part-time roles, contractors, and even opening up the role remotely to a wider range of locations. It is common to want the most skilled person for the job, but thinking about a wider range in a team covering junior and senior positions, can give you more options. When bringing on more junior roles, it’s important to make sure the full team is supported so having balance across the team, a clear process, well-defined responsibilities, and supporting documentation will help set them up to be successful.
In terms of employee retention, as stated, the first consideration should be take-home salaries as it is the biggest stressor for current UK employees. Make sure you are offering a fair, and competitive rate, and sharing the analysis and findings across the team as a metric to promote transparency that will aid retention if team members realise pay practices are based on equality. If you simply aren’t able to increase salaries, consider other bonus structures in the event of commercial success that everyone can contribute to, or consider more flexible working arrangements which may help team members lower their own costs, such as commuting.
There are also other non-salaried benefits that can be utilised to provide a well-rounded benefits package. For example, flexible working hours, a mental health stipend, a continued education program, and opportunities to improve their skills can all provide tremendous value (we have investment days). A good first step could be polling your employees to gather what’s valuable to them and conducting an analysis of what other organisations are offering by browsing a few job boards.
Well-being is also high on most people’s agendas. An easy and important way to engage with your current team is to be conscious of their current stressors and acknowledge burnout. Being empathetic to situations, and being a trusted partner in working through concerns can go a long way. Communication lines should be established and open as both employees and employers navigate testing times.
If a team feels under pressure constantly, we would recommend reviewing roles and responsibilities alongside processes - it’s easy to overlook how much you may have grown in a given period, and the subsequent impact on workloads that has accrued over time. Encouraging a culture of open dialogue, combined with demonstrating continuous improvement across your entire company based on the feedback you get, will go a long way to improving retention. More experienced job applicants may cite evidence of an improved work-life balance as the deciding factor when considering competing offers too.
Something special about thoughtbot is our consultants are enabled to support your business, team, and product in parallel. We can facilitate other aspects of your business success in addition to feature work. Some examples include supporting hiring by writing tailored job descriptions and even conducting technical interviews, which can help you move forward with a first technical hire. We even onboard new hires when they start!
For clients with an in-house team of varying skill levels, a few common ways we help a team level up is through training, mentorship, and pairing. Especially for a remote or hybrid team, making sure your communication and development process are sound will help the group feel aligned and confident in moving ahead.
thoughtbot teams come equipped with best practices for remotely delivering software design and development services, and can coach your team to success too. Having a strong culture, with consistent standards and processes in place will keep your team fulfilled and provide a healthy environment for new hires to ramp up. Here are a few more blogs on building a sustainable remote product team culture.
- Remote Tools and Tips in These Remote Times
- Strategies for transitioning your technical team to remote work
- Fostering Inclusive Remote Workplaces
Send us a note if we can help your business, team, and product start the year off strong.