How the role of Product leadership is changing

5 minutes

On the 22nd of February 2024, Product recruitment consultant, Francesca Jackson, hosted a ro...

On the 22nd of February 2024, Product recruitment consultant, Francesca Jackson, hosted a round table discussion about the role of Product leadership. Bringing together Heads of Product, Product Directors and Chief Product Officers from a range of backgrounds, they discussed the following topics: 

  • How Product leadership is changing 
  • How to manage resources, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and smaller teams 
  • The best ways to support the upskilling of Product Managers 

Keep reading for our key takeaways from the morning’s discussion. 


What is ‘Product leadership’? 


The role of Product leadership means many things. At the core, being a Product Leader means really getting behind your company’s Product. It's about leading a team that's focussed on the Product and its strategy. Plus, creating a culture where the team is inspired by what they’re developingLeaders should make sure the business always come back to enhancing that Product experience. 


How the Product role is evolving 


The evolution of the Product role and Product leadership has been a key talking point for some time. Francesca discussed the idea at our event last year, The future of Product management in 2024’. There, speakers shared how Product management roles are becoming increasingly commercial.  

So, Francesca kicked off the discussion by asking the Product leaders for their experiences of the role’s evolution. 


The introduction of Product Ownership

One attendee shared that their experience of Product management has always been driven by commerciality. This switched with the introduction of Product ownership 

The commerciality aspect of the Product team lessened with increased resources (2020 - 2022). But, it’s always been the responsibility of the Product Manager to make sure that the Product is worth investing in. So, Product has always focussed on commerciality and return on investment, it has simply dipped in and out of focus with the Product development team’s evolution. However, now, with changes in the economy, awareness of commercial aspects have never been more important. A line graph showing that when there is low resource in a product management team, commerciality is high, but commerciality decreases as product teams have more resource available to them.


The impact of economic factors 

Another Product leader shared how they’re finding that there is currently less room for experimentation. 

We’re not in an innovators’ market right now, we’re in a cost-driven market.” 

With business objectives prioritising profitability and outputs, there is less opportunity for experimentation in the Product development process. This is having an impact on the creativity of Product teams, as well as the ability to invest in the long-term.  

The Product Leaders were positive that we will see more investment in the future, as businesses continue to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis.  

Managing resources to your advantage 


Leading on from this conversation, the Product Leaders shared their struggles with smaller teams and less resource.  


Business expectations 

With 25% of companies implementing hiring freezes in 2023, there hasn’t always been the opportunity to fill gaps in teams. One attendee shared that there is aexpectation to “do more with less”.  

“You cannot create good work when you are so stretched.” 

This has created an unfortunate cycle. Product Leaders need to prove the team's value to receive more investment. However, thecan achieve less with smaller teams where Product Managers are finding themselves stretched. Unsurprisingly, this is having a negative impact on team morale and risks further attrition. 

The pressure then falls to you, as the Product Leader, to advocate for your team and their wellbeing. 

Our attendees agreed that in these situations, something must be dropped. Whether this is prioritising projects and moving back anything to give your team more breathing space. Or, picking up your Product Managers’ responsibilities to ease their workload. 


Product recruitment in 2024 

It's clear from the conversation that leaders need to grow their Product management teams to continue developing great Products. However, with so many businesses having budget restrictions, you need a really strong case for recruitment. 

At 3Search, we have had numerous discussions around which Product management skills you should look for. One attendee shared the role that a candidate’s career path can play. While it’s true that Product Managers from different industries will bring innovation to a team, in the current market, is it more important to find specialist Product talent with domain knowledge?  

Specialist Product Managers can come in and hit the ground running. There is an argument that writing the job description with this in mind, will make it easier to obtain approval for new additions.  

For further support with writing job descriptionsdownload our Product salary guideHiring managers can use this tool to help create an effective recruitment strategy as well as budget for new hires. 


Supporting Product management training 


Another solution to the demands placed on Product teams, is upskilling the talent you already have.  

Plus, learning and development is key to retention. According to our 2024 Pay and Hiring Report, career development opportunities are among the top five decision makers for those searching for Product management jobs.  


Dedicated training time 

Time is one of the main challenges facing Product Leaders with upskilling their team. As stated above, many Product Managers are being stretched across multiple projects, so there is little time left to dedicate to L&D.  

“I will protect this time as head of the department.” 

The Product Leaders in the room shared the importance of carving out that dedicated training time. One leader has tied this time to their team’s performance reviews to give purpose to the conversation. 


Volunteering time to upskill 

The harsh reality is that Product leaders often have limited L&D budgets. Our attendees shared the schemes their businesses have in place to create a culture of learning. 

Many have the opportunity to donate their time to lead workshops and training sessions that anyone can join. This is a budget-friendly opportunity to share skills. Some businesses have even tied these schemes to promotion goals to encourage more participants and make it worthwhile for all. 


A big thank you to our Product Leaders 

We want to extend a big thank you to our Product Leadership community for such an insightful conversation. If you missed out on this roundtable but would like to join our next Product event, be sure to register your interest below.  


Work with 3Search for your Product recruitment needs 


Whether you’re looking to grow your Product design and management team or searching for a new opportunity, 3Search promises the best recruitment experience you will ever have. Upload your job description and start hiring today! 

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