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How do you retain good talent, especially when PM roles are in such high demand across the industry?

5 Answers
Adrianne Wang Martinson
Adrianne Wang Martinson
Airbnb Head of Product, China PlatformMay 13

There is no doubt that retaining top talent is critical to any organization not only because of the value top talent brings, but also because it takes time to find and ramp up a new hire. While establishing a new team, hiring the right person who is a good fit for the team and the company contributes greatly to talent retention. What I offer to my talented people to retain them are: understanding, recognition and growth opportunities, which are all built on a trusted foundation.

I strongly believe trust is the foundation for any form of relationship, including leadership, partnership, mentorship and any work that requires collaboration. And, trust needs to be earned - it takes a good amount of time to earn and very little time to break.

Over the years, I have found that the concept “Caring Personally while Challenging Directly” as taught in the book “Radical Candor”, has helped me to earn trust from my teams. (I highly recommend this book if you have not yet read it).

Building trust:

  1. Understand what parts of the job each member finds most interesting and rewarding.
  2. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of my team members.
  3. Communicate about each team member's short and long term goals.
  4. Stay on top of the areas that each member finds most comfortable and challenging.


  1. Provide positive feedback to validate the value and impact of their great work.
  2. Motivate effort and behavior even if it does not directly tie to business results.
  3. Provide the recognition that is tailored to the preferences of each individual’s personality.
  4. Help them to shine and gain visibility by showcasing goal and impact achievement at team and org level.

Growth opportunities:

  1. Create on-the-job opportunities for them.
  2. Treat challenges as opportunities for them to grow.
  3. Provide on the spot constructive feedback with detailed suggestions.
  4. Set up a step-by-step plan based on each team member’s goal and interests and check-in and align regularly.
Clara Lee
Clara Lee
Hootsuite VP, ProductJuly 28

I’ve worked in Product across two very different contexts – a company that favored complete alignment versus a company where autonomy was part of their cultural DNA. 

While there are a lot factors that contribute to retention (industry trends, opportunities for career progression, compensation), the factors in my daily focus are derived from this definition of psychological safety:

  • Meaning – company vision, team purpose, individual contribution, and belonging.
  • Mastery – goals and accountability, periodic feedback, recognition, and opportunities to teach/mentor others.
  • Trust – in the role and team, clear expectations, ownership (and delegation), open communication.
Mckenzie Lock
Mckenzie Lock
Netflix Director of ProductAugust 4

I’ll skip the obvious things - pay well, set a vision, growing company, skill building, career pathing - and highlight some under-rated ones:

  •  Hire well and have high talent density. Most people who choose a career in Product Management are motivated by self improvement - being around other talented PMs who they admire and who push their thinking is motivating.

  •  Stay lean. This may seem counterintuitive - isn’t it good to have enough PMs? Honestly, no. If you hire well you want to give people room to grow and stretch.

    The worst thing you can do is to staff up too quickly, only to have frustrate your stars who are ready for more in a year (or worse yet, sudden shift in the business which requires you to scale back projects). Having too many PMs will also lead to more work being generated, you then need to resource. It’s far better to have PMs that have 20% too much to do than 20% too little. My rule of thumb is: everyone should be just uncomfortable enough with their scope that they drop a few things, but not so uncomfortable that they burn out.

  •  Autonomy. People choose a career in product management because they want to make or be at the center of product decisions. Allowing them to do so is one of the most important things you can do to keep them motivated. As a people leader your jobs is to set goals, give context, guide, and identify blindspots. It’s not to operate the product for the PMs on your team. At Netflix we have a value, “Context over control” - leaders should focus first & foremost on setting context so others can make decisions vs. making decisions for them.

  •  Actually care about them. When I think about the best managers I’ve had they have one intangible thing in common - I felt on a deep level that they actually, genuinely cared about me. This had a ripple effect on every part of my job because I felt supported, was calmer, and did better work. Caring looks like regularly thinking about the growth & success of another person without being asked to. It looks like advocating for or elevating behind the scenes, especially if they are in a disadvantaged position. It’s something that you can’t fake.
Tara Wellington
Tara Wellington
BILL Senior Director of Product ManagementDecember 20

Retaining good talent can be hard - especially when your budget is tight and competitors are able to offer your PMs more money and new experiences where they can learn. In order to retain good talent there are 3 key steps you need to take for EVERY employee on your team.

  • Step 1: Understand what motivates your employee

    • Not all employees want the same thing or need the same thing in a job. This also may change for an employee overtime.

  • Step 2: Discuss how you can deliver on this motivation with your employee

    • Have regular discussions with your employee so they know that you understand what they need and are working to deliver on it on a regular basis.

  • Step 3: Document the plan and progress

    • You should have a documented development plan with your employee for a few reasons.

      • You want them to know that you understand what they need and working to deliver it.

      • You can set expectations with them on what they need to do to deliver it.

      • Writing it down makes it feel real

      • You can track and document progress and show momentum.

If the employee wants something that is not possible for you to deliver, try to see what other motivators they may have. Maybe they say the only thing they need is $$ and you have no budget. You could discuss with them the option to learn a new skill or expand their scope - which may be helpful on their resume at a later date. You have to assume most high performers are not going to stay at one company forever, so helping them plan their career for when they do move on, is one way you can help retain them for longer in the short term.

Some employees may not be entirely open about their motivations. One example of this is money motivation. I have seen many times that people say they are not motivated by money (because they truly are motivated by other things as well), but then get a much higher offer somewhere else and can't say no. I ALWAYS have total compensation discussions with my employees even if they say they are not motivated by money. It is a good way to show your employees that you value them - even when you can't always immediately change their pay.

Top Employee Motivators

Below are the top motivators in my career. It may be helpful to discuss multiple motivators with your employees so you have more levers to help them stay.

  • Pay

    • Base salary

    • Stock

    • Bonus

  • Learning

    • New product

    • New market

    • New function

    • New level

  • Growth

    • New title

    • Larger scope

    • Management opportunities

  • Safety

    • Job security

    • Predictability

    • Consistency

  • FUN

    • Like the people they work with

    • Like their manager

    • Like the company culture

  • Mission

    • Feel passion for the company mission

    • Feel passion for the customers

Orit Golowinski
Orit Golowinski VP of Product ManagementApril 18

Retaining good talent in the competitive landscape of product management requires a proactive approach focused on fostering growth, trust, and a sense of impact within the team. Here are some effective strategies:

  1. Career Growth Opportunities: Provide clear pathways for career advancement and professional development. Offer opportunities for skill enhancement, leadership roles, and cross-functional collaboration to keep product managers engaged and motivated.

  2. Trust and Responsibility: Empower product managers by delegating meaningful responsibilities and trusting them to make impactful decisions. Cultivate an environment where autonomy and ownership are valued, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability.

  3. Continuous Learning: Encourage a culture of continuous learning and skill development. Provide access to training programs, workshops, and resources to help product managers strengthen their abilities in areas such as presentation skills, data collection and analysis, vision setting, and measuring success.

  4. Competitive Benefits and Packages: Stay competitive with compensation and benefits packages to attract and retain top talent. Offer competitive salaries, bonuses, and perks, as well as comprehensive health and wellness benefits.

  5. Showcasing Impact: Recognize and celebrate the impact of product managers on the business. Highlight success stories and the tangible outcomes of their work to reinforce their value and contribution to the organization.

By prioritizing career growth, trust, continuous learning, competitive benefits, and showcasing impact, organizations can create an environment that fosters talent retention and enables product managers to thrive in their roles.

Top Product Management Mentors
Shahid Hussain
Shahid Hussain
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Notable Head of Product
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