Both women offered their insights into the possibility of an Australian Great Resignation, the motivations behind this buzzing phenomenon, and solutions on how product teams can retain their talent before it’s too late.
Do you think the Great Resignation will hit Australia?
Victoria: Australia’s been protected from huge events over the last 20 years. For example, if you look at how Australia was protected by the GFC. And when you compare us to the UK and the US, we are not as destructive.
So, I believe that the Great Resignation is something that has actually been blown completely out of proportion. It’s not going to affect Australia. Yes, we are seeing a busy market but I don’t think we’re going to get a mass exodus as everyone is claiming.
And, it’s due to the fact that when you compare the Australian workforce to that of the UK or the USA, it’s incomparable. If you look at some of the UK and US investment banks, they’re saying that they have to come back to the office five days a week. In the US, on average, you’re getting 10 or 12 holiday days a year; we get 30 in Australia.
We have pretty good lives here so I don’t think as many people are having that sense of dread and exhaustion that other nations have experienced.
Amanda: I think what is happening in Australia is probably to a lesser degree than what’s happening in the US. I do agree with some of what Vic is saying but I also think what is happening here is because the market is very buoyant.
You’re getting a lot of people that know that they’re going to be able to secure another role that potentially they wouldn’t have been able to secure 12 months ago. So they’re putting themselves out there. And then the knock-on effect of people moving creates more movement.
What do you believe people’s motivations are for resigning?
Amanda: I think, since COVID, there has been an increase in flexibility for companies that potentially weren’t particularly flexible before and some companies have held onto that flexibility while others have tried to reduce it. But, people have come to value these working from home arrangements.
There’s also been a massive increase in salaries and people are able to demand more money. There’s a candidate shortage which drives up the salaries that are offered.
And finally, during this difficult time, some companies may have been more supportive than others. If you’ve been in a company where you’ve had difficulties during this period and you weren’t supported then you would be looking for a change.
Victoria: I think this whole thing is a big bunch of FOMO (fear of missing out). There’s this sense of financial acumen; people are talking about salaries at the dinner table these days and there’s a sense of wanting to get ahead.
The sense of equality and being treated fairly is also really ripe at the moment because we’ve been locked up and ostracised. It’s created this need for wanting more and willingness to ask for it.
And how do you both think this will translate into the product management sector?
Amanda: In the last few years, organizations are recognising what an important and integral part of the business product is and are now investing more money in Product.
They are also looking for solid product management rigor. And as a result, there’s a shortage of good product people in the market. This creates a higher demand for more experienced talent in the product space.
Victoria: The product discipline is incredible. And, what’s been really good about the fact that this market is super busy is that there has been a true rise in the respect given to product managers which has been amazing for us. We love product people.
Product people are also finally talking about money, as we said, and they’re asking for what they’re worth. If you look at the Seek reports from even a couple of months ago, they were up 20% on their advertising from 2019. So, Product people know what’s happening. They know the market is busy.
I think as such, product people have become a lot more confident in asking for what they’re worth because they’ve been working their butts off. And they have always done that. Product people are the true CEOs of a business. It’s been a really positive sign for the product discipline.
What advice do you have for organisations to retain their product managers in such a busy market?
Amanda: They need to come up with inventive ways to retain their staff. They need to evaluate what’s important to the staff to find out what would really appeal and be of benefit to them.
I read about a company that offers a concierge service for life administration such as ringing your health care provider or your life insurer. All the things that take absolutely ages, you have a concierge service to manage them for you so that you’re not distracted. Some companies are offering really unusual benefits like that to make their employees feel valued.
Victoria: And organisations are in a really tricky spot. If they want to hire the best talent, they’re going to have to pay the market rate but this leaves their existing talent a certain percentage under that rate. Companies don’t have the budget to lift the whole business so it’s tricky.
What we are seeing is bonuses coming out of CapEx as a way to mitigate costs. Companies are offering a lump sum when an employee starts, similar to a sign-on bonus, rather than a higher salary with the belief that these salaries will decrease next year. However, I’m not convinced about that either. I don’t think you can have this demand and then within 12 months see any substantial decrease. We’ve done salary surveys in product for nearly seven years and they’ve never gone up this much.
The other thing is that candidates are taking counter offers more than they ever were. We’ve recorded about 33-34% of people taking counteroffers. At the 11th hour of a resignation, companies are finding that extra money to hold onto their employees and employees are 34% more likely to take that than they were.
As we know, this leaves a bit of a bad taste in both parties’ mouths and years of stats around counteroffers show that around 80% of people still leave within the first six months because of the problems they had with the company are still present.
I’ve also seen some really positive movements towards state interviews. Similar to what Amanda said, this proactively goes to individuals of high performance or people at personal risk and gives them a safe space to talk about what they love and what they don’t love about their own company. This then allows the company to enact the change employees actually want to see.
And how do you think an organisation can best position itself to hire new product managers?
Amanda: Be creative in the packages that you offer, talk to the person at the interview and find out what’s important to them. I definitely noticed a lot of candidates that I speak to want to exit that intensely corporate environment and move towards corporations that work in the sustainability space or mental health awareness.
So, if you aren’t a company of that nature, look at how you can tailor a package to that person around what’s important for them. Make sure they’ve got that emotional buy-in and that the whole process is very slick. As a result, the candidates get a really good understanding of the culture of the organisation.
Also, it’s important to have realistic expectations of how long the candidate will stay in the role because spending 20 years at one company isn’t realistic anymore. And, if there’s limited opportunity for growth, it is likely they’ll move on after a couple of years. Be realistic about that when you’re employing a person.
As you see, opinions about the Great Resignation vary. The takeaway is that organisations need to have frank and proactive conversations with their staff to learn what individuals value.
As Victoria rightfully says, “At the end of the day, if you know someone’s underpaid in your team, there is no need to wait for the resignation to go in and back them.”