Why is it so Hard to Hire Sustainability Product Management Talent?

The complexity of building product management teams is real. No one knows that better than Heidi Ram, our Product Practice Lead, who has been recruiting exclusively product talent for early-stage tech companies since 2016.

We asked Heidi to share her insights on why the Greentech / Cleantech product category is incredibly complex for tech companies to recruit product talent for and why tech leaders choose Martyn Bassett Associates as their search partner for these complex searches.

1. Complexity of Subject Matter

The sustainability product category spans many subcategories and problem sets that tech companies are solving for. The category is large and highly nuanced between the B2B side of sustainability tech and consumer-facing products and experiences.

On the B2B side of sustainability, there are numerous challenges to tackle, including energy management, grid optimization, energy generation, and the subsequent storage and monitoring of said energy. Let's not forget the data capture workflows from integrated IoT-connected devices and the data analytics and dashboards necessary for a 'visualized' experience. Furthermore, solar, water, and wind as the choice of energy also add complexity to the products in the sustainability category. 

On the B2C/DTC side of sustainability, there is a wide array of innovative products and solutions. From beautifully designed smart thermostats to in-home solar systems, recycling, waste management, and circular economy apps, as well as apps that help you conserve water, minimize food waste, and help you choose fashion from brands that are ethically sourced and eco-friendly.

All of that said, employers attempting to hire product talent have to sift through buzzwords, acronyms, and industry jargon, whether it be on LinkedIn or in the resumes submitted to an ATS. Unfortunately, this tedious and time-consuming work may not even move an employer closer to identifying the "sustainability talent" most relevant to their opportunity.

Let's face it; most employers place a premium value on candidates who have already solved a similar problem set and understand the ICP, user, and opportunities within the competitive landscape.

This is especially true in the sustainability category. In fact, the last three sustainability product searches we engaged in, all required subject matter expertise in their type of product category to shorten the "time to value" of the hire. And all three of the products were completely different from one another.

The complexity of a product category often equates to complexity in candidate requirements which typically lengthens talent acquisition timelines for most employers whose TA teams are already stretched in the best of circumstances

2) Candidate Supply & Demand 

The laws of supply and demand of relevant candidates directly impact the length of time a search can take before getting to an offer stage. As a result, it can also contribute to more difficult compensation decisions

Searches typically move quicker when the supply of relevant and interested candidates is high, and the pool of candidates often generates a broader range of salaries. This helps an employer and their internal talent acquisition teams make a hiring decision easily and quickly.

But what happens when the pool of relevant candidates is small, or the selection of interested candidates is low? This can lead to frustration among employers, higher offers, or, in a worst-case scenario, a deadlock in decision-making, negatively affecting a business’ growth.

3) Disruption Ready 

In the sustainability category, the third insight into the complexity of product recruiting is more about the philosophical approach to the role and the impact hiring product management talent can have on a business.

While the terms Cleantech and Greentech sound modern, unlike new product categories, we already know that the world has been moving towards sustainability since the late 1970s. As a result, there are organizations whose products have been at the center of the conversation for so long that they could be described as "legacy."

At some point, every company with legacy systems and processes determined to survive and thrive must introduce and welcome disruption. The complexity of attracting modern product talent to join a legacy or traditional business is real because it often means making a hiring decision from a smaller pool of talent. 

A candidate who may be:

  1. Interested but lacks the experience to make a transformation successful
  2. Experienced but lacks the interest in another "heavy lift" similar to the one they have just invested many years in leading
  3. Interested and experienced but faces constraints like location or compensation misalignment

How to Move Forward  

Building product teams for a complex product category typically requires a partner who can navigate these constraints and challenges. Martyn Bassett Associates has had a dedicated product recruitment practice and has helped hundreds of startups, including many in the Greentech / Cleantech space, find, attract, and land the talent they need to scale their product. 

See how we helped one of our clients in the Greentech space hire their first Chief Product Officer whose goal is to build and lead the company toward a formal Series A round.