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How to use product vision as a tool for attracting and retaining talented developers

26 April 2024 , by Marcelle van Niekerk

In the wake of the tech industry’s downturn, many hiring teams have to do more with less resources at hand. However, hiring top quality software developers hasn’t become any easier – especially when working with tighter budgets. So, how do you compete to attract talent that can make an impact quickly in your team? ‘Selling’ developers on your product and the impact they can have on your team can be a powerful tool in this context.

In the most recent instalment of our CTO’s Playbook webinar series, OfferZen Engineering Manager Nick van Noordwyk chatted to Daniel Amber, Tech Lead at Cars.co.za, about how creating a captivating narrative about your product and vision can make developers want to work for you.

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The role of your product vision in attracting top talent

Developers are problem-solvers. They’re motivated by creating solutions that meet the needs of end users. Helping them to understand the problem they’re trying to solve lets them see the potential impact of their work.

Establishing a clear vision and creating a compelling story around your product and the purpose it serves is a great way to do this, noted Daniel.

“It never hurts to have a clear goal and a clear brand identity out there,” he said. “When there’s a company vision, developers have something that they can help to turn into a reality. It’s not a pie in the sky or a dream. So, when they go into work everyday, even if it’s for a small company, they know that they’re having a big impact, which is really cool.”

Nick highlighted that showing developers that there is something to work towards and focusing on the potential value of their outputs is a great way to get them excited about working for your business.

“When people are working towards something where they can see the impact and they are closely aligned with that, and that excites and motivates them, then you’re going to be able to do fantastic things,” he said.

Leveraging your product vision to make great hires

Developers – and anyone else who works in tech – should always expect the unexpected. That said, software engineers are generally big fans of certainty. They value having frameworks that enable them to make valuable contributions to projects and progress their careers.

A clear product vision is a great jumping off point for creating these frameworks. It enables team leads and hiring managers to establish what potential hires will be responsible for doing and how that fits into the bigger picture of achieving the company’s goals.

“For the most part, when you can see the vision and what’s going to happen down the line, it makes this a little easier. You can show them that they’re going to be working on these features and these features are going to create this awesome outcome,” said Daniel.

A strong vision can also help businesses to define the values its people need to embody in order to get to where it plans on going. This is massively beneficial, because prospective employees are often drawn to companies whose values resonate with their personal beliefs.

“Being able to clearly articulate the thing that they are going to work on will definitely help them to make a decision that’s in their best interest, from a hiring standpoint, especially if they’re fielding multiple offers,” added Nick.

“This is important now more than ever because companies are trying to do more with less, so being able to find the people who really, really want to work for you is essential.”

Employer branding also comes into play here. Creating a brand strategy that’s based on your business’s vision can help you to establish a compelling narrative that not only attracts customers, but also speaks to potential employees.

“Where we really excel is that we have a really strong brand, which is great for attracting younger people. So, what we’ve found recently is that we can hire very strong, young devs because they’re aware of the brand and they want to be part of it,” said Daniel.

Using your product vision to drive developer retention

According to OfferZen’s 2024 State of the Developer Nation report, salaries remain the top reason why developers might stay or leave a company. Another big driver for resignations among software engineers is an uncertain company outlook.

Almost 16% of developers will leave a role if they’re not sure about the future of the business they’re working for. This lack of vision can have a domino effect, affecting employees’ perceptions of management as well as potential career and growth opportunities – the three biggest motivators for attrition after poor pay.

Here’s a few tips to leverage your product vision and company mission to retain great hires in the long term:

1. Explain the “Why”

When onboarding new developers, give them all of the information they need to be successful. This includes why you’re committed to a certain project, why they’re working on it and the value that it will have for the business.

“When you understand what the vision is, you can understand your part in that vision and how you can be an extremely effective player in achieving that vision,” said Daniel.

2. Commit to your company values

Being clear on your company’s values and actually living them can help increase your team’s satisfaction at work:

“When you feel like you’re part of a team and a company that has values and lives those values, you can go to work and feel proud. You know that you are working at a place that wants to do something and, when it achieves that success, has a plan for what they want to do with it,” said Daniel.

You can also use your values to prioritise the work you’re committing to, and simplify your decision-making:

“Sometimes, the easiest way to make trade-offs is just to rely on vision and then ask ourselves, is this is in line with our vision? Or are we making a call that may be good for now but bad for our users later down the line?” said Daniel.

Another significant part of commiting to your values is making sure that you’re creating a sense of belonging and community among your team member. Opening up the lines of communication – especially in remote work environments – can drive conversations that could dynamically shift products.

This plays a role giving developers the sense that their ideas are valuable and they’re making a worthwhile contribution to the business. Both of which are key for retaining talented, motivated software engineers.

3. Enable growth

A lack of clear career and growth opportunities costs you developers. When it comes to what developers want for career growth, the data shows that challenging projects and new lanaguages and frameworks are the most important after earning potential.

Having a clear product vision can help you demonstrate the opportunities for growth on offer by letting poetntial members see the types of projects they’ll work on and the challenges they’ll need to overcome. This way your product vision helps your developers improve both hard and soft skills by tackling your company’s technical challenges and keeps them engaged. This not only increases the competency of your team but can also help developers to become multipliers within their teams.

“Stretching your talent, not stretching the person to work longer hours, but actually stretching them in terms of their ability or what they think they can even achieve to get better outputs can really help,” said Nick.

Future-focused reading

For CTOs and hiring managers who want to foster a growth mindset that will help them inspire teams and attract talented developers, Daniel recommends reading The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz.

The book offers strategies to enhance leadership skills, boost confidence and foster a mindset geared towards achievement, insights that are particularly useful in the dynamic tech industry.

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