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: Scaling your tech team with a limited salary budget
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Scaling your tech team with a limited salary budget

22 March 2024, by Anne Gonschorek

Scaling teams in the face of budgetary constraints and fierce competition from big tech businesses is a major challenge for tech companies. To add to this, making the wrong hire in this environment can end up being more costly than usual.

The shortage of senior developers and high salary demands in Europe can make it difficult to bring the right people on board. Fortunately, there’s a relatively simple solution for tech hiring managers looking for top talent that’s affordable: tapping into dev talent pools from emerging markets.

We recently chatted with Lead Software Engineer at BBD Europe, Lourens Kotzé, and Project Y Founder, Felix Anthonj to find out how you can still find the perfect fit for your crucial hires with a limited budget.

Emerging market developers: effective and affordable

Hiring developers from emerging markets gives tech companies a strategic advantage when scaling their teams. Thanks to the large pools of world-class developers who are eager to perform well, it makes sense to tap into these markets: one example is South Africa.

“You have so many talented developers; you have good schools; and you have the bootcamp market. Then, if you look at the pure quantity of available talent and how hungry they are to make it and the work they will put in, it’s amazing.” (Felix Anthonj, Project Y)

To add to this, most developers in these emerging markets are proficient in English and live in countries where the time zone overlaps with Europe, which allows for seamless collaboration.

The cost-effectiveness of hiring in these markets doesn’t hurt, either. Favourable exchange rates for businesses based in Europe means that emerging market developers offer these companies substantial value for money.

“The biggest thing we’ve found in many of these geographies is that, first of all, there’s an affordability to it. But second of all, these people are very adaptable, usually very eager, and have a very, very high work ethic.” (Lourens Kotzé, BBD)

Cultural compatibility is another big benefit; particularly when hiring South African developers. “South African people are very nice and very friendly and very open, and they have good ‘swag’. So, from a European perspective, the culture actually works quite well,” added Felix. 
That said, tapping into emerging market talent pools isn’t without its challenges. A company’s approach to hiring, onboarding and working remotely needs to be well thought out to ensure it leads to long-term retention.

“A question that a lot of companies now need to ask themselves is: Where do we find the right type of talent? How do we develop the right type of talent and retain that talent? Because hiring remotely has a lot of challenges, especially for retention rates,” explained Felix.

“It’s the responsibility of the employer to make sure that you hire people for the long-term horizon, that you also invest in your talent and build a long-term relationship, rather than just seeing them as cheap labour.” (Felix Anthonj, Project Y)

What to learn more about the South African market?

In this data report, you’ll get insights on:

  • Benefits of the South African talent pool
  • How South African salaries compare
  • What “hidden costs” you should expect
Download the report

Hiring the right developers, remotely

You can easily build the team you need with the budget you have when hiring developers from emerging markets. 
Here are some strategies you can use to make remote hiring a little easier:

Know what skills are needed

Having a good understanding of the skills you need on your team is essential for success. To do this, Lourens advises monitoring demand trends, anticipating your business needs and creating a holistic strategy.
“Getting together with all your unit leaders and talking about what might be coming down the pipeline is a good way to keep your ear on the ground,” he said.

Don’t overlook soft skills

Soft skills are far more critical for building a strong team than hard skills. Identifying candidates who not only have technical know-how, but also fit in with your company’s culture and have the drive to succeed can make a big difference in team dynamics and productivity.

Get to vetting

You need a robust vetting process to ensure the quality of remote hires. But how can smaller tech companies, with fewer resources than big businesses, take on this task?

Felix advised outsourcing the vetting to a trusted partner. This will help to guarantee the quality of potential hires, which will reduce hiring time and costs.

“It becomes really important to assess the skills ahead of time, but not every company is equipped to do this. So, it might make sense to outsource this vetting process to a trusted source, where you know that you’ll get the quality that you need.” (Felix Anthonj, Project Y)

Leverage AI

Using AI, as Project Y does with its admission manager, is an effective way to streamline hiring and preserve the quality of candidates who make it through the recruitment process.

“We have an AI admission manager where candidates do a video interview. They record themselves, we ask them questions, which change, and then AI analyses the answers based on the model that we trained,” explained Felix.

Invest in training

There’s a shortage of senior developers in the market, but less experienced, more affordable programmers are abundant. Hiring junior developers and providing training and coaching can help you attract ambitious, dedicated candidates who want to grow with you.

“There is a chance for companies to tap into this talent pool if they make sure that they can develop the talent (and) onboard them in the right way,” said Felix.

“People tend to lean towards companies where they’ve got these clear growth paths and development paths. So one of the things that we’ve been giving a lot of attention to lately is to provide the people that join us some good career coaching and helping them achieve what they set out for in their careers,” added Lourens.

He added that BBD also invests heavily in their Graduate and Bursar programmes, giving young, talented people opportunities to step into developer positions and gain hands-on experience. “These programmes ensure that we have not only a pipeline of juniors coming into the business, but that we continue to support the growth of the tech industry in emerging markets.”

Foster remote culture

Developers value working remotely, but having team members isolated halfway across the world isn’t great for culture.

Lourens pointed out that it’s best to make your remote employees feel as much a part of the team as their on-site counterparts. This will help to ensure that these developers want to stay in their roles rather than switch companies – even for a bigger salary.

“The problem that I’m seeing with a lot of companies hiring remotely is that they treat their remote hires completely differently than the on-site staff. They talk about the culture that they have and like the things they do together, but then the remote people are a little bit in a silo and excluded from this,” Felix added.

“It’s really important to think about what support you give to your people. You need to invest much more into actually retaining your people and offering services around your paycheque so that they are happy to stay.”

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