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Hiring Tips & Insights: Why OfferZen Uses an Employer of Record to Hire Developers Across Africa

Why OfferZen Uses an Employer of Record to Hire Developers Across Africa

By Azaria Beukes

One way to broaden your software developer talent pool is to hire globally. But which option is the best for your business, and how do you set that up? At OfferZen, we use an Employer of Record (EOR) to hire software developers across Africa. Here’s why we chose an EOR and our step-by-step process for going about it.

Why OfferZen Uses an Employer of Record to Hire Developers Across Africa

Why we expanded our tech hiring in Africa

As a developer job marketplace, at OfferZen we aim to connect every developer with opportunities to build an awesome future. To help do that, our Product team’s mission is to deliver quality software at a sustainable cadence, and help successfully match developers to great opportunities.

Our tech stack within the Product team is heavily based on Ruby on Rails and React. As a fast-scaling company, we have to grow our number of Back-end, Front-end and Full Stack developers to keep up with the needs of the business

These developer roles are in high demand in South Africa, but we have an additional, unique constraint at OfferZen that makes hiring local developers more challenging.

Part of our mission as a developer job marketplace is helping other companies grow their tech teams. Although we use our own platform to find developers, we don’t actively reach out to developers we’ve helped to find jobs that are still working for our customers.

Since we are helping more than 2000+ companies hire developers, with many of our clients based in South Africa, this severely restricts our available pool of developer talent.

Widening our net beyond South Africa means:

  • Access to a large pool of tech talent:

There are an estimated 700,000 software developers across Africa, with large talent pools in Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya and Morocco.

  • Increased diversity: Tapping into these countries allows us to diversify our tech team.

The lack of diversity in tech is a well-known challenge requiring innovative solutions. By hiring from other African countries, you immediately get access to a pool of talent with different nationalities, languages and ethnicities.

  • Affordability: As a South African company, hiring from other African countries is significantly more affordable than hiring European developers.

How we decided which countries to hire from

We started by conducting research into the specific countries we thought we might be able to expand our hiring to. Fortunately, we could rely on some data from our marketplace to inform our decision:

  • We saw promising levels of developer activity on the platform from Nigeria and Kenya, relative to other countries on the continent, for the specific roles we were interested in.
  • We got a good indication that salary ranges for many developers from these countries were in line with what we offer our South African developers.

We felt confident we’d be able to find the right developer talent in these regions.

Choosing our global hiring method

When you’re hiring developers across borders, there are multiple options available to do so compliantly. This includes establishing a new entity in that region, hiring people as contractors, and using a global employment platform/Employer of Record (EOR) service.

We decided against establishing a new entity as this is a costly and time-consuming process, that makes the most sense if you need many permanent employees on the ground in a new location. Instead, using an Employer of Record would be the best solution for us.

Why we chose an Employer of Record to hire developers

Employer of Record services act as the employer on your behalf in a region, by handling payroll, benefits, taxes and compliance of team members for you.

Using an Employer of Record made the most sense to our business since we had a limited number of fully remote roles we were hiring for in Kenya and Nigeria.

We knew that using an EOR would allow us to quickly make hires from Nigeria and Kenya without having an entity registered in those countries.

We have partnered with several EORs to assist our clients with their international hiring which meant that we had already established relationships with their teams. We explored using Playroll as our EOR of choice. Our existing relationship and the fact that our teams shared a timezone, making collaboration easier, made them a compelling option.

Benchmarking new markets

Our discovery up until this point had been fairly broad. It was time to drill down into the specifics of hiring someone from Kenya and Nigeria: What would it mean for our hiring team every step of the way?

We needed to get as much detail as possible on the following questions:

Compensation:

  • What would the salaries look like if based in local currencies?
  • How do salaries compare to South Africa?
  • What are the salary ranges for the roles we wanted to hire?

Other costs:

  • What additional employer contributions do we need to consider?
  • How much would travel cost for team events?
  • What would the extra monthly management fee be?
  • What would the cost be of getting equipment and peripherals to new joiners?
  • Is the overall cost worth it, if you take all of the above into account?

Visa sponsorship:

  • How would visas work if they require sponsorship?

Employee experience:

  • How would benefits work? Can we provide the same benefits? How?
    • If not, what equivalent benefits would be suitable?
  • How does the experience look and feel to a candidate when they are onboarded onto Playroll?
  • Can we get gifts/swag to the person?
  • How do we get their equipment (such as laptops) to them?

We gathered this information through general research on these countries and making use of market data we had available on OfferZen. We also got help from Playroll’s support team, who were able to provide some of our answers even before sign-up.

OfferZen’s top tips:

  • Allow enough time to do your research properly. We recommend at least two weeks but preferably more.
  • Some useful resources to do this benchmarking include:

Getting wider business buy-in for the decision

Backed by most of the information we needed, our People team could now present signing up to an EOR to the wider business.

For our team at OfferZen, that meant using the RAPID decision-making framework to gather feedback from key business stakeholders.

In short, this involves putting together a document that covered:

  • The Issue: In this case, the need to hire beyond South Africa’s borders to fulfil our open tech roles.
  • The Proposed Solution: Using an EOR to start hiring developers in Kenya and Nigeria.

We consulted everyone needed to make the decision, which involved the following role players:

  • R (Recommend): The one who proposes the Issue and Solution.
  • A (Agree): Those people whose input must be incorporated in the decision.
  • P (Perform): Those people who will have to enact any decision and therefore should be heard.
  • I (Input): Those people whose input is worth considering.
  • D (Decide): The one who will make the decision.

It’s crucial to get input from all key stakeholders because the stakes are high if a big decision like this goes wrong.

When working with many stakeholders, it helps to use a framework like RAPID to move fast in your decision-making.

Based on this, it was easier to make the decision to proceed with using an EOR to hire in Kenya and Nigeria.

Top tips to get started with an Employer of Record

If your hiring team is interested in making use of an EOR to hire global tech talent as well, here are our top learnings for picking the right provider for your needs:

Choose a provider with a support team in the same time zone

There’s often back and forth communication needed between your team and the EOR when it comes to the nitty-gritty questions you will have for hiring in a specific country. They have different parties that they partner with in every region, and sometimes have to go and find the answers to your questions somewhere else.

The risk is that they provide feedback when you’ve run out of time to do something, which is exacerbated when different time zones are at stake. Even though some of the third parties an EOR partners will always be in different time zone to yourself, it helps to at least share a timezone with the main support team of the EOR. This can minimise the time it takes to get feedback. You want to make sure the support team can find your answers as quickly as possible, and without passing you onto another stakeholder.

Test their support before you sign-up

As far as possible, the EOR should function as an extension of your team. It’s crucial to make sure your values and ways of working overlap.

To test this, make use of support functions (such as their chatbot services) before you sign up.

Are they responsive when you chat with them online, even before you have signed up? Does it take days before you speak to the right person? This is a good indication of the kind of support you will get once you are a customer.

Don’t overcompensate for risks you anticipate

Don’t let your fears of what might go wrong lengthen the process of getting started with an EOR.

The chances that things will go wrong are much smaller than of it going well, as long as you have a solid recruitment process. Understand the risks but don’t try and design for them. It isn’t worth the time. For example, don’t try to over-engineer the contracts that the EOR will be sending candidates.

Be visible about any potential risks and keep an eye on it, but let them manage the process they’ll be responsible for. If you partner with the right EOR, they will be eager to collaborate effectively with you.


Finally, we’re excited to keep learning about hiring developers successfully across borders: This is new ground for our team. If you’re using an EOR to hire developers for your team, and have any learnings or tips to share, please comment below! We’d love to hear from you.

Read more

How to Hire International Software Developers

At OfferZen, we’ve partnered with various companies, like employer of record, relocation support and remote equipment services, to help our customers tap into the global talent pool. Read more on discounts available here.

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