Many tech teams are facing reduced hiring budgets and a tougher investment landscape. One way to do more with less is looking beyond your country’s limits and hire developers remotely. Hiring remotely in other countries holds many benefits, including affordability and a larger pool of talent.
But what does remote hiring and onboarding look like practically? In our latest Untold Stories in Tech Hiring event, we unpacked tried and tested strategies from CTOs that have successfully done both.
The session was hosted by Robyn Lighton, Head of Performance Marketing at OfferZen. She was joined by panellists Jack Godau (CDO of Doctorly) and Martin Hignett (CTO of ITONICS). Here are the key takeaways from the event:
The challenges of local hiring
Despite the downturn in the tech hiring market, hiring excellent developers remains a challenge in competitive tech landscapes. The panellists shared their experience of hiring in Berlin, a fast-growing tech hub in Europe:
“Finding good candidates is difficult, takes a long time, and they often come with quite a pay package,” said Martin. “Our hiring cycle in Berlin is very long.”
Since the pandemic, the competition from Big Tech has also increased, with more companies such as Amazon and Google taking advantage of hiring the best talent regardless of location. “They’re clearing out the market — if you’re a smaller company or a startup, it’s very difficult to find the finances to compete against them,” said Jack.
The benefits of hiring remotely from alternative talent pools
One way to overcome the challenge is to hire remotely from alternative pools of talent. Both ITONICS and doctorly are hiring developers from South Africa, which has helped to solve several of their local hiring challenges.
“I get two thirds of the price for the same quality developers,” said Jack. “And these developers in turn get great compensation and benefits. So they’re getting more, while I’m paying less.”
Besides cost and quality, there are more benefits in tapping into the South African tech hiring market: the tech community is largely English speaking, are used to remote work and can help bring diversity to your tech team.
What’s more, offering remote work to developers can swing an offer in your favour. According to OfferZen’s latest State of the Developer Nation reports, developers in Europe and South Africa consider remote options one of the most important non-monetary benefits when assessing a new opportunity.
Get OfferZen’s guide to crafting a remote work policy that attracts developers:
Strategies for remote hiring
Here are the panellist’s top strategies to get remote hiring right:
Think about how you’re structuring a remote team: Regional vs cross-regional
When it comes to how you structure your team, there are two different approaches to consider. The effectiveness will depend on the needs and size of your team. Here are the approaches that have worked for Martin and Jack.
If you’re hiring in multiple locations, you might prefer structuring your team according to region. This is what has worked for the team at ITONICS, who hire from multiple countries and timezones, including Nepal and South Africa. For example, they have separate teams situated in South Africa and Nepal.
In Martin’s experience, the benefit of this approach includes the ability to easily offer 24/7 support services to your clients, if your teams are spread across time zones. On the downside, it can be difficult to work asynchronously across regional teams.
On the other hand, you could structure a team within a specific timezone across regions. This is the approach that the team at doctorly are following. For example, their team contains both Europeans and South Africans.
In Jack’s experience, a benefit of this approach is that the team can more easily integrate cross-culturally, and gain experience from working with a diverse range of cultures.
Policy tips for your remote teams
When it comes to compensation, benefits and other policies for your remote teams, here are the panellist’s tips:
- Compensate your teams fairly for the cost of living in that region.
- Keep benefits equal for all team members, and compensate as fairly as possible for differences in region. For example, South Africans on doctorly’s team receive similar healthcare and pension benefits as the team in Germany, even if the legal requirements to offer this differs between countries.
- Consider extra benefits for your remote teams. For example, allowing team members to work remotely in any location that aligns with your timezone policy is becoming increasingly popular, according to Martin.
- Standardise job titles across regions.
Tips for remote onboarding and team building
Once you’ve hired your new team members, a great onboarding experience is essential to make remote new joiners feel welcome and capable of contributing to the team. In a remote environment, going the extra mile and being deliberate when it comes to forging connections between team members is crucial.
Here are the panellist’s top tips for getting it right:
- Hold cultural workshops to make sure your team members of different backgrounds and nationalities have a good understanding of each other’s ways of working and the company culture.
- Set an example of good work-life balance for your team: Encourage healthy work-life boundaries for your team by being offline outside of working hours within your region.
- Have regular check-ins and create deliberate ways to connect: Developers in both Europe and South Africa have indicated that a lack of day-to-day interactions is their top remote struggle. To counter this, make time to regularly check in with your team members outside of work matters. Consider holding team-building events that are remote-friendly: for example, Jack’s team play online games together or just gather to have a chat.
“You need to come up with these ideas to get people to spend time together. If they just work together, they will disconnect. If you want them to form a team, they have to bond as humans.”
Be aware of any time zone differences when communicating with remote colleagues.
“You’ve got to be quite careful,” says Martin. “For example, when it’s 5 pm for you, it could be 10 in the evening for your colleagues. Don’t Slack someone at that time — it can seem like quite an aggressive way to communicate.”
Tip: If working asynchronously, consider scheduling Slack messages or emails to a time that falls within the working hours of your colleagues.
Build a strong employer brand: Having a shared understanding of your company brand and values can help build ties between remote team members. For example, Jack’s team has simplified their company values to 4 values, which all team members are familiar with.
“Values are what we feel intrinsically is right or appropriate as humans,” says Jack. “If you live them as a team, you’re also already a long way to achieving your diversity and inclusion goals, because your values should lead you to those places.”
Building a good remote team requires a strong vision and culture to create the type of work environment that is becoming increasingly popular among developers. This work environment is ultimately all about flexibility, argues Jack:
“Giving people flexibility, whether it’s about location, whether it’s time, whether it’s equipment choice, whether it’s programming languages: This flexibility and enabling people to do the best work that they can through a variety of methods is the new normal,” he said.
- The Ultimate Developer Hiring Guide. This guide covers every aspect of the tech hiring process, from best practices, to sending the first message, interviewing and onboarding developers.