Extra report: Want more insights into developer careers? Our 2023 SA Developer Nation Report is now live.Read it here.
Developer Hiring Trends in South Africa
In this report
Amid a cooling global economy, capital-efficient growth has become important for companies. 1 in 3 devs are looking to move jobs next year. Offering work-life balance grows in importance as the primary way to retain your developers.
Growing your developer team
From upfront salaries in your job ads to where you're sourcing developers, your decisions in the hiring process are key to broadening your talent pool and effectively growing your team. Almost 42% of developers wouldn't apply to a job ad without salary info.
It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic drove many people to adopt new habits in work and play: working, spending, learning, and socialising online more than ever before. This sudden tech boom meant that proactive companies scaled rapidly and investors were bullish: In Africa, more than $4 billion was raised by tech companies in 2021 alone – that’s more than 2019 and 2020 combined.
Now, more than three years since the start of the pandemic, we’re seeing a cooldown: Difficulties in fund-raising and layoffs have rocked the tech market, especially in the United States and Europe. The Russian-Ukraine war sparked fears of recession and muddied the outlook on the global economy.
South Africa's tech industry hasn’t been totally immune to the cooldown, but the data from our latest report gives us reason to be cautiously optimistic: There were no widespread tech layoffs in 2022. In fact, less than 3% of South African developers were retrenched last year. Salaries continue to rise and developers' appetites for new job opportunities seem unscathed.
As someone who has founded several businesses in South Africa, I’ve often felt that our adolescent funding environment has had its benefits. Because funding is less easily available, local businesses are forced to be lean and retain a certain level of ‘startup scrappiness’ that often gets lost as companies scale and acquire funding.
For developers, this means there continue to be many strong local job opportunities. For companies with solid foundations, this means there continue to be developers who want to work at companies that are smart about their growth.
To do that, this year's data shows us you need to offer work-life balance to attract and keep your developers: It emerges as the number one reason developers would stay in a job, as well as a top driver for team members to leave if it's lacking. We hope the full insights from this report will help you successfully navigate hiring developers in 2023.
Amid a cooling global economy, companies need to focus on capital-efficient growth. If you want to drive a profitable business and keep your costs down, retaining your top developers is just as important as hiring new talent.
30% of South African developers are looking to move jobs this year – many juniors among them
Hiring across the globe has slowed from its historic highs, but South Africa seems to have avoided the brunt of layoffs that followed Silicon Valley's sharp U-turn, at least in 2022:
In South Africa, we saw growing salaries, a number of local developers looking to move jobs within the next year and a lack of retrenchments. 30% of developers are either already searching, or planning to move jobs this year.
Juniors are the largest group looking to move jobs and also saw the biggest real rise in salary in 2022. This could be explained by juniors tending to ask for bigger increases in order to quickly grow in their careers. If employers meet them close to their asking salary, that still means a big increase over current earnings.
The number of junior developers job searching, coupled with a positive growth in average salaries, suggests that companies might be warming to the idea of hiring junior talent.
On the other hand, 35% of tech leads and managers say they'd still like to work for the same company in 5 years' time. Now is a good time to reassess how compelling your developer job package and work environment are – will it keep your best talent around?
South African developers leave their jobs for better salaries
Want to improve retention? Keep a close eye on your developer team’s salary progression:
While salaries have risen across the board, inflation has curbed actual buying power. South Africa's annual inflation rate ticked up to 7.6% in October of 2022, surpassing the upper limit of the South African Reserve Bank’s target range of 3%-6%. Developers have chosen better salary as the number one reason to leave a job in 2023 which is perhaps indicative that they are feeling the bite of the rising cost of living.
Another way to improve retention is to prioritise general work environment and your team's well-being. Three results in the top 10 suggest that developers are prioritising a holistic work environment: Poor work-life balance, lack of flexible hours, and lack of remote opportunities.
Work-life balance is especially important for seniors and leads. Interestingly, for developers in fully remote set-ups with no offices, poor work-life balance is a more prominent factor for leaving a job than for those in other set-ups.
1 in 5 South African developers received salary increases of 16% and above
Given that most developers are leaving their jobs for a better salary: When have you last checked your compensation plans?
While most developers report a 6-10% increase in their latest salary review, 1 in 5 received over 16%! This excludes those developers who have been in their roles for less than a year. This says volumes about software as a dominant force for company growth, and is an indicator that demand for excellent talent continues to outstrip supply.
Junior developers were the most likely to receive no increase, likely because of a lack of experience under their belts. With many juniors’ appetite for new job opportunities having grown, offering a reward to great performers could be an easy way to retain them.
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Work-life balance is even more important for retention in 2023
Work-life balance grows as developers' top reason to stay in a job
The importance of work-life balance shows in developers' top reasons to stay in a role. This is unsurprising: Since the pandemic, developers have spent more time with their families in remote work set-ups, and also experienced the blurring of work and personal boundaries.
Work-life-balance has grown in importance by 13% year on year since our 2021 report, overtaking growth and learning opportunities as the most important factor driving retention.
For seniors, work-life balance is even more critical, with 61.5% choosing this as their number one reason for remaining in a job. This means that putting work-life balance at the forefront of your work culture is a winning recipe to retain your developers – and gain new team members.
Could your hiring policies be limiting your talent pool?
The focus on a holistic work environment also shows in developers' work-set-up preferences:
Hybrid and fully remote are equally popular amongst software engineers, with only 3% preferring to be office-based full-time. Seniors prefer fully remote work the most, which perhaps indicates a higher capability of working independently than one would expect of graduates and juniors.
On the other hand, developers with less experience seem to have a lower preference to work fully remote. If you're operating a fully remote work set-up, it would be worthwhile to invest in your support and mentorship to juniors.
At the same time, opting for a hybrid policy that requires office visits may limit your available talent pool. Our interactions with companies on OfferZen have shown that many South African companies still exclusively hire in their local cities to accomodate for occassional office visits from hybrid team members.
But this policy drastically limits your available talent pool. As an example, OfferZen platform data shows that 25% of all South African developers on OfferZen are based in Cape Town, and 26% in Johannesburg in 2022. By our estimation, if you confined your hiring to one of these cities, it means you'd lose out on more than 70% of available developers from the rest of South Africa.
A good balance might be to have an office or co-working space available for those who want to work in a hybrid model, but not make it required for all developers to be in the office. This gives you the freedom to hire more broadly, while still giving developers the chance to connect in person — which we'll explore next.
A fully remote policy doesn't mean developers want to work exclusively from home
Travelling to the office makes up a large part of many developers' routines – even those in fully remote set-ups. The majority of developers in a fully remote set-up prefer heading into the office at least once a month, with almost 12% going in once a week.
From this, we gather that it's valuable to have an office or co-working space available for developers. Connecting with team members in this way can act as a counter for some of the challenges that developers encounter when working remotely. We'll now unpack what these challenges involve.
Lack of connection and work-life boundaries are developers' top remote work struggles
Remote work has many benefits ranging from no commute to better productivity, but it's crucial that you're still providing support to your remote team members. Developers’ top remote struggles include the lack of human interaction with co-workers, the challenge of keeping personal and professional life separate, and looming burnout. Find strategies to deliberately keep your teams connected, such as offering office or co-working spaces to meet up, creating team events, and championing work-life boundaries, which can help improve a remote work environment.
40% of devs won't apply without upfront salary info
Find developers who ignored your job ads: On OfferZen, your role, tech stack, and salary info get shared with devs upfront. It's how we achieve a 96% developer response rate.
Growing your developer team
Growing your engineering team efficiently requires a broader talent pool and a transparent hiring process.
2 in 5 developers will not apply to your job ad without upfront salary info
Despite the global cooldown since the pandemic, software remains one of the biggest drivers for business growth. When hiring developers in this climate, it's important to know that all your decisions are either broadening or limiting your available pool of tech talent. Demand for excellent software engineering talent still outstrips supply. If you're struggling to find the right talent, you should be doing everything in your power to widen the net.
Besides your choice of remote policy, as we've discussed in this report, there's another choice that could restrict the size of your developer talent pool: Hiding salary information.
Not including a salary in your job adverts could cost you more than 40% of potential applicants. It's even worse news if you're trying to attract senior talent: 52.7% and 55.9% of seniors and tech leads wouldn't apply without salary information, respectively.
Your interview process is a reflection of your company's culture
In previous reports, we've seen that the majority of developers will drop out of a hiring process after a negative experience. Your interview process emerges as one of the top ways that developers assess your culture, as well as speaking to existing employees.
Remember that interviewing is a two-way street. Developers are interviewing you as a potential employer too. Your interview process helps them decide if they want to work at your company, and everything you do in your process is a window into how you might treat people should they join.
Developers share their hiring experiences with each other
Providing a great hiring experience will help you reach more developers by default through another fact: Developers talk to each other and trust other developers. We saw this in the importance that word of mouth plays in the assessment of your culture, and it’s also evident in other ways:
More than 77% of developers have said that they share their experiences with their peers. Always think of the audience you could be reaching — or turning off — through your interview process. It can have a lasting effect long after an interview is concluded.
Nearly 30% of developers share their hiring experiences publicly
While word of mouth is the most common way to share hiring experiences, nearly 1 in 3 developers share their hiring experiences on public platforms and social media.
It's crucial that you use every opportunity to ensure candidates have the best possible experience and invest time in understanding where you can improve your process. One way to do this is to ask candidates for feedback on your process, which can either help you course-correct to attract more talent, or keep improving on what you do best.
A bad company reputation will cost you future team members
A bad reputation doesn't just make it harder to bring great people into your talent pool, it can lead to current candidates in your pipeline to turn down your offers. In fact, two of developers' top five reasons for turning down a role are due to a company's reputation: They've come across poor employee reviews, or the company has a bad reputation in the market.
So, what can you do to make sure developers walk away with only great stories to tell their peers? Caring about what matters to developers in the interview process — and avoiding their pet peeves — is a good place to start.
A fast hiring process is key for a good candidate experience
First and foremost, what will send developers running for the hills and cause your hiring pool to shrink?
Since 2022, having too many steps in your process, as well as long delays in the interview process, have risen in importance for developers as signs of a bad interview process. Time is of the essence: Remember that many developers will be juggling multiple interview processes at the same time.
Overall, being lowballed on salary is their top pet peeve, especially for seniors.
You need to stay in communication with developers in your pipeline: Not receiving any feedback is in the top 3 pet peeves, and stands out as the top disliked factor for both juniors and female developers.
Transparency on process, salary, and role is the foundation of a developer-centric hiring process
On the other hand, here's what to do to ensure a great response to your hiring process:
Transparency on role and interview process, as well as upfront salary information, have grown as the top factors that developers appreciate in an interview process in 2023. Transparency is even more important when it comes to attracting seniors and female developers.
Hiring teams that communicate poorly about these details risk shrinking their talent pool by causing developers to drop off throughout the process.
What else should you get right about the interview process? Let's look at this next: The all-important technical interview.
Online assessments are the most common, but least effective way to assess skills
Assessing a candidate's technical skills is a crucial part of any hiring process but the method you use impacts candidate experience. Choosing an assessment that developers consider effective can go a long way.
While developers think online coding challenges are the least effective way to test their skills, it's what most companies use to assess technical skill.
Companies must be willing to try different methods of assessment if they experience drop-off due to ineffective methods of assessment. Remember that developers are likely juggling multiple interview processes, and will prioritise tech assessments they find most appealing or effective.
Making a job offer
When scaling your team, knowing what an attractive offer looks like for a software engineer is crucial to standing out among competitors. Bonuses and medical aid are the top most wanted monetary benefits, while 1 in 5 devs still receive no benefits in their job.
Bonuses and medical aid top the list of desired monetary benefits
Providing a standout compensation package can go a long way in helping developers choose your offer over another.
So what monetary benefits do software engineers care about? Bonuses and medical aid, followed by retirement contributions, top the list of desired monetary benefits for developers.
Are all companies attracting developers with great benefits, though? Not quite – let’s unpack this next.
1 in 5 developers receive no benefits in their jobs
1 in 5 developers still don't receive any type of benefit in their job. It's vital for companies to pay attention to what developers want in order to attract more talent, not to mention retain existing team members.
Small companies of less than 50 employees are most likely not to offer any benefits. If you can't offer major attractions such as medical aid, balancing this out with benefits such as shares could be a way of competing against bigger companies. This will also give you an edge over many competitor startups, so make sure to highlight it in your outreach.
If you see a 0% in the data, it is due to no respondents choosing that option as a benefit at their current company.
What makes for a good remote work budget?
Given developers' preference for remote work, a logical next step would be to invest in their remote set-ups as part of the benefits you provide.
More than 1 in 5 developers consider a remote setup budget an important factor when assessing a new role. But what does a good set-up mean to them?
Turns out, developers are really just asking for the basics: Dual monitors, a UPS for loadshedding and a dedicated desk make up the top three essentials they care about. Helping your developer team with a productive work set-up in their homes ultimately benefits your business and should come as a no-brainer.
Leave days and remote work options matter when developers assess opportunities
If you can't offer all the bells and whistles with monetary benefits, you need to pay close attention to the other factors developers use to assess an opportunity so you can still stand out.
It should come as no surprise that work-life balance plays a role here. Number of leave days has risen in importance by 6% since 2022, and options to work remotely remain the second most important factor overall – narrowly beaten by growth opportunities.
However, if you'd like to attract more experienced talent, remote options are by far the most important factor for seniors and team leads, at 61%. If you don't offer flexibility, you're closing the door on some of the most important talent on the market.
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The data in this report does not claim to be representative of the entire South African developer population. Any time the term, 'software engineer, ‘developer’ or 'South African developer' is used, it refers to the group of developers who took our #DevNationSurvey between 18 October and 18 November 2022.
In terms of location, we only used Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town in location comparisons due to sample size. In cases where no data slicing occurs, all 4548 valid responses were included. In order to shed light on survey participant characteristics, we’ve included the demographic breakdown of all 4548 valid responses below.
Industries developers currently work in
Organisation size by employees
OfferZen conducted a survey to find out more about skills, work experience and job search behaviour of developers. A total of 6777 people took the online survey between 18 October and 18 November 2022. Of these responses, 4548 were counted as valid because they were from developers, or developers who manage other developers, and are currently living in South Africa.
We hosted the survey itself on Typeform and recruited respondents via emails sent to more than 40 000 software makers in the OfferZen community and social media posts to the public. Data was anonymised in accordance with GDPR guidelines and is housed separate to any and all of OfferZen’s platform data. Percentages may not always add to 100% due to rounding.
Salary in this report refers to gross salary before tax and excludes benefits. Statistical analysis was conducted to verify insights regarding salaries and we have only included claims where we have at least 95% confidence.
OfferZen is a developer job marketplace by developers for developers. Our platform matches job-seeking developers with exciting opportunities at companies, but this effort actually encompasses a much wider mission: To help developers and their teams thrive in the tech ecosystem.
Over the last six years, this has manifested in a multitude of ways from our core business of helping developers find awesome new jobs, to hosting local maker evenings and tech events, or helping developers share their experiences on our blog. We want to help build an inclusive, transparent, and thriving tech ecosystem.
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