Brazilian employees seeking soft values for improved engagement

09 June 2016

Brazil is facing considerable economic and political crisis, falling into a deep recession while its political system is in disarray following a continued corruption saga. In a bid to reduce employee churn and increase their engagement during the economic bad times, employers may not be able to leverage the more traditional increase in compensation. In a new report, additional levers are identified, finding that appreciation, learning and career development as well as a good work life balance may be more achievable keys – both for retention and attraction.

Brazil is currently facing crisis on a number of fronts. Its economy contracted -3.8% last year, shedding 1.5 million jobs in the process. This year a further -3.5% contraction is predicted – sending the country into sharp and deep recession, on the back of plummeting commodity prices. A widening gap between productivity and labour in reference to other emerging economies is further cited as an area of concern. At the same time, the political environment has started to spin out of control, with President Dilma Rousseff, accused of manipulating the government budget, suspended from office and facing the risk of being removed from power.

In a new analysis from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), titled ‘Understanding Brazil’s Workforce in a Troubled Times’, the consulting firms explores the sentiment of employees in the country, as well as looks at how employers – at low cost – can improve retention and attract talent during the times of trouble.

Indicators of Happiness on the Job

Employee values
The research, which is based on the responses given by 11,200 Brazilian employees and 203,000 global employees (representing 189 countries) in 2014, as well as more recent interviews, finds that a number of different ‘soft’ rather than compensation based values are shaping what determines a valuable workplace for Brazilian employees. 

The top work factor rated as important by Brazilian employees is appreciation of one’s work, which is correspondingly also the top rated factor globally. Learning and career development comes second, which stands well above its global number six position. A good work life balance is third, followed by a good relationship with superiors – both in line with international trends. The company's values comes in at number six. 

Brazilian Workplace Preferences

Benefit alignment
There are mild differences between male and female employees. Women are more interested in job security, fixed salary, social responsibility, flexible work models, paid time off/holidays and family support programmes. While men are found to be slightly more interested in an opportunities to lead, challenging job assignments, bonus, opportunities to travel and a company car. 

Brazilians looking for a job

Retaining and attracting staff
The research finds that Brazilian employees, especially in the first years following tenure, are keen to move on. In the 0-3 year category, for instance, 66% are actively looking for new opportunities, while 31% are not actively looking but open to a new role. In the 4-20 range, 50% say they are actively looking for a new position, while in the 20+ range 42% say they are actively looking to move on. The research finds that particularly manual workers and skilled office workers are keen to find a new place to work, at 68% and 53% respectively. Those that are demotivated are much more likely to look for a new position as opposed to those that are motivated, at 67% and 47% respectively. 

The research highlights that the levers for higher retention, assuming lower levels of actively new job seeking employees reduces turnover, are not easy to foster – like seniority and length of service. Addressing demotivation in the workplace is therefore a key area in which employers can try to manage staff that are seeking to move on, as well as providing the key workplace preferences, such as learning and career development, good work life balance, etc.

“Competitive pay is necessary, but it isn’t sufficient—that’s one of the big takeaways here,” says Thiago Cardoso, a principal in BCG’s Rio de Janeiro office and a report co-author. “As a Brazilian company, you’ve also got to know how to say thank you for a job well done, create a collegial atmosphere, and give your people a chance to learn and develop. The companies that do that in the future are going to win the talent war.”

Reasons for working abroad - Brazil

Overseas experience
The research also considered the willingness of Brazilians workers to take on overseas challenges. Finding a number of differences between global and Brazilian workers. The most important factor, seeing Brazilian workers look for an overseas position, is to broaden their personal experience, at 72% (compared to 65% globally). This is followed by acquiring work experience at 70% of respondents (compared to 65% globally). Experiencing a different culture comes in at 64% compared to 54% globally, while learning a new language is seen as important by 62% compared to 47% globally. Improving career opportunities, which comes in tied third globally, comes in at number five for Brazilian workers – with 3 out of the top five reasons for overseas work experience being personal rather than career related (assuming different languages do not further career aspirations). The report highlights however that few Brazilian workers are actively taking steps to find overseas assignments, with less than one in ten actively engaged in job seeking overseas positions and around one in a hundred starting to make visa arrangements.


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.