Brazilian employees seeking soft values for improved engagement

09 June 2016 6 min. read

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.