Opinion, by Sam Flowers

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – My previous article The Real Cost of Labor in Brazil discussed some of the main drivers of the high cost of employees in Brazil. Another factor driving costs higher is competition for talent. Unemployment in Brazil is at historically low levels and workers have their choice of jobs.

Sam Flowers, owner of the Gringo Café.

Given high labor costs and the increasing competition for staff, businesses in Brazil need to work hard to attract, retain and maximize performance of employees. Offering competitive compensation is critical of course, but in many cases it is not enough.

In my experience working with over seventy Brazilian employees in 2.5 years, intangible incentives are highly effective at generating employee performance and satisfaction. I have found that the strongest motivators besides money are management policies and incentives that give workers more job stability, better quality of life and opportunity for growth. These types of incentives are common in other countries but new and under utilized in Brazil.

I think employees appreciate stability since historically in Brazil workers suffered significant uncertainty. For example, I have heard some Brazilians say they love working for Americans because they pay on time and accurately. Something as simple as a dependable payday and paychecks has a lot of meaning and value in a country where workers are sometimes treated poorly or even cheated.

Offering staff a better quality of life can be achieved by providing some flexibility in the work schedule. In many industries here employees work six days a week and it is common to have long commutes; This leaves little time for errands, family and fun.

Allowing workers some flexibility to come in late, leave early, move a day off, etc. can make them more motivated and productive while at work. This type of incentive seems rare in Brazil, so if you can offer this flexibility, it will make your business significantly more attractive to employees.

The opportunity to learn and grow is another benefit highly valued by many workers since it is difficult and expensive to get a good education in Brazil. Union work rules and strict labor laws narrowly define jobs in most industries, but many employees are interested in doing more than their officially assigned tasks.

At the restaurant we cross train employees and always look to promote from within before filling vacancies with new people. This has improved job satisfaction and employee retention, plus the business benefits from a more versatile staff.

Offering these intangible incentives helps compete for talent in Brazil’s tight labor market. The main evidence for my business is the high number of employees who after leaving to try other jobs, have returned to work for me. My staff also shares with me that the stability, flexibility and growth opportunities are unique compared to other work experiences and they truly help improve job satisfaction.


Sam Flowers is an American living in Rio de Janeiro who created and founded the Gringo Café in Ipanema in 2010. A former executive and consultant with twenty years experience in Corporate Strategy, Brand Marketing and Finance, Sam also offers consulting services to foreign businesses and people entering or adapting to Brazil. Contact Sam at sam@gringocafe.com.


  1. You’re absolutely right since the elite doesn’t have the skills to compete worldwide imagine the average workers. In Brazil most people work for a minimum wage paid monthly and that is less than 700 reais, less than 350 dollars a month. The employee becomes a kind of property and works 44 hours per week established by law. Everything that you have said that increases satisfaction of the employee would never be offered by a Brazilian employer so to be an average American boss here in Brazil is a great bussiness. I’m unemployed; would you like to be my boss? The Brazilian population is dying for small businesses American bosses. I’m really unemployed if you know a position at the marketplace I’d be really grateful. Cheers!


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