Robot Wrestling, Guided By The (Hollywood) Voice Of God

This is Change Log — my semi-weekly observations and links on the intersection of tech, commerce, health, culture and markets


China Internet watchdog bans former tycoon’s microblog

BEIJING, Feb 28 (Reuters) – China’s cyberspace watchdog said on Sunday it had ordered the closure of a microblog account of a former property tycoon, known for his bold remarks on China’s economic policy, for “spreading illegal information”.



Google tax deal: MPs criticise secretive settlement

Public accounts committee says £130m deal seems ‘disproportionately small’ compared with size of UK business

Google’s controversial tax deal has been criticised for being “disproportionately small” by parliament’s public spending watchdog.

The new analysis of the deal to pay £130m in back taxes has been released amid claims that the French government is seeking about€1.6bn (£1.3bn) in back taxes from the tech company.

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While The ECB Starts A ‘War On Cash’, European Citizens Start Hoarding!

ECB Headquarter

The European Central Bank has shed some more light on its operations in 2015, the year wherein it decided to forget about the free market economy as the bank has become one of the main market participants now.

The Central Bank’s net income from the asset purchase program increased from 2M EUR to 161M EUR, and the asset purchase program was responsible for the 9.4% increase in the net profit of the bank. Indeed, the ECB has made a very handsome profit of almost 1.1 billion Euro, which was distributed amongst the national central banks in the Eurosystem.

ECB Balance sheet size

Source: ECB

What’s more important is the fact the size of the balance sheet of the ECB is increasing again. At a very fast pace! The total value of the balance sheet of the Eurosystem was 2.8T EUR as of at the end of 2015 (which is approximately $3.1 trillion). That’s a substantial increase compared to just 2.4 trillion last year, and there are no signs of seeing the expansion of the balance sheet slowing down as not only will the ECB continue its asset purchases, it’s even considering to expand its monetary easing program by stimulating the markets even more.

At the same time, the war on cash has started, and several officials and market participants have claimed the bank notes of 500 EUR (and even 200 EUR) should be banned, whilst for instance in the USA, Larry Summers wants to get rid of the $100 dollar bill. It’s understandable the governments are getting nervous about the force of people drawing down cash and hoarding their cash (and other assets) outside of the traditional banking system. Perhaps the next chart explains everything in just one powerful image.

ECB Balance sheet Notes


The total amount of bank notes has increased by 57% since the end of the global financial crisis, and this really is an indication the European citizens still don’t trust financial institutions with their assets. It’s truly remarkable to see such a sharp (and steady!) increase of the total amount of bank notes in circulation and it’s totally understandable why this makes the monetary powers ‘nervous’.

Portugal ECB

Source: Santander presentation

On top of that, the situation in for instance Portugal seems to be deteriorating once again. The country has been trying to convince the European Commission and the ECB it knows what it’s doing and that it has a plan to get the country back on the right track, but apparently that’s not what the ECB-team saw in Lisbon. The mainstream media seems to have fully ignored this report, but we feel this could be an important problem as it seems to be just a matter of time before Portugal will need a new bail-out.


While the authorities have committed to comply with European budgetary rules, the effort to reduce the underlying structural budget deficit needs to be significantly increased. […]The adjustment in the underlying structural deficit in 2016 reflects an insufficient consolidation effort. […]Banks continue to consolidate their balance sheets, albeit at a slower pace than previously observed, and have seen minor improvements in profitability. […]high levels of non-performing exposures continue to weigh negatively on profitability and capital.

This doesn’t really make us feel comfortable at all, and as the European economy still isn’t improving, Portugal might have to beg the institutions for more cash.

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Effective Strategies to Measure Employee Engagement

employee engagementDid you know that half of your employees hate their job? It’s true, according to a Gallup poll that surveyed 5.4 million employees. Maybe you’re even one of the employees that falls into that category. It gets worse though, in addition to the 52 percent who hate their job, another 18 percent claim to be disengaged. That’s 70 percent of your employees. Now consider what that is doing to your business. For business owners and human resources professionals, this is quite a challenge.


These employees are disgruntled and bringing down morale. You can’t possibly go somewhere that you hate every single day and not bring down the people around you. Imagine the damage when over half your staff is doing this. They are feeding off each others’ bitterness.


Look at it from an example. Imagine a tug-of-war with ten people. Three people are pulling as hard as they can, five people are pretending to pull, and two are pushing in the wrong direction. What do you think is going to happen to the three people who are giving it all they got? They are going to end up at the bottom of the pile.


Now, Time to Make Changes


There is a worldwide employee engagement crisis, and as a business owner, you have to make a change or you’ll watch your business spiral out of control and into its final days. There are many things you can do to engage employees, but here are three actions to take right away.

    1. Convene a team of power users and talk about this problem. Build a team of employees that represents each segment of the business. Let them know what is going on and gain their feedback. Let them know you need their help and their ideas.
    1. Make your business a place people want to hang out. On average, employees spend over 40 hours per week at your business. It’s during their most productive hours. For many, they are spending more time with you than with their own family. Get everyone together and identify ways you can make work a better place to be. If you want people to spend over half their time at a place, make it a great place to be.
    1. Treat them like the assets they are. Your business success depends on your employees doing their job. Give them the tools they need to do their job, empower them to go above and beyond, seek and value their input, listen to them. Treat them like investors, because they are.

Satisfaction Plays a Role in Business Success


We all know employee satisfaction plays a significant role in our business success. Recent research has linked employee engagement to specific business outcomes that directly affect the bottom line, such as higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings. To reap profitable outcomes, businesses will spend a great deal of money and staff time developing engagement strategies. With this level of investment, it’s important to measure the outcomes.


But how do we effectively measure employee engagement?


measure employee engagementDespite the gloomy statistics on workplace engagement, there are many progressive leaders who do one simple thing: They ask their employees how they feel. When they do so, they receive priceless information that helps them retain their best employees and optimize their productivity.


Gallup has designed an instrument consisting of 12 statements we can share with employees to measure their level of engagement. The instrument is generalizable across organizations, which means most businesses can use the instrument with confidence that the measure captures important performance-related information.


With the tool, employees are given a series of statements and are asked to rank the truthfulness of each statement from one to five with five being strongly agree. Example statements are


“I know what is expected of me at work”




“I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.”



The statements above were found to be actionable at the supervisor or managerial level, meaning the supervisor has great influence over the situations, and businesses will see higher rankings and satisfaction when a qualified engaging supervisor is in place.


By communicating regularly with employees, supervisors and managers know what motivates them and the challenges they need to overcome in order to do their best work.


Measuring employee engagement is an integral part of the employee appraisal process. At MJ Management Solutions, we’ve developed several worksheets that incorporate the Gallup Q12(R) statements and other measurements. The worksheets are available as a download with the e-book Practical Tools to Manage Costly Employee Turnover.