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What can the financial sector learn about employee engagement?

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What can the financial sector learn about employee engagement?

Barclays ‘Big Brother’ software incident shows financial sector still has a lot to learn about employee engagement 

By Bryce Davies,General Manager UK, Workforce.com

The news of Barclays decision to scrap its recently introduced staff tracking technology, gives them and many financial organisations across the UK an opportunity to sit back and reflect exactly on how they want to treat employees. The high-profile nature of the complaints against the software and Barclays’ decision to scrap it, also highlights how important making the ‘right’ decision, when it comes to HR software, is from both a financial and reputational perspective.

The workplace has changed and businesses need to change too

The last decade or so has seen a real shift in employee expectations of how, when and where they work, with a huge increase in flexible and remote working. This has been encouraged by the introduction of innovative technology. This change means that the UK workplace, across all sectors, is a very different place to what it used to be, with businesses having to ensure that they are following this trend and offering the flexibility that is demanded by many in the workforce.

Therefore, when implementing new technology that impacts the way that employees work, employers have to be very careful. Introducing software that covertly tracks employees every move, as Barclays did, was always going to be a challenging task, and one that was going to have a negative impact. Businesses can no longer treat employees with the level of blasé that they might have done in the past.

Introducing technology has to be done sensitively and for the right reasons

The implementation of any new technology that impacts employees has to be communicated very carefully. Without involving the employee in the process of choosing and installing the technology you are very likely to get a negative reaction. The more an employee understands when and why the solution is being implemented, the more likely you are to secure buy-in from them.

The software Barclays implemented was designed to measure employees ‘effectiveness’ by monitoring the time that they were away from their desks. If employees were felt to be away for too longer a period of time, they were sent a warning. The nature of this solution means that any communication at any point through this process may well have still ended in a negative, but the conversations would have highlighted staff resistance and possibly brought about an alternative, more acceptable solution.

When considering HR software, organisations should also be approaching from a positive position, and not introducing it for disciplinary reasons. Ensuring that employees are being used in the most efficient ways, freeing them up to focus on key parts of the business rather than areas of less importance, whilst highlighting where employees might need support or extra bodies, is absolutely where HR software can play an important role, whilst reassuring employees that it is a positive change in their work life, rather than a negative.

 Reputational as well as internal damage

As we have seen in the Barclays example a lack of communication with employees and the introduction of HR technology for the wrong reasons can lead to real problems. Gaining back the trust of your employees is difficult enough as well as starting the process again is a painful experience for all. This is only from an internal perspective. The reputational damage caused can also be hugely detrimental. Employees now have direct and quick access to all areas of the press, and stories like these can break quickly and spread uncontrollably. This can have damage an organisation’s reputation both in terms of potential employees but also partners and investors.

What is the right approach?

Ensuring that any technology introduced to a work environment reflects the culture and changing demands of employees is fundamental to its eventual success. Although it sounds obvious, many organisations seem to forget this when going through the pitching and procurement process.

The way we work and engage in a workplace has, and continues to, change at a rapid pace. Flexible and remote working is becoming the norm, sitting at desks from 9am till 5.30pm is a thing of the past. Those companies that remained fixated with outdated methods of working, whilst enforcing the workforce to comply with such an approach will continue to struggle to maintain a happy team. Organisations that introduce technology that helps employees, makes their working life easier and more efficient, whilst providing managers insight into where change might be needed are certainly on the right track.

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Audi aims to sell one million cars in China in 2023

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Audi aims to sell one million cars in China in 2023 1

BEIJING (Reuters) – German premium automaker Audi aims to sell 1 million vehicles in China in 2023, versus 726,000 vehicles in 2020, the brand’s China chief Werner Eichhorn said on Wednesday.

Audi, which is making cars in the world’s biggest auto market with FAW Group, will also add more products in China, Eichhorn said. Audi’s rivals include Daimler and BMW.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Himani Sarka

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Netflix forecasts an end to borrowing binge, shares surge

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Netflix forecasts an end to borrowing binge, shares surge 2

By Lisa Richwine and Eva Mathews

(Reuters) – Netflix Inc said on Tuesday its global subscriber rolls crossed 200 million at the end of 2020 and projected it will no longer need to borrow billions of dollars to finance its broad slate of TV shows and movies.

Shares of Netflix rose nearly 13% in extended trading as the financial milestone validated the company’s strategy of going into debt to take on big Hollywood studios with a flood of its own programming in multiple languages.

The world’s largest streaming service had raised $15 billion through debt in less than a decade. On Tuesday, the company said it expected free cash flow to break even in 2021, adding in a letter to shareholders, “We believe we no longer have a need to raise external financing for our day-to-day operations.”

Netflix said it will explore returning excess cash to shareholders via share buybacks. It plans to maintain $10 billion to $15 billion in gross debt.

“This is in sharp contrast to Disney and many other new entrants into the streaming market who expect to lose money on streaming for the next few years,” said eMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom.

From October to December, Netflix signed up 8.5 million new paying streaming customers as it debuted widely praised series “The Queen’s Gambit” and “Bridgerton,” a new season of “The Crown” and the George Clooney film “The Midnight Sky.”

The additions topped Wall Street estimates of 6.1 million, according to Refinitiv data, despite increased competition and a U.S. price increase. Fourth-quarter earnings per share of $1.19 missed analyst expectations of $1.39.

With the new customers, Netflix’s worldwide membership reached 203.7 million. The company that pioneered streaming in 2007 added more subscribers in 2020 than in any other year, boosted by viewers who stayed home to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

COMPETITION HEATS UP

Now, Netflix is working to add customers around the globe as big media companies amp up competition. Walt Disney Co in December unveiled a hefty slate of new programming for Disney+, while AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros scrapped the traditional Hollywood playbook by announcing it would send all 2021 movies straight to HBO Max alongside theaters.

Disney said in December it had already signed up 86.8 million subscribers to Disney+ in just over a year.

“It’s super-impressive what Disney’s done,” Netflix Co-Chief Executive Reed Hastings said in a post-earnings analyst interview. Disney’s success, he added, “gets us fired up about increasing our membership, increasing our content budget.”

Netflix said most of its growth last year – 83% of new customers – came from outside the United States and Canada. Forty-one percent joined from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

For January through March, Netflix projected it would sign up 6 million more global subscribers, behind analyst expectations of roughly 8 million.

Revenue for the fourth quarter rose to $6.64 billion compared with $5.47 billion a year ago, edging past estimates of $6.63 billion.

Net income fell to $542.2 million, or $1.19 per share, from $587 million, or $1.30 per share, a year earlier.

Netflix shares jumped 12.5% to $564.32 in extended trading on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Matthew Lewis)

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MGM Resorts drops takeover plan for Ladbrokes-owner Entain

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MGM Resorts drops takeover plan for Ladbrokes-owner Entain 3

By Tanishaa Nadkar

(Reuters) – Casino operator MGM Resorts International on Tuesday ditched plans to buy Ladbrokes owner Entain after the British company rejected an $11 billion takeover approach this month, sending Entain’s shares down nearly 12%.

The United States is seen as the next big growth market for sports betting, spawning a series of transatlantic partnerships tapping in to European technology and expertise. These include Caesars Entertainment agreeing last September to buy William Hill in a 2.9 billion-pound deal.

MGM said it would not submit a revised proposal or make a firm offer for Entain, which had said the approach announced two weeks ago significantly undervalued its business.

Entain shares closed down 11.9% at around 12.44 pounds in London. MGM shares were up 2.5% at $30.54 in New York trading late on Tuesday afternoon.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with MGM to drive further success in the United States through the BetMGM joint venture,” Entain said in a statement.

Online betting firms have benefited during the COVID-19 pandemic-led lockdowns, as customers took to playing from home when casinos and betting shops were off-limits.

MGM had previously said a merger with the British bookmaker would be compelling and believed a deal would help expand BetMGM, which the two have operated since 2018.

The proposal, on the basis of 0.6 MGM share for each Entain share, was also backed by billionaire Barry Diller’s IAC. It valued Entain shares at 13.83 pence each when it was first announced.

Complicating matters, Entain Chief Executive Officer Shay Segev decided to step down just seven months into the role and in the middle of negotiations with MGM to take a job with sports streaming service DAZN.

Segev’s departure, as well as limited engagement in talks shown by Entain and a difference in price expectations between the two sides, led MGM to decide to walk away from the deal, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Entain, previously known as GVC, has itself expanded rapidly through a series of acquisitions and owns the bwin, Coral and Eurobet brands, operating traditional British high street betting shops as well as offering online gambling.

“While we are genuinely surprised MGM didn’t up its consideration … we don’t think this changes MGM’s ability to secure equity value enhancing benefits from the attractively growing US sports betting and iGaming pie,” JP Morgan analysts said.

The brokerage said it would not rule out further discussions with Entain depending on how the company shareholders reacted, adding it would be tough for someone else to buy Entain given so much potential equity value coming from the 50/50 BetMGM joint venture.

(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Joshua Franklin in Miami; Editing by Keith Weir and Matthew Lewis)

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