News on cryptocurrencies

24.11.2018   |  Capital Market

In spite – or maybe because – of this year’s devaluation, cryptocurrencies, or the alternative currencies of the Bitcoin or Ethereum class are seen by the specialists as an investment opportunity. However, be cautious! The high volatility of these investments makes me recommend some prudence in this respect. 

  • Bitcoin continues to decrease. On 22 November, when I wrote this article, the exchange rate (if we may use this term for cryptocurrencies) was of about $4,500. This means that, roughly speaking, Bitcoin has lost all the ground gained up to 2017. This could be a good time to buy, but I, myself, haven’t bought any. First of all, because I do not see myself an expert in speculative earnings and, secondly, I believe in thoroughly built things.
  • Ethereum is slightly increasing. The second best known currency exceeded, also on 22 November, 133 dollars, after a historical minimum value of $125.6. This is a slight increase in a long time. If this trend continues over the following months or years, we may be able to speak of a start of stabilization on the cryptocurrency market, after what I believe to have been an initial bubble. For the time being, however, we do not have solid grounds to be optimistic.
  • Forbes said in an article that the alternative coins are “in a transition from a bad idea to an actual scam”. Whether such a pessimistic view will take shape in the future remains to be seen. The technology behind cryptocurrencies is still a valid and revolutionary idea. The history of mankind has seen that atomic fission has led to both bombs and nuclear power plants. We should keep an eye on the Blockchain.
  • Also read this article from Bloomberg on the investigation carried out by the American Justice Department in respect of the cryptocurrencies price manipulation. Spoiler: is has to do with traders and not with the currency itself.
  • To conclude on an optimistic tone, it is also Forbes that says that alternative currencies would be great if the money holders understood the technology. Let’s think a bit about countries like Somalia and China: the money could reach the relatives of those who had left their countries to work abroad and this without the substantial commissions charged by banks or Western Union. I for one am very curious how many if any of the Romanians working abroad use such a solution.

I have purposely looked through contradictory information, just to give you an indication of the complexity of the cryptocurrency market. This article does not aim at discouraging you to invest in such difficult assets, but it is a starting point towards a type of financial education that schools, even those of higher education, provide neither in Romania, nor in other countries. Find the answers to your questions online, as we are living in times when information is (quasi-)free and it produces value.

Octavian Pătrașcu  |   24.11.2018   |  Capital Market

Three things to test and maintain in HR: hard skills, soft skills, and motivation

25.04.2019   |  News  |  Startup
The quality and efficiency of an employee mainly depend on their professional qualifications, but the modern human resources theory refers to this only through a partial term, namely "hard skills". In terms of evaluations and professional management, these “hard skills” are supplemented by a range of different qualities defined as "soft skills", such as the motivation that an individual demonstrates or chooses to develop.

Hard Skills: Easy to identify, necessary, but not enough

The term "hard skills" applies especially to fundamental professional knowledge, skills, and abilities, but not only. For example, if a programmer has to write code in Java, he will obviously have to know the programming language. In the field of hard skills, however, complementary skills such as foreign languages ​​or driving licenses also come into play. If the job description is not IT-related, the computer skills - quasi-generalized today - are also in the same complementary category. Upon hiring, hard skills can be easily tested or proven. Basically, all the skills in this category can be certified through a diploma or a certificate of qualification. These skills are the basis for the future work of the employee, but in the vast majority of cases, they are not enough to ensure good performance at the workplace.

Soft Skills: harder to test, especially required for higher positions

These are somewhat social qualities, relating especially to people-interacting abilities. Soft skills include teamwork skills, communication skills, leadership qualities, and the ability to solve problems as they come. From simple politeness to a nonconflictual attitude, a whole range of attributes can be added here, including good time management or the desire to conform to strict professional ethics. If hard skills are easy to identify, in the case of soft skills, the stereotype enumerations present in CVs are never enough proof of their existence. They can somehow be felt when hiring, during their interview or, possibly, through psychological tests set up by human resources specialists. As they mostly focus on human interaction, soft skills are increasingly needed as the position of the employee in the hierarchy is higher, but the situation differs from one job description to another. If the programmer we had as an example earlier does not necessarily need soft skills when writing code, a sales or marketing specialist will interact with the top management and thus cannot work without them.

Motivation: differs from case to case

Motivation is a problem that concerned psychologists way before Maslow's Human Pyramid of Needs. There are many hypotheses and models that relate to this theory. I will just state that a first classification refers to financial and extra-financial motivations. The former refers to material compensation and are accepted unanimously. However, since the beginning of the 20th century, it has become clear that there is no direct link between payment and the efficiency of a person. 100 years ago, however, besides the famous $5-a-day salary, Henry Ford offered land lots, kindergartens for their children and, in the case of immigrants, English courses to help them integrate into the mass production processes. Today, large companies provide health insurance, relaxation areas, various educational classes, physical activity facilities. All of these include career plans and contract terms that offer job security and much more. Perhaps, the first thing to remember is that motivation differs greatly from one employee to another. Effective management should be as flexible as possible, in accordance with the needs and incentives of employees, beyond the standard packages.

The Employer’s Perspective

From what we described above it seems that that the employer will consider the three components as we’ve structured them. Hard skills are easy to identify and absolutely necessary to ensure performance in a particular position, so these are the first ones that will be tested. Soft skills can be identified to a certain extent in the midst of the employment process, but initial perceptions can be confirmed or denied later on. What’s more important is sustaining them at the workplace, often as a necessity for promotion on a higher hierarchy level. As final words, motivation has qualitative rather than quantitative aspects. Employers should be less concerned about the answer to the question "how motivated is an employee?", but rather show concern towards the type of motivation that employees are most responsive to. Schematically speaking, if hard skills are mainly the employee's concern, soft skills relate to a process that takes place between the employee and the company, and in the case of motivation, it should meet the needs of the employee. Only by paying attention to all the three components, the employer and the employee can have a mutually satisfactory and productive relationship.
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