Article: Blockchain will impact the way we work in three waves: Andrew Spence

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Blockchain will impact the way we work in three waves: Andrew Spence

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In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Andrew Spence, Faculty Member, The Blockchain Institute, shares insights on how Blockchain will change the way we work and why it matters for talent leaders.
Blockchain will impact the way we work in three waves: Andrew Spence

There is a lot of talk about the Blockchain opportunity in HR tech but the real question is-are organizations ready to leverage it? Blockchain affords HR an opportunity for trust, value transfer and transparency. How can it change the way we work?

In a deep dive session at TechHR Singapore, Andrew Spence, Faculty Member, The Blockchain Institute and an experienced management consultant specializing in the design and implementation of new HR operating models to deliver business goals, will demystify how Blockchain can be used in HR from four main categories like Identity Management and Career Profiles , Credential Verification Platforms, Work Matching Platforms, and Worker Payment Platforms. 

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Andrew shares insights on how Blockchain will change the way we work and why it matters for talent leaders.

Tell us more about your research paper ‘Blockchain and the CHRO.’

I published the article ‘How might Blockchain impact HR?’ a couple of years ago and this seemed to capture peoples’ imagination and sparked some really interesting conversations. Don Tapscott, author of ‘Blockchain Revolution’, asked me to do a research paper for the Blockchain Research Institute.  

The paper was challenging because this topic is so new – there is literally no literature out there! My research made me look at HR through different lenses which were refreshing for me.  

The paper identified some key opportunities to build a new infrastructure for work, using blockchain and other technologies. In allowing people to manage their own career profiles on decentralized platforms, in building more efficient and fair work matching and payment platforms and in specific areas such as credential verification.

When I started my research there were 10-15 startups in this space, now I count over 100, with new announcements every week including by established industry players.

Blockchain and the Chief Human Resources Officer’ is now available for everyone to download and read here. 

What opportunity does Blockchain present for talent leaders today?    

One major challenge reported by talent leaders today is finding the right workers. If we look at the infrastructure we use to find workers then this is not surprising. My research highlighted some of the benefits of the internet on HR, but also a new set of challenges. Take the job market, for example, it’s crazy that we still even use CVs/resumes in MS Word and half have at least ‘small lies’ on them. In many ways, HR and hiring haven’t caught up with the digital age.  

In the age of being able to search for knowledge and information on the internet, we still can’t access all the available workers. The data is buried in walled gardens, with high access fees.  The data is also not verified, ‘where studied at Harvard’ could mean ‘studied Harvard Business Review’.  The reason we use intermediaries is because this infrastructure is time-consuming and expensive so we outsource it.  

Blockchain will enable individuals to own and manage their own personal career data and share it with whom they wish.

This will enable digital work platforms that are owned and managed by the workers, allowing efficient search and bypassing the  current high transaction costs.  

What are the implications of Blockchain for the future of work?

My research summarised that there might be three broad waves where blockchain technologies impact how we find work and workers.  The first wave will be fixing some of the infrastructure challenges I mentioned, allowing employers to find verified workers and workers to find suitable work and get paid fairly using digital contracts.

The second wave will build on the first with more efficient and effective digital work platforms, allowing visibility for available work, reducing the transaction costs. This will be a catalyst for more people to have the confidence to move into different, more fluid work arrangements. And of course, alongside this, we need sensible regulation and worker protection. 

The third wave gets interesting as it starts to challenge notions we have of the job and the firm itself. If we get to the point where we have a liquid workforce, with AI machines being able to predict who will be a good fit for a particular team, then the role of HR, the organization and the job changes completely.

This goes way beyond HR and well into the domain of politics, regulation and governance, and prompts the question, what sort of society do we want to live in?

What challenges do you foresee in the adoption of Blockchain by the HR community?

There are over 100 startups and industry incumbents all building workforce solutions that use blockchain plus other technologies. Whether there is adoption by the HR community depends on the quality of the product design and execution of marketing plans, like it always has done. 

After the crypto frenzy of 2018, startups with funding are now focused on building and testing products, which is good news. Many established industry players are also experimenting with Blockchain solutions, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out against new disruptors in the market.

How will employees benefit if organizations adopt Blockchain?

If we adopt new digital career profiles that are verifiable, and use work-matching platforms where we can interact directly with employers, we have the potential to find work that suits our needs.  There are also benefits in paying workers using digital smart contracts based on agreed criteria that trigger immediate payment.

How do you see HR tech changing the way we work in 2019?

If only our business cycles fitted neatly into calendar years! Across so many different industries, cycles and geographies it’s hard to generalize. There are signs that people are getting more skeptical about giving their data away free for others to monetize – this could shake up some of our existing hiring business models. 

Looking at where workforce technology is going, my view is that within 10 years we will see more teams managing themselves using workplace technology. The future HR role becomes less focussed on ‘process management’ as this will be automated, and more on enabling teams to make better decisions.

Andrew Spence will be speaking at TechHR Singapore on 28th February 2019 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Register now.

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Topics: Technology, #TechHR 2019

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