Can blockchain deliver a ‘paradigm shift’ for employment?

Blockchain technology has become well established in recent years, providing a way to cryptographically store immutable digital information in an open and distributed public database. Its decentralised infrastructure means it can’t be owned by a single person or group, and because there are no – or limited – transaction costs, blockchain has become a disruptive and creative technology trend across the banking, insurance, investments, cryptocurrency and employment arenas, among others.

It has fast become an accelerating and influential technology trend. In a 2019 article, Gartner predicted that blockchain “will create $3.1 trillion in business value by 2030.” The analysis went on to say that, “…the real value will come from the way it enables a paradigm shift in how societies, businesses, customers, partners and individuals interact, create and exchange value.”

Within the employment sector in particular, fraud and data privacy are of increasing importance to employers and workers alike. Specifically, career records in their current digital forms are increasingly vulnerable to misuse, fraud and hacks. Given the importance and value of these data assets, control and verification are increasingly important objectives in order to maintain the integrity of the jobs market.

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The attraction of blockchain in this context is that both employers and employees can access an immutable and highly secure system, enabling both parties to access and control trustworthy employment and career records. In practical HR terms, blockchain has the potential to protect employers from cybercrime and the risk of data breaches, as well as improving the accuracy of the hiring and employee verification process. Given the challenges many employers face in finding people with the risk skills for their available positions, accelerating employee verification can deliver considerable benefits, and help ensure shortages are filled as quickly as possible.

And from the employee perspective, blockchain enables them to monitor what career and employment data is stored about them and where. Its decentralised infrastructure means no single party has overall control, so individuals can decide who is allowed access to it and for how long, alongside where and how the data is used. Job applicants can provide potential employers with permission to access their blockchain-based employment information, which could include their CV, details about qualification and references.

The potential for blockchain to become a mainstream feature of employment, recruitment and HR is, therefore, considerable. Indeed, the technology is seen by many as playing a major role across a wide range of employment-related functions from certifications, promotions, skills and salaries to payroll, taxation and benefits.

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Broader industry momentum is building, evidenced by developments such as the formation of Velocity, a nonprofit organisation focused on the development of, “a frictionless experience to exchange trusted career records, using the power of blockchain.” They define themselves in terms of the ‘Internet of Careers’, where people can claim and manage their personal career data and credentials, and employers can benefit from improvements in the time and cost of the traditional talent acquisition process, reduced risk of fraud and better compliance.

Given these opportunities, a blockchain-inspired disruption of the global employment status quo will offer significant benefits for employers and workers. Both parties want and expect data privacy and security as standard across matters relating to employment and careers. Job seekers want to retain full control over their personal information, while employers are duty bound and increasingly regulated to implement processes and technologies that eliminate the risk of fraud, promote equality of opportunity and support a jobs market built on integrity of information. As blockchain finds a role across the employment landscape, that ‘paradigm shift’ may now be coming over the horizon.

Written by Liam Butler, area vice-president, EMEA, India and Japan at SumTotal

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