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Blockchain 101: What HR needs to know

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Posted by Sarah Lardner on 26 March 2019

Blockchain 101: What HR needs to know

HR Reward | Reward Consultancy | Reward Intelligence | Good data | HR Ethics | Disruptive HR | Global talent | Talent | Organisational Design | Reward technology | HR Technology

When a business develops its tech capabilities, HR are normally the last to know. This puts us in a position of weakness when it comes to making organisational changes, because either the subject matter experts have already exited the business, or you are competing with other companies to hire the same talent - which results in some challenging conversations with your senior leadership team.

The secondary impact is how technology will challenge the way we’ve always done things, and require HR to change our processes and practices to fall in line with new ways of doing business. 

This leaves me on to discussing blockchain. This will really make your brain hurt, but I have called on Innecto’s Chief Technical Officer Carl Davis to help describe this simply. Blockchain originated from the banking world and the technology is starting to be used more widely. Blockchain is essentially a digital spreadsheet; it’s a new way of storing and sharing data across the whole network, globally.  

What is hard to understand is that blockchain allows all data to be linked to other records and for the records to build and be stored in what appears to be a public spreadsheet. The idea is that a full chain of information can be shared, but this data cannot be accessed from the digital spreadsheet without authorisation, which can only be done via incorruptible encryption keys.  

You might be wondering - first, why you really need to know this and second, does HR need to be concerned about this? The answer is yes, for two reasons. One, HR will be needed to anticipate and recruit for blockchain knowledge and talent and two, it will change the way HR will be collating, managing and sharing data.

Let’s look at these in more detail:

1: Future-proofing
 I would imagine a tech-based business will already be fully aware of blockchain’s features and will be looking at how it will change recording and accessing data on suppliers, clients and customers.  By the time they identify that they need to recruit this talent they have already been snapped up, which means that the business must work hard to find talent and most likely will have to pay over the odds for them.

There is more requirement than ever for HR to have their finger on the pulse to anticipate much needed talent and this extends wider than technology.  You may pick up on trends through networks and publications, but it is important that conversations with senior leaders are happening early. Ask them what challenges they see coming that will require manpower planning and talent mapping.

Asking them what do they need, when do they need it and how can HR plan for that, will ensure that HR are on the front foot. You don’t need to look that far to see the impact of businesses not anticipating and planning for events that may have been avoided or mitigated by having the right talent in place – security breaches and falling to remain competitive.  

2: HR goes digital
The last significant step change was moving from paper records to databases, then from databases to cloud.  But imagine a world where you can access a chain of employee data from the global digital spreadsheet and one where the employee data you have will be added to that chain for the next employer to see. 

This is as big as paper to database, or bigger as it is hard to understand how this data will not be exploited and put out into the public domain – this is sophisticated stuff. HR should be looking at the future implications and exploring what employee data storage and management via blockchain looks like for their organisation.

However, a word of warning. With the arrival of new technology, we can all get carried away about its potential benefits. There could be some unintended consequences of this form of data storage, particularly for employees, with regards to accessing, correcting and expunging inaccurate data. Misuse by employer and employee could become an issue - therefore HR teams should now start to lead the debate on the development of ethical and governance frameworks of blockchain-based HR systems.

If I can give you one bit of advice, go and talk to your IT Director/CTO, and find out if blockchain and any other developments are on their radar. If you don’t have a CTO/IT Director, then IT Advisers such as Carl Davis helps businesses to anticipate and plan for change.  Not only will this support enhance your credibility, you will be helping the business be more proactive in managing their future requirements and mitigating risks to ensure that your business can continue to be successful.

Innecto can help with any aspect of pay and reward. Email me at sarah.lardner@innecto.com or call on 020 3457 0894. 

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