Blockchain – Someone Pass Me The Bolt Cutter

A few years ago gamification, virtual and augmented reality were the talking points in the recruitment world. Machine Learning and A.I. are hot right now, with Blockchain being the newest fad on the block. Add it to your conference bingo card for 2018.
What is blockchain? For those not in the know, think of it as a digital record, much like a traditional ledger but encrypted to a level not even Robert Langdon of The Da Vinci Code fame could solve.
Data is entered and shared with other computers in the network. It is time stamped and filed with other transactions until a block is complete (think of your traditional archiving box and archive room but in a virtual environment), and then linked to a chain. The blockchain is transparent, so everyone on the network has an up-to-date version and can see if any data is being tampered with.
Is it secure? It sure is. It’s like Fort Knox on steroids. Once data is in, deleting or editing it is extremely difficult. Here’s a great interactive low down on blockchain from Goldman Sachs.
[Tweet “Blockchains are permanent. If they become employment records, who decides what goes on?”]
In terms of its application to Human Resources/Recruitment, how would blockchain be used?
I can certainly see its value with regards to an individual’s identification, qualifications, licences, health records, workers compensation, tax, banking, and leave accruals. This information can be quickly and easily validated with a fairly high degree of accuracy and confidence.
What about the rest of the data HR records? Well, just call me ‘Bones’. There’s a logical argument for the blockchain, but that’s Spock’s realm. Bones would consider the human factor.
We currently rely on humans to enter data into a system. Humans of varying experience, maturity, skills and – let’s not forget – bias. We have people managers with varying degrees of experience, training, and bias conducting performance reviews. How many of us can say this is being done in a consistent, qualitative and quantitative manner which could then be entered into a blockchain?
Example: I’ve been working for Company A for several years, and recently a new manager was appointed. My performance in the previous two years was recorded as ‘exceeded expectations’. For some reason my new manager who is new to the role of manager rates me as ‘below expectations’, even though I’d exceeded all targets. I can challenge the rating but it’s what stays on file. I get offered a job elsewhere and leave.
If this goes into a blockchain, what goes in? My final ‘below expectations’ rating? How would a reference be captured in this instance in a blockchain? How could it be challenged and rectified? According to blockchain it would forever stain my employment history.
What about references? If it was purely a statement of employment that an individual worked for Company A, from Date B to Date C, in the position of Title D, then this might also work. I say ‘might’ because in some organisations people’s titles change frequently, and paperwork is always playing catch up. Your contract states you are employed as X, however within the first six months there have been several restructures and you have since held role Y, and is currently in Z. However, you are yet to see the position descriptions of Y and Z roles, nor have you been issued a change of terms letter or revised contract. You secure employment elsewhere. How would such information be captured in a blockchain?
The majority of us can’t even keep up with employment condition changes, and we expect blockchain to help resolve this? It can’t and won’t because again, it is reliant on someone changing the data.
Could blockchain be used for project work or gig work? Let’s say you are engaged to deliver a scope of work on a major project. You complete the scope of work on time and on budget. That’s about as much as you would want to record in my opinion.
It would be very difficult to record quality of work, ability to work as part of a team and other factors due to scopes of work changing, changes in project personnel and some of the previously mentioned variables.
Could I blockchain my resume? I’d only be comfortable if it stuck to the facts. Such as;

  • My right to work (citizenship, visa etc)
  • Qualifications, licences and certificates
  • Employment in so far as company name, dates of employment, position title
  • Personal details which may include: emergency contacts, banking details, tax details, medical records

[Tweet “Would you be willing to have your entire resume permanently embedded into a blockchain?”]
Any further detail would cause me great concern. There are way too many variables that might jeopardise my ability to secure work in the future.
If I was a third party employment verification provider, I’d be a little concerned about the longer term viability of my business.
What about other recruitment technology providers such as Applicant Tracking Systems? I think they are safe primarily due to my points previously mentioned.
Is the hype justified? I don’t think it is. But still, if BitCoin was a failure, would we be talking about it? Probably not. It’s certainly a very interesting concept to consider in the realms of HR. It has some applications which would definitely work, and will disrupt some areas of HR.
Blockchain has a hell of a long way to go from a legal compliance, privacy, and security perspective. It’s worth keeping abreast of, but I wouldn’t be preparing your business for an imminent blockchain revolution.
Cover image: Shutterstock

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