Blockchain’s Role In Reshaping The Future Of Work

With unemployment numbers at record highs, millions of people around the world are embarking on the daunting task of job hunting – which is even more challenging for both candidates and recruiters in today’s world of remote work.

Let’s face it – finding the right person for the right job is hard enough, but verifying their credentials to finalize the hire can be a nightmare. Personal references can often be unreachable or unresponsive, past roles may be unverifiable due to the companies being defunct or acquired, and credentials from other countries are incredibly hard to validate. It makes it difficult for both the employer to make a hire and candidates to land the job.

This is where blockchain technology can make a huge difference – in essence, acting as a trusted source of truth for employers and delivering a greater sense of data security for employees’ records.

Yes, that’s right – I’m talking about applying blockchain to careers. The same technology that can be used to facilitate currency exchange, and that many companies now use to track shipments of goods across a supply chain. Believe it or not, blockchain has an incredible opportunity in the workplace to help validate data about career history, educational background, and accreditations.

To discuss blockchain’s potential for the future of work, I met (virtually) with Dror Gurevich, CEO of the Velocity Network Foundation, a non-profit established by Velocity Career Labs, developer of blockchain technology that underlies a global network for verifiable education and career credentials, known as the Internet of Careers™. Founding members of the foundation include tech companies (including Oracle), background screening firms, professional services providers, and ed tech specialists. Here’s what we discussed:

The problem that the foundation wants to remedy is the fragmented and unreliable data underlying today’s HR processes and systems, Gurevich told me on the call.

While organizations have made progress in their ability to manage employee data, many employees now have multiple employers or are taking gig assignments on the side. This makes it difficult for a single employer to have the holistic picture needed to drive personalized solutions and derive value through analytics. In fact, most of this career data is scattered across multiple platforms and databases, with proprietary restrictions making access either difficult and/or prohibitively expensive.

The Velocity Network instead proposes a system where individuals use a designated credential wallet app to connect with credential issuers (i.e. their employers, schools, trade associations etc.) to claim their career-related records. Those credentials are issued and signed by the issuing entity and then the individual can store their credentials on a local device.

In parallel, the issuer generates a cryptographic proof of validity that is stored on blockchain run by the Velocity Network. At that point, individuals can choose whether to share credentials with third-parties, how the credentials may be used by others, and for how long. Once a prospective employer or other party is authorized to access the blockchain, they can verify the credentials.

The foundation’s challenge is to make sure that the keepers of various pieces of people’s history—universities, technical organizations, training companies, employers—all agree to fix this data problem, which slows the vetting and hiring process.

The current state of the art is that job applicants share their resumes with a target employer. If that company decides to proceed, a long, onerous, and expensive process of confirming past employers, degrees, and references listed on the resume ensues. Depending on the company, there will also be checks to credit and legal status. That process of chasing and verifying a scattered set of facts about a person’s professional life can take weeks, even months. With readily available, verified, and tamper-proof records, hiring can be done much faster.

How the Pandemic Exacerbates Hiring Snafus

While the data problem described above pre-existed COVID-19, many virus-fueled job displacements have sparked a greater sense of urgency. When you need to hire healthcare workers and first responders to fill the ranks of sick workers, the stakes are higher.

And it’s not just first responders, per se – grocery store stockers and cashiers, as well as a multitude of gig workers, are needed in full force now more than ever.

Take truck drivers for example. Their driver’s licenses must be updated periodically to keep them on the road, but a commercial license renewal can take weeks to filter through various systems. During that time the availability of supplies hangs in the balance.

“There are 1.6 million long-haul truckers in the U.S. Delayed credentials can cause lost work, lost income, and burden the supply chain,” Gurevich said.

A verifiable, more automated process enabled by blockchain would mean that job openings are filled faster, allowing work to go on.

In addition, a truly international career network utilizing a blockchain-enabled set of references could help refugees and immigrants—who now typically must settle for menial jobs—better apply their skills in a new country. How many times have we heard about refugees who were doctors or nurses in their native countries who must drive cabs or deliver food because they could not verify their credentials? Blockchain as a career tool can help provide a solution.

Cleaning Up the Resume Supply Chain

Additionally, the data in LinkedIn listings and other resume repositories is entirely self-reported, unchecked, and likely to include inaccuracies.

The emergence of more accurate and up-to-date data could not only help employers vet candidates more easily, but identify possible recruits more effectively.

“Career credentials data is key to sustaining efficiencies across all employment-related processes: hiring, job matching, internal mobility, learning and development, compensation, benefits and compliance—all are based on people’s career history and credentials data,” Gurevich said.

Blockchain technology holds robust benefits for both individuals and organizations.

If you are an individual, you can control your career data and who can see it. If you work for a hiring organization, you will be able to find qualified job candidates faster. And you can apply analytics and AI to employee data to more accurately match individuals to suitable roles, recommend learning and development paths, and design talent management activities.

While the concept of blockchain playing a role in the future of work may seem unusual at first, the prospects and potential are immense. This technology could not only streamline processes, but reshape the way we search for jobs and build the right teams. Personally, I’m very excited to see what the future holds for blockchain in careers and what Velocity Network can accomplish in this new world of work.

September 21, 2020

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