A concept widely known and seldom understood, blockchain is finding its footing in HR. Though we often hear about it in the context of cryptocurrency, blockchain can be a powerful tool at the hands of HR professionals when it comes to recruiting and hiring.
As the narrator of this "Blockchain 101" video by IBM Food Trust explains, the blocks of a blockchain are data. These blocks can be strung together in an unchangeable sequence, forming a digital ledger system, which can be programmed to record and track anything from medical records to food supply chain transactions, he explains.
Cornerstone Director of Product Marketing, Innovation and Strategy Ike Bennion and his colleagues have been exploring the functionality of blockchain in the HR space with a focus on its data component. In the hiring process, blockchain can be used to better screen candidates and to mitigate "resume fibbing," as Bennion calls it. A 2017 HireRight employment screening benchmark report concluded that 85% of employers found job applicants who had included false information on their resumes or job applications, according to an Inc. article on the topic. But, with blockchain, a resume becomes a set of facts that are verified and more well-rounded than the traditional submission.
As HR teams work to improve the hiring process for themselves and applicants, blockchain offers opportunity for further transformation. This technology paves the way for a more transparent, efficient and equitable hiring process.
Understanding Blockchain in HR
There are many use cases for blockchain in HR. Employers might use it, for example, to more reliably provide employee benefits, or reimburse employees for work expenses. For tasks that depend on one step to be completed before the next one occurs—i.e. an employee signs a document, then a manager signs a document, then funds are dispersed—blockchain can be game changing because it automates this passing of the metaphorical baton. Furthermore, because blockchain is an uneditable sequence, it also has the potential to enhance security strategy, helping HR departments to avoid data breaches. "There are all sorts of other possibilities within the learning, performance, succession space, too" Bennion says.
At the moment, however, blockchain’s most mainstream and promising HR use case is hiring. In a nutshell, a blockchain serves as a digital resume, where employees can add positions, certifications and other noteworthy items as they move through their careers and get verified by employers along the way, creating a permanent and trustworthy trail. Bennion explains it in even simpler terms: "I am at a company, the company that I’m at is part of this network, they give me a little stamp that I’ve been here, I go to apply somewhere else, this same network verifies that stamp, and then I get a new stamp when I’m at this new company," he says.
The stamp follows the employee around, and the employee gets to pick where and with whom their data resides. Eventually, Bennion predicts, this system will mean job candidates will have the option to apply with credentials within a specific blockchain the same way they can now choose to "Apply with LinkedIn."
"Ta-da, one click and you’re done," he says. "Even simpler than applying with Linkedin."
A Win-Win for Employees and Companies
Implementing blockchain as part of recruiting and hiring works to the benefit of both employer and employee. For job candidates, blockchains ensures that they get credit for various experiences and skills that might not shine through in an old-fashioned resume format.
"Of course, we can provide some of the data of when you work from here to here, but then also underneath, there are company-specific learnings you can gain," Bennion says. "Let's imagine that you are working at Coca-Cola and they have a special Coca-Cola consumer marketing specialization. That obviously holds some weight and some power if you can have an authority, verify it and also issue it."
Skills and other elements that might color a profile—say, volunteer experience that does not come with an educational or professional certification—are more complicated to verify, he notes. But it too can find its place in the blockchain.
Plus, individuals that work primarily on a freelance basis will likely appreciate that blockchain enables them to demonstrate their often-varied experience in a tangible, organized way.
Bennion offers this example: A digital designer doing freelance work for small corporations or individuals might accumulate ratings for a project long after it’s completed and the designer has moved on. Maybe that designer demonstrated certain proficiencies while on the job—this is information that, once verified, could be stored in a blockchain and be available for viewing during the hiring process.
Though it’s still early for blockchain in the HR space, its potential is clear. As career trajectories evolve and become less linear, blockchain can provide the tool needed to ensure that resumes evolve alongside them, supporting the new way we work.
Did you know that Cornerstone joined the Velocity Network to help accelerate the development of a universal blockchain-powered network for HR? Learn more here and follow this series for everything you need to know about blockchain!