Could Blockchain be the answer to our HR data issues?

It’s Tuesday 3rd July 2018 and the England v Columbia game is due to start soon.  I’ve been asked to sit with the family to watch it, and until it starts I’m writing a few blogs.  Just before the teams walked out onto the pitch there was an ad break – and with the joy of Sky Q, adverts are something I’m able to avoid frequently.  On this day though I watched them.  At first I wondered how much brands paid for an advertising spot just prior to something that was about to be watched by millions, then wondered whether most people would be doing like many of my household and going to grab a drink or texting on their phones ignoring the TV altogether, and then I was struck by an ad talking about Blockchain.

You saw it right?  The one with the talking home appliances?

Well, this made me wonder if Blockchain could help HR in managing and reporting data more effectively.

I’ll admit now, that I am not an expert in Blockchain, but I know someone who is, my good friend Hélène Stanway, so I dropped her a message:

“Am I right in thinking that Blockchain data can’t be ‘amended’ at the time it’s recorded?  So for employee data and engagement scores etc would it provide more reliable information?  And would it help all HR systems talk to each other more effectively?”

Hélène’s response:

“Correct data is immutable so can’t be altered or deleted.  If there is an error then you correct it leaving an audit trail of what you’ve changed.  That would be a subsequent block”.

I don’t know about you, but in the days I was employed in HR,  the HR system was out of date and having to be patched up constantly, manual amendments would need to be made, data for reporting would always be provided with a caveat and no two systems talked to each other – including Payroll and HR.

Data would be exported from one system to be imported into another which may cause issues.  Then there were separate systems for recording learning, one for recording engagement scores, performance management was on paper with only highlights being input and the whole thing was a bit of a mess.

But, what if HR could get to grips with Blockchain?  And what if, regardless of how many systems we used, the data was always accurate (still allowing for human error of course).  But what if, the engagement scores at a particular time, also reflected your sickness absence and your performance and learning data?

A Blockchain is an ideal solution where many different people need to share a same data set. Compare to today where data is sent by spreadsheets, data is in disparate systems. We spend our days reconciling data and / or stitching data together. Imagine a world where there is one version of the truth distributed between multiple parties so they see the same data almost at the same time.

What if you could show that the employees with the highest engagement also engaged in learning (planned or self-developed), and that the most engaged had low sickness absence  and completed all projects on time whilst working flexibly?

What if the employees who were always off sick were also measured as having fixed hours, low pay, little development and few opportunities for growth?

No guess work, no caveats, no manual data manipulation, just real time accurate and powerful information that would allow you, the HR professionals to give a snap shot of how your workplace looked today.  And, even more powerful, what if you could then link this to your customer databases to see how happy or not your customers were at any one time?  And then the finance systems?

A Blockchain allows multiple different and importantly trusted data sources to be connected in this one version of the truth. This data set then gets updated as an when there’s a change – for example sick days, holiday etc

What if you could actually put a price on engagement and sickness and performance in a snapshot that was valuable and meaningful?  What if you knew where people needed more support in an instant?  What if you could measure the value of HR?

Now I’m not a techy and I’m not data driven and I don’t know whether any of this is actually possible, but in a world of possibilities, isn’t it only right that HR should be getting ahead of the game?

Some additional thoughts from Hélène

– a Blockchain enables an immutable Digital identity. During job searches, the hiring process much information is collected. Imagine if you could give access to your new employer your Digital identity.
– and what of SMART contracts?  A SMART contract is a contact in computer code or said another way, another type of data. You could automatically “execute” activity based on certain parameters or events. The easiest one is your will. If you have a SMART contract and the unfortunate occurs, the stipulations in the will can happen automatically or in a more positive sense, at the point that you become a parent your parental pay could kick

– a word of caution around GDPR and the right to be forgotten. By its very nature, GDPR is incongruent with Blockchain. You need to store PII data off the chain and only refer to it using a hash (so not identifiable) because a Blockchain is immutable and cannot be altered
– as a wider view, what is this type of tech going to do to the labour market. If there is no longer a need for intermediaries because the actors and data are trusted at source, if much of the administration work across multiple industries goes as data no longer needs to be prepared, meshed or reconciled, what of those roles and people?  Could we be doing more than typing data and be of greater benefit to the wider business?
– if there is a single source of the truth, that has a full immutable audit trail, this goes a long way to reducing fraud. If you can prove provenance and ownership of assets, fraudulent activity will decrease.
– and the insurance angle… knowing when, where, how all your employees are, the company wage bill, you can now a) have a real time and accurate view for purchase of corporate travel, health cover enabling you to focus on new services you could offer b) you no longer have  to spend months gathering this data. (Not my area of expertise but lots of different types of insurance cover are off the back of accurate employee data)

I don’t really get excited by data, if this is in the realms of possibility then data could start to get exciting.  And of course we mustn’t forget that whilst may seem like lightyears away we do now in HR, this is actually happening already.  The future of data is now and as HR we need to get involved.

Kelly

Not one for thinking outside the box – mainly because she believes there isn’t one, Kelly founded Chrysalis in 2014 after being appointed as the UK’s Youngest HR Director (something she was told she couldn’t achieve with two young sons), after feeling that consultancy needed to more people and less process driven because – well that’s what gives consultants a bad reputation.

Through her consulting, coaching, talks, presentations, workshops and books, she rips up the rule book and helps people create what’s best for them, their teams and their organisations – not what’s best for their competitors.