What is Blockchain and How will it Impact HR?

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My guest on this week’s Digital HR Leaders podcast episode is Yvette Cameron, Founder and Principal Analyst at Next-Gen Insights. Yvette is a true expert in the HR technology space having previously been Global Head of Strategy at SAP SuccessFactors and Research Director of Human Capital Management technology at Gartner.

Yvette is working closely with a number of HR technology companies to think about how blockchain could be used to revolutionise the situation around data ownership. As such, Yvette is hugely knowledgeable on the topic of blockchain and what it means to HR. In the podcast, we cover a number of topics around how blockchain can be used to create what Yvette calls an “Internet of Careers”, but first we need to demystify, what is blockchain? And how can it be used in HR?

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic then I urge you to watch the video with Yvette below, read the transcript in this blog, or to hear the rest of the interview on the podcast then you can listen or subscribe here.

David Green: Okay, you mentioned blockchain a few times. And I know this is something I know I struggle sometimes to get some of our colleagues in HR to understand people analytics and the difference between reporting. I imagine you're having similar challenges around blockchain.

Bringing it back to lay-people's terms. How would you describe what blockchain is to the uninitiated as we say?

Yvette Cameron: So essentially blockchain is just a  technology. It's not some magic bullet. It's just a technology that essentially uses the concept of a distributed ledger.

So information isn't stored in one centralised siloed database that is subject to being hacked and the data violations. Copies of information which are stored in blocks and hence, connected as a blockchain are stored across multiple ledgers, multiple distributed sites. And so what that means is, information that is is written and agreed upon, is replicated across multiple sites. If you go in and you want to change it, say you want to hack this system and and change your employment date or take ownership of some data. The other systems have to agree to that. And that's the consensus network approach. So, again, it's just another way of storing and managing data, but it uses hashes and different ways of storing the technologies so that it's very secure. You can add additional records, but you can't change it. Now right here, I'm going to stop and say. This is where people say. Oh, it's never going to work because GDPR right and in Europe we're required to allow the information to be erased and a blockchain is unerasable. It's unchangeable. How do you meet that? The fact is blockchain is not inconsistent with European rules around data privacy. The data privacy rules aren't just about deleting information. It's about conveying ownership of the data to individuals. And that's what blockchain does and you can essentially remove access to data by destroying keys in the blockchain.

So I as the individual can say: employer, I want you to erase my information in your system. But I still want to keep it in the blockchain. And if for some reason I do want to delete that information forever, I own the key that lets me turn off access and it's unrecoverable. So there's some risk there of course, but it's not inconsistent with GDPR.

So it's just another way of storing data, but in a much more secure and reliable way.

David Green: So if anything it's actually the opposite of that it's actually beneficial to GDPR which puts obviously more rights for the actual owner of the data i.e. The individual.

Yvette Cameron: I think you're absolutely right. I mean employees today are reaching out to employers not in mass, but it's going to increase over the next few years and they're saying: Hey, I want a copy of my data.

And you know, they're getting what the employer gives them. But I can guarantee you with all the integrations we have going across our HCM systems. There are other copies of that data in other systems. If i've got my HCM system, It's been replicated to background checks. It's been replicated to analytics and engagement and all kinds of other tools.

So frankly publishing this to the blockchain is even more secure and helps ensure the privacy of that data.


David Green is a globally respected writer, speaker, conference chair, and executive consultant on people analytics, data-driven HR and the future of work. As an Executive Director at Insight222, he helps global organisations create more cultural and economic value through the wise and ethical use of people data and analytics. Prior to joining Insight222, David was the Global Director of People Analytics Solutions at IBM Watson Talent. As such, David has extensive experience in helping organisations embark upon and accelerate their people analytics journeys. You can follow David on LinkedIn and Twitter and also subscribe to The Digital HR Leader weekly newsletter and podcast.