Talent Experience Podcast

Ep. 45 Andrew Spence - Enabling Employees and Teams Through Blockchain

February 03, 2022 Fuel50 / Andrew Spence Season 1 Episode 45
Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 45 Andrew Spence - Enabling Employees and Teams Through Blockchain
Show Notes Transcript

Join us for the 45th episode of the Talent Experience Podcast featuring our guest Andrew Spence! Andrew publishes the Workforce Futurist Newsletter, which includes original research, industry insights, and views on building a better world of work. He is an experienced independent management consultant specializing in building people-centric organizations, and his latest research includes the influential paper, “Blockchain and the CHRO”, in cooperation with the Blockchain Research Institute.

Andrew is joined by host Rhonda Taylor as they discuss all things blockchain and how we can incorporate blockchain into the world of work and HR. Listen as they discuss why digitalization will be key for the future of work, how creating “digital career wallets” can help employees and teams thrive as they move forward, and the profound impact that blockchain will have in the coming years!

Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn and check out his website.

For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentexperiencepodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast!

Rhonda Taylor  00:25
Welcome to the Talent Experience Podcast. I'm your host, Rhonda Taylor. Today we're looking into the crystal ball, hey! This is so exciting looking into the future of HR with my guest, Andy Spence. Andy, who is from the UK, is a workforce futurist who works hands on with boards, CEOs, and CHROs around the world. I love this, he did his Master's back in 1996 on AI and that was his focus and my goodness, was AI even around, we got to talk about that Andy! He now is focusing more on blockchain, and he was talking about blockchain before it ever became a buzzword. Today we're speaking about the impact of blockchain in the HR community, a topic that is evolving globally. Andy, welcome to the Talent Experience Podcast! Did I miss anything?

Andrew Spence  01:32
No, Rhonda is great to be here, and thank you very much for asking me. Well, that's a flash from the past. Yes, there weren't many courses on AI back in the 90s when I was learning these programming languages. And then I ended up my first job was programming, electricity board computer programs, you know, from there were 20 and 30 years old. So, I was brought back into the real world rather quickly back then, but it was interesting. 

Rhonda Taylor  02:02
Yes well, nobody knew what AI was back then. And you're right, you would have been right back, sitting at a desk doing COBOL and things like that.

Andrew Spence  02:11
I was doing COBOL for a year and never again, it stopped my computer programming career. I said I'm not a coder, no way.

Rhonda Taylor  02:22
There's so much hype around Bitcoin. How can we in HR relate this hype to the world at work?

Andrew Spence  02:29
Yeah, I mean, that's a great question. When you think of blockchain, a lot of people, their first reaction is Bitcoin, and they'll have a view, they'll regret not buying it eight years ago, and buying a Ferrari, that's their first reaction. But blockchain is a rather boring technology behind bitcoin, we're talking about the world of distributed databases, and blocks of data and how they approve transactions. So, on the face of it is rather boring. And you know, compared to AI, blockchain doesn't talk to you. You know, it's not like a 3D printer where you can build your own house, it's a bit more mundane. But I think of all the emerging technologies, I think blockchain will have a profound impact over the next 10 - 20 years, as we build what I call the next generation of the internet.

Rhonda Taylor  03:24
Yeah, and how long do you think this scenario will take to build-out?

Andrew Spence  03:32
Yeah, and your question was around HR and work how it relates to that. Well, when I first started researching this a few years ago, andI blogged openly about it, and it was like, how could we use this technology in HR and work? Well, it made me actually think a little bit about all the checking, and contracting, and searching we have to do in HR. And blockchain can actually help change the whole infrastructure of work. And if we think of our data, how we apply for jobs in North America with our resumes and CVs. And you know, the resume was invented by Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century, when he applied for a job as a military engineer with the Duke of Milan. And we're still using this old document. And so how does blockchain help? For example, it might be that we've got a digital wallet, where we can actually store credentials that verifies that we've got a degree certificate, and the verification happens with a network of universities and colleges who we trust. So, we get a green tick to say that Andy has a degree in AI for example and that makes the whole checking verification and trust in this for this one credential much more efficient. So, you can imagine we could extend that to people's employment records. Did you work at Walmart for those two years, for example, we can verify that we get a green tick. So rather than sending around these dubious applications, we've got a digital wallet, we can store it, we can manage it, we can choose who we share it with. And it makes the whole matching process much more efficient. So that's where it's bang into the space of traditional HR.

Rhonda Taylor  05:27
That is so in line with the way we are thinking, you know, and especially with your skills that you're developing in the workforce, you know, they can be validated either by your supervisor, or by a peer, or by if it's a certification program that you took. The way of identifying skills and capabilities are numerous and that too can go into your wallet, I guess.

Andrew Spence  06:04
Yeah, it can, anything that can be verifiable or digitized. And, of course, you know, we're not talking about these technologies in isolation. Let's throw in all this data, we'd have to throw in AI and artificial intelligence. And when it comes to recruitment, for example, there might be hundreds of possible data points that would help you predict whether an individual is going to work out well, in a particular team. Hundreds of data points in a dynamic system. And so, AI is going to come into its own, when we can look at you know, which of those data points help predict whether a high is going to be successful or not. And of course, that needs a different infrastructure of work, it needs to have good quality data, and it needs us to record subsequent performance of individuals and teams, all of which we're a bit away from. But I see technology developing along these lines, and it gives more power to the worker and more confidence to the employer that this hire and this team are gonna work out.

Rhonda Taylor  07:10
And this methodology allows everything to be more doable. When you think of it, in the old days Andy, I can remember recruiting and putting an ad in the paper and hoping to get somebody to take the position. And, you know, we suffered from tunnel vision back then, we thought, oh wow, we're recruiting in Toronto, we want somebody in the Greater Toronto Area applying for this job and this is not the case anymore. The workforce is global and it's amazing that we do like you say, we need to collect the data and habits as you say, in a digital wallet. 

Andrew Spence  07:54
Yeah, I mean, you did right, that the workforce is not only global but also has 24/7 quality entertainment streamed to them. There are many different ways to learn and earn money, right? You don't just need to earn money from the one job you do and work Monday to Friday, you could earn money from your gaming prowess from your selling your oil paintings, and earning crypto, for example. There are so many examples of how to earn in different ways. So, I think that's really fascinating. So, the workforce is changing. But Rhonda, you mentioned something that really sort of stood out for me. And it's the history of technology, right? So, let's take recruitment. So when, when the internet arrived, we got our paper application forms, and we put them onto the internet. So, the paper application form had 50 fields, and we put all 50 fields onto the internet on a form. It was pretty ugly, and not very user-friendly. Then mobile came along. And we took our online form with maybe 20 fields, and we tried to fix it into some kind of mobile app. And again, it wasn't very convenient for filling in as you go into work on the bus or train, right? And so, we learned that you know, we only wanted three or four clicks to keep people's attention. And it's the same when I do talks about blockchain to HR, people saying great, Andy, how do we put our payroll on the blockchain? But it's the wrong question. I think the way to think of blockchain is it's enabling different people to form teams to create smart contracts where they can share the equity from the video they've made, from the music they've made, from the artwork they've done, all this kind of thing. And so, it's enabling people to form teams, to share equity, and to work together in very different ways. So, it's much more complex than just taking our old processes from the last 100 years and make them more efficient on blockchain. That's the wrong way to look at it, we need to rethink work. And that's why I'm kind of passionate about it.

Rhonda Taylor  10:05
Wow, this sounds so futuristic. What applications can we use today to learn more about blockchain? And where can we learn more about it?

Andrew Spence  10:15
Oh, God. So, I think don't get distracted by all the Bitcoin crypto investment hype. Right? So, I think that's, that's the first thing, look a little bit deeper, but also don't bother going into all the math and the cryptography. Again, that's a bit of a distraction too. When I started looking at it, it was Don Tapscott, another Canadian Rhonda, who prompted me to write a paper about blockchain in HR. And what we did is we looked at the existing industry, we looked at centralization, who owns the data, and the business models around it. And so that's the way to look at it, it's looking at how we use career data. But your question was, how do you actually experience this new technology? Well, one way is, you know, our internet browsers. So, you know, we've got the Google browsers, for example, are fantastic. But we give something up for great service, we actually give them data about ourselves, that is then sold to advertisers, to companies like Google who sell that data, similar model with LinkedIn. Right? So, there's a browser called Brave, the Brave Browser. And so, you browse the internet, and you choose the level of adverts you're willing to accept in a month, right? And if you actually click on a car advert or something like that, you get tokens, which are called BAT tokens. And these tokens can be exchanged for Bitcoin or US dollars, or whatever. So, you're getting paid for your attention. Actually, that's quite interesting. It turns the existing model around a little bit. Otherwise, you could earn crypto, there's something called Rabbit Hole where you can actually do small tasks and give your time and attention in exchange for crypto tokens. And you mentioned HR, right? So, when I started writing about this, there were just maybe 10 start-ups in this space. But now, the industry incumbents or the big players are investing in this blockchain technology. And one way is through the non-profit philosophy foundation, which is a lot of the industry incumbents are involved in this, and they're producing interoperable digital career wallets, I think they called the Internet of Careers. And this is almost like a system where we'll be able to exchange information as we move between jobs, right? So, check out the Velocity Foundation, look at what the different tech vendors and staffing vendors are doing, get involved in pilots, and so that's how you know, it's going to affect our industry. Get involved, we really need HR people to get involved, right? Because HR has a lot of knowledge about people, teams, organizations and these processes and compliance from the law is really important. HR gets all over this, Rhonda, because it's going to impact all our lives in the next 10 - 20 years.

Rhonda Taylor  13:18
And speaking of the future, how do you see people management playing out in the next 5 - 10... let's go 15 years?

Andrew Spence  13:28
Wow, because to be fair, we have talked about technology over the last 20 - 30 years. So, looking into the future, with my research with Dawn, we started to say, you know, if we've got this world where we've got trustworthy digital credentials, it's a world with lot more platforms, where we can actually match workers with employers or people giving work, right? And in that scenario, doing a project, a task, or a contract becomes a lot more seamless and efficient. So, we're going to get more churn, people moving around a lot more. In that scenario. organizations don't need to have three, 400,000 people on their books, they can just pull from a lot of skills when they need them, right? So, we can get loads of churn, smaller organizations, and people moving around a lot more. And so that's kind of, they're some hypotheses I'd throw out there. And I think that becomes fascinating. And in that scenario, it depends where you're sitting. In some countries, you're saying to yourself, well, people will starve, it will become a race to the bottom if we've got all these people competing with each other on platforms. But what needs to happen is an associated response from regulators, policymakers, and governments. So that we have the associated minimal levels of welfare and financial security needed for people to be able to move around so flexibly. I think we're going to see these kinds of trends in the future. So there's great benefits for workers in that scenario. And I'm optimistic that people will find a way of making a living becoming economically viable in that situation. And, you know, just throw in a fact, towards the end of our conversation, there's there might be 3 or 4 billion people in the global workforce, 2 billion of those people are working in rather informal ways. Right? And, and so what this new world enables, this digital world enables people to become economically viable, you know, to get income streams, from all these different methods that we've mentioned. And that's a very positive thing to include a greater and more diverse workforce in the future. So that's why I'm optimistic about.

Rhonda Taylor  16:00
Yeah and we are seeing it evolving. As I'm speaking, I think, I have two great-nieces out skiing Whistler,  just between assignments. One of them had a really good job with a bank and just went to the bank and said either I leave or I get a six-month leave, and the bank gave her a six-month leave. The older generation never ever thought of going and asking for that.

Andrew Spence  16:34
No and you know what, it would be outrageous. When I was 30, not so long ago, I hear you all thinking, and I had a performance review with my boss right, and it was an annual performance review. He says, Andy, what do you really want? And I pause for a bit and I looked at him, I said, what I really want is to quit and see the world. I want to go traveling, I want to go to India and Australia, and we both had a bit of a laugh. He said, let's make it happen and what I did was I took a year off, I went traveling and they kept my job open and it was quite a few years ago. On my very first day back, I was waiting to go, it was a start-up with about 1000, well a scale-up with about 1000 people. I met our Chief Executive Officer from the US for the very first time and he said something like, where do you work? And I said, well this is my first day back after a whole year and he didn't know how to respond. He'd never heard of this, and I don't blame him but you know, it was a great year for me. I must say I was extremely lucky, but people are doing, are thinking, about their lives in this way more and more. It's about lifestyle, money, time, health, and these are the important things.

Rhonda Taylor  17:58
And you're so right about the gig economy becoming regulated. You know, in the past, and I'm talking 10 - 15 years ago, often the gig economy was an underground economy. But now with major corporations jumping into gigs, and everything, it's become totally regulated. And like that's the future.

Andrew Spence  18:27
Yeah, I completely agree. And I don't think we're going to call it the gig economy. It's much more mainstream. It's how people are going to work. You know, we're going to be on different durations of contracts with different pay, the technology goes in the background, it helps us enable this. And if you're looking to source work, if you're in HR and traditionally have been hiring permanent hires, if we need to source work, we've got 10 different options to think of now, including hiring teams, outsourcing, automating, using temps, permanents, there's a whole variety, and so it's about sourcing work more broadly. And so, I agree, Rhonda, that we need to be really flexible and strategic about how we design work going forward, definitely.

Rhonda Taylor  19:20
So, hypothetically, let me just recap, an employee of tomorrow is going to have an employment wallet or other HR file, and if they want a job or they want an assignment or an opportunity, they would just send their link. And that's the way that they're going to start seeking employment.

Andrew Spence  19:52
I think people are going to have their digital career wallets like you described, and they will choose who they should share that with, if somebody wants to go and see whether they do have a degree, or to check their ID, or even their personality scores, anything around data, they can choose who can see that verification, and what I would say if you're starting out on your career, and you've got a long career ahead of you a long life ahead of you, then it's around collecting these verifiable credentials as you go along, to demonstrate to future people who want to employ you and hire you, around what you've done, what you've achieved, that skills you've achieved, that kind of thing. So yeah, and it won't just be around careers, I can imagine that it'd be around wealth and health, and other aspects of our lives will be done in a similar way. Because of course, you know, HR and work tend to lag behind some of the other industries. So, we're gonna see this in all different walks of life, too. And it'll be the way we operate, we've, we've got to move on, from a situation where five big companies own most of our personal data and monetize it, it's not acceptable.

 Rhonda Taylor  21:10
Right. Andy, we believe that everyone should enjoy their careers. You obviously are passionate about what you do, how do you stay at such a high level of performance?

Andrew Spence  21:24
Well, that is a good question. And I'm like anyone else my performance, that is, I don't have the old boss to give me my annual performance review. I'm my own boss. And so, you've got to look after yourself in that respect. I wrote an article for my newsletter, Workforce Futurist, about wellbeing and preventing burnout, right? And I shared some of my personal things which are around making sure you take time out. Making sure that if you've got a day off, that you take, for me Twitter, LinkedIn, and email apps off your phone for a day. So, you have a complete break, using flight mode at night, this kind of thing. And, you know, for people who work in the gig economy, and a lot of people have moved in recently, it's actually maybe, you know, taking a week off every quarter, you know? Make sure you take your vacation holidays to maintain your health. So, a lot of it's around, keeping healthy and keeping the energy levels up and the curiosity up, you need to take those breaks and create buffers. In the lockdown, people found that a struggle because going to the office, working with teams in real life creates buffers at what time you leave, and going for socials at work and things like that. So, I think when you're kind of looking after that yourself, you got to recreate some of these buffers. And that might be simple things like taking an hour lunch break, making sure you do yoga, walk the dog, talk to the family, that kind of thing.

Rhonda Taylor  23:03
Andy this conversation has been so enlightening, and it really has made me think a lot about the future and the employee of the future. I want to thank you for being part of the Talent Experience Podcast today. This is Rhonda Taylor saying thank you for listening, and we'll see you in the future.

Andrew Spence  23:26
Thank you, Rhonda.