What do you know about blockchain? Perhaps you know that it has something to do with bitcoin, the most widely known of the cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin made headlines in December 2017, when its value reached an all-time high of almost $20,000. For most people, this was the first time they encountered blockchain technology, and while it is very much still in its infancy, blockchain is poised to disrupt every industry.
What is blockchain?
At the most basic level, blockchain is the infrastructure that underpins bitcoin and other digital currencies. It’s the technology that ensures cryptocurrency financial transactions are open, safe, and recorded without the need for a central governing body. However, this is just one application of blockchain. At its core, the technology provides a trusted decentralised ledger to securely store data and to independently verify transactions between parties. In addition to digital currencies, it also has the potential to automate and streamline large numbers of tasks and business processes.
Today blockchain is everywhere. While most people still do not fully understand the technology of blockchain, new applications and use cases are popping up daily. Already some organisations are working on ways to utilise the technology to transform how we fund journalism, change how we buy and sell property, and even reinvent employee management and HR.
It’s not all blue-sky thinking either. Numerous blockchain projects are well underway in large organisations. More than 75 of the world’s largest banks, including JP Morgan, Santander and Société Générale, have joined the Interbank Information Network (IIN), which uses blockchain technology to minimise friction in the global payments process. Walmart recently announced it is using a blockchain database to track the lettuce and spinach it receives from suppliers. By 2019, more than 100 Walmart suppliers will be required to input detailed information about their food into a blockchain database developed by IBM, enabling the retailer to pinpoint any contamination rapidly.
Original image source: CGI
Blockchain’s overhaul of the workplace
Blockchain, as well as a host of other fledgling technologies – such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and 5G – are poised to change the makeup of the workforce fundamentally. Blockchain-based technologies will automate repetitive tasks, significantly speed up global data processes and replace a huge number of jobs. While research on the topic is limited – and predicting the future workforce landscape is difficult, if not impossible – at a recent blockchain summit, the CEO of one of the industry’s best-funded start-ups estimated that blockchain could by enabling people to share data securely with a common record make 30–60% of current jobs obsolete.
Original image source: CGI
Logistics and blockchain expert Tom Van Dijk from CGI recently spoke about how organisations can remain competitive in this new world order. “Organisations need to apply fresh thinking across their workforce for the coming changes. While we develop innovative new products and services – harnessing blockchain technology to eliminate routine tasks, reduce costs and transform how their businesses operate – will require a mind-set to create new ways of working,” explained Van Dijk. In short, organisations must start ensuring their employees are prepared to succeed in a new, digitally transformed workplace.
Preparing for change
While blockchain development has taken the leading position as the most in-demand programmer skill, a demand I expect to grow exponentially, employees without programming skills will have to prove their value in new ways or face being replaced by increased automation. It is up to business leaders to consider how they can assist employees in this endeavour and in some cases that may mean finding new ways for workers to deliver value in an age of automation. Job roles will need to become value-based – moving from simple task execution to process improvement.
The good news is that countless new opportunities will emerge through automation. The challenge for business leaders will be empowering their workforce; ensuring employees are ready, willing and able to embrace new and exciting roles successfully. Most importantly of all, this will mean upskilling and retooling the workforce; ensuring employees can use automation to augment their roles – rather than replace them – and exploring more creative styles of working.
While it is difficult to say what these new roles will look like, research from Dell recently predicted that 85% of 2030’s jobs do not even exist yet. It is likely they will involve employing uniquely ‘human’ attributes – for example, soft skills, creative thinking, leadership and adaptability.
Attracting and retaining the right talent will be crucial over the coming years – more so than ever before. But the key to long-term success for many businesses will be providing their people with the opportunities to transition into roles that are more skilled, more value-based, and more rewarding. This means ensuring employees have access to high-quality digital skills training, while also encouraging an organisation-wide culture of continuous learning. Not only will this help employees prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, but it will also drive innovation within the organisation today.
Skillsoft offers exciting new blockchain courses. Here’s a sample from one that looks at how blockchain is changing the game.
Christopher Sly is a Solution Principal, IT & Digital at Skillsoft EMEA.