Leveraging Blockchain in the Hiring Process

07/27/2020
Vivek Anand
Vivek Anand is the founder of Workonomix, which simplifies work engagement through a single, trustable talent identity that is blockchain anchored. Vivek has 25 years experience in technology and consulting which spans across Europe, Middle East and India. Prior to starting Workonomix, Anand was a Managing Director at Accenture.
Leveraging Blockchain in the Hiring Process

Leveraging Blockchain in the Hiring Process

As the nature of work continues to evolve, more platforms spring up in an effort to tackle the pain points of staffing, for both the talent and the organization. Easing friction in the hiring process is paramount, and Vivek Anand, the founder of Workonomix, has a unique vision for doing so. Anchored in blockchain technology, Workonomix is a verified, portable worker passport that reduces friction delays in the hiring process. Vivek believes that a single, trustable professional identity owned by the talent is fundamental to the future of work, and he founded Workonomix for that reason: “to ease the life of a worker and accelerate the hiring process for the employers.”

Paul and Vivek discuss the inconsistencies in various talent profiles, the challenges posed for talent who work through multiple platforms, the benefits of blockchain technology, and Workonomix’s mission to ensure that organizations are able to hire the right person tomorrow.

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Transcript of this episode

Vivek Anand:

Well, this is the first point blockchain gave us, which is security and immutability. Second is supportability. Supportability, again, comes if the person owns the information. Blockchain provides us a way that you can own. In a decent way, you can be part of a network, but you can still own your information. You can save it with your private keys, secure it, and then you can share it.

Introduction:

There's a revolution taking place right now. Talent and intelligence are equally distributed throughout the world, but opportunity is not. The talent economy, the idea that at the center of work is the talent, is the individual. Companies today face a global war for talent, and high-skilled talent is demanding flexibility around the way they work and the way they live. This podcast brings together thought leaders, staffing experts, and top freelancers to talk about the evolving nature of work and how companies can navigate these changes to remain competitive, drive innovation, and ensure success.

Paul Estes:

Welcome to the Talent Economy Podcast. I'm your host, Paul Estes. Today, I'm speaking with Vivek Anand, founder of Workonomix, a blockchain anchored credential wallet that saves time, money and enhances compliance while simplifying the user experience for all. Vivek believes a single, trusted professional identity owned by talent is fundamental to the evolving nature of work. He founded Workonomix to ease the life of all talent and accelerate the hiring process.

Vivek Anand:

This is Vivek Anand. I'm the founder of Workonomix. Workonomix is about universal talent identity. It's one source which gives a portable identity to people increasing the convenience for the talent and efficiency for the organization. So our goal is how we can help people get to their next job faster, how we can reduce the friction for the enterprises and intermediaries.

Paul Estes:

Well, I really look forward to having this conversation because we're going to talk about blockchain. And so any conversation that talks about how blockchain may change an industry is, I think, interesting not only to our listeners but myself. When you started the company, what was an example of the problem that you were seeing in the hiring process that led you to start a company to try to fix it?

Vivek Anand:

Before I started Workonomix, I spent over 22 years in a blue chip firm. So I used to be a partner at Accenture. Before that, I worked for the group, one of the largest Indian IT companies which had a joint venture with an organization. And one thing which was always strange was that every time you wanted to put together a project team, you want to do ... you had to ask everyone, "Okay, can you just give me your CVs?" And everybody started to work on that. And that was a bit strange. So that was one thing.

Then, the other thing was a lot of people, companies sponsored a lot of trainings for people. People used to do those trainings at the end of it. There was not really a single place where they could say, "Oh, all my credentials, certifications, everything is here." And if I want to switch to a different organization and within the same conglomerate or if I want to change the job, I just take everything with me, all my feedbacks, all my performance ratings, or whatever I want to share. And that was really a bit strange. And then I thought, "Okay, that's fine." Maybe people do that here three, six months in a year, every six months. Maybe they have a new project sometimes every year.

But then, I was always very enamored with the whole concept of flex work, in-demand, on-demand economy, etc. And I said, "How would it work there if somebody has to change their project or job or employer every week, every month or so?" And then I stumbled upon this on-demand company here who were working, not really the higher end, more in the blue-collar space. [inaudible 00:03:44] what are you seeing every week? And they said, "By us, most of our people on the platform, they change jobs like every two hours or every four hours." I said, "Okay, that's something that we'll talk about."

So that's where the whole thing ... the problem in principle, which I thought had a limited impact on people's lives if you were working for the larger corporations. The moment I stepped out and started looking at it through the other sectors within the economy, I saw, "Oh, this problem has a much bigger impact when you look at people who are freelancing." Right? Because they are changing jobs. They are working primarily on five platforms, right? So I am a good programmer, talented programmer, work with seven platforms. I have seven profiles. I need to maintain those seven profiles. If something changes, I need to change that. And then, of course, my feedback and ratings are not shared, right? So if I did one project on one platform, the second platform will ask me again to say, "Okay, have you worked on this thing?" Or I have to proactively submit that information.

So all that is really work which is a necessity, and it creates a lot of idle time, right? For the talent, he's losing his productive time. And then, you go and talk to some of the companies in the regulated sector. Let's say, talk to the banks here in Switzerland or Europe, they will tell you, "Yeah, just to onboard a new person takes us easily two weeks." And you say, "Why? This person is not coming from a third country. He's coming from your city." But the city, they have a process. They need to do certain checks. And then, those checks need to be ... need to go in, and then we will start with the process. So that's where I saw that it's a big problem for anyone who wants to work in a flexible way. Also, it is a problem that is eating up productivity and causing bench time for companies because people just cannot start.

Paul Estes:

One of the interesting things that I've noticed as I started to work with freelancers, to your point, across a bunch of very different platforms, is the profiles are all different. It takes a lot of time on the talent side to set up a new profile, to put their work product, their training, to your point, and a lot of that information to get work. And we're, in some ways, judging the freelancers based on the quality of the information that they put in these platforms. What kind of response are you getting from the freelance platforms? Because I imagine that when they look at this technology, they say, "Well, I want to own the information." Right? "I want to have all of the information on the talent here on my platform." And maybe giving up that ownership of the information would be challenging.

Vivek Anand:

You are exactly right. And I think that's what we got from many of the platforms because people believe that they own certain information, or they own the talent. That's the biggest fallacy in our life.

Paul Estes:

Well, it's also how companies feel.

Vivek Anand:

Yeah, exactly. Surprisingly, when we went to the end customers ... Now, I'm talking about a very highly regulated national public services provider and financial service provider here in Switzerland. When you talk to them, they are okay, that, yes, if people leave us, they have the right to their information and they can do anything with it, right, with the whole GDPR, privacy, etc.

But to your point on platforms, I believe there is still quite a misperception that if we have these people and if we own this information and nobody has it, we will have better loyalty, etc. But I think that's not right. As a platform, you need to provide service to the talent by bringing that talent better, more suited opportunities when he wants or when she wants by giving him purposeful work and not just by saying, "Oh, I have the most rich information about you. That's why you should work with me." However, this is the reality. I mean, if it breaks somebody's business model, of course, they will not use the solution.

So one of the things we learned on the architecture side is that we could have a common set of attributes about a profile, which can be shared across. So let's say my compliance checks, they are not differentiating, right? Everybody needs to have these compliance checks. And my ratings across the platforms, they are ... Everybody wants to have consolidated rating, but one can say that certain attributes can remain private. For example, if I work through a platform and that platform is doing some very sensitive work for a government body or for a security agency, then we can configure it that those attributes and information is not shared.

But, however, every platform says, "Yeah. If I get a comprehensive rating, everybody wins." Right? So I think, yes, with the enterprises, we are seeing a clear picture because they say, "Yes. People can own." There are some companies we heard who are working on employee credentials. I think Workday is looking at this problem with himself. On the platforms, yes, it's a mixed bag. Some platforms still believe. And that's how we're trying to find solutions that we could configure.

Paul Estes:

When you reach out to HR leaders, and I mean ... The HR tech space is a booming space as we try to figure out how to create more agile talent and getting the right people into the organization as quickly as possible and creating transparency, especially on the contingent side where there has been a lack of transparency for many years. When you go to HR leaders with this sort of solution, what is their response?

Vivek Anand:

I think that on the HR side, they really value the fact that they will get verified information about the person. Right? So that's one thing. Right? So they appreciate that. Okay. If the information comes in and it is all correct, all verified, then they save time and they can improve the program, because then, the recruiter is having a relevant discussion with the person, not asking him about, "Oh, can you also send me a copy of those credentials because they are not attached to your email?" Right?

So HR leaders like it because they think, one, for them, it is a way of how the brand is perceived. Like, "Okay, I just had one profile. I'll send a link. And now, we are only having the relevant discussion." And on the second side, yes, I think they are ... We are not there today. Once we build up a significant amount of options, then also, it will give them a very rich source of talent to source from.

So I would say it is positive. Yes, on some of the challenges we face from HR is ... Sometimes, they say, "Oh, if we start putting these kinds of verification requests or verification kind of barriers, does that mean that fewer people will apply on our job?" So I think there are those inhibitions which say, "Oh, we need so many people in data science that we don't want to stop anyone." But then you ask them, "Okay. So what are you going to do if certain things are not there on day one? And you would have spent all this time screening the person and then finding out, by the way, this person does not have a relevant right to work in the city." So these things can happen.

Paul Estes:

Take me through an example of a company that was working without Workonomix. And then, how much time and cost are we actually talking about saving?

Vivek Anand:

There are two examples, but let me first explain our model. Our model has two levels. First level is that because the profile and the data is owned by the talent, it is portable across many  many platforms, right? So that is the one to many levels, which means once the profile is verified, once certain things are consolidated, then the talent can very easily make it available to all. They do not have to recheck certain things. You know? So, for example, if I leave one bank and go to the second bank, normally, their regulator or compliance vetting head will require that I get verified again. So that, of course, goes away. All right?

So we believe we can bring down the cost of verification to a third or to half to start with because we can easily have two to three employers paying for that information instead of one. This is one thing. This is the main effect, right, which is really the network effect because of affordability.

And the second thing, which is I would say a bit lesser ... provides lesser savings and time, is that the whole process there is digitized. So, as I said, if you move from one to the other sector, all we need to do is to configure a bunch of APIs to import those bits of information. And as soon as the person and the employer authorized them and say, "Okay, yes, you can source this information for me," we can bring that in. So that's the digitalization level, which I would say is not totally new, but it has not been available in a very configurable way. Now, what is really, I think, groundbreaking is this network effect, which means that you have a pool of verified talent, and the cost of verification and maintaining that data and doing everything gets shared across different employers.

Paul Estes:

We've seen this model a number of times, especially in healthcare, right? As healthcare is being digitized and people are being given access to their own health information as they go to different providers and services. And it's interesting that it's taken so long to get that into the talent space. There's a lot of friction in the hiring process, to your point, that's not really focused on making sure the right person can start tomorrow to start providing value.

Let's talk a little bit about technology. Can you explain to those that may not fully understand blockchain ... Just quickly, what is blockchain? And how did you decide this technology would be an anchor service for the offering you have?

Vivek Anand:

So, as I said, the main, principal proposition of our offering is portability, right? That if it is portable, then the benefits are shared. The costs are shared, and it's very, very fast, right? Now, to make that profile portable, you have to give the ownership to the talent, right? Because if one party owns it, one company owns it, then strike deals between every company in the world to say, "Okay, can we share their profile?" So talent owns it. That's what's clear to us that the person has to own it.

Then we said, "Okay, now, somebody came in and some companies paid for his verification on the platform or he paid for the verification. And then the next day, the person goes in and he changes some information. How will we know? Right? Because at the end, we are living in a [inaudible 00:14:00] decentered world. So these are the two objectives in which we started looking very carefully at blockchain.

One, can we secure the information? So once something is marked as verified, can we make it immutable? And second, can we really give the ownership to the talent so that it is fully portable? And you're not saying that, okay, it is owned by employer X, and when you go to employer Y, then you need to ask your permission, etc. So that didn't work.

So blockchain here provides us both these capabilities. So as you know, it's a ... First of all, it's a decentral immutable ledger, which means that if the platform ... We have a platform that'll verify somebody's information saying, "Okay, this person has got a clear credit check as of this date." Then, that transaction is written on the blockchain that Mr. X has been verified as clear on this date. Right? And then, this person can move on. He can change things, but this information, this reference to blockchain.

So that provides us the security for the data and also the longevity in terms of auditability in the future. Five years later, they can be in a bank, an audit. Okay, you hired this person. Show us all the checks that were done. And then, our system allows you to basically go and look at all those entries on the ledger to say, "Okay. Yes, on these days, these checks were done." So this is the first point blockchain gives us, which is security and immutability.

Second is supportability. Supportability, again, comes if the person owns the information, and blockchain provides us a way that you can own. In a decent way, you can be part of a network, but you can still own your information with your ... You can save it with your private keys, secure it. And then, you can share it where others can see. You can still own in a pure sense. So those are the two characteristics which we got from blockchain. And that's why we went with blockchain. On the other hand, as I said, for the whole architecture of configurability, etc., there, we use the regular platform technologies generally.

Paul Estes:

How do I think of Workonomix and the technology as it relates to the old traditional résumé? I'm trying to, in my mind, picture how this identity that I have - that now contains a lot of information that wouldn't traditionally be on my résumé is more part of a hiring process and verification process - melds with my CV or my résumé.

Vivek Anand:

We think that résumé has its space in terms of communicating your purpose, your vision, what you want to do, and your motivation to the company. So that will remain. That can be also your LinkedIn profile, which shows you what kind of social stuff you've done, who's in your network. So all that will remain.

However, there is this pain point of how to really verify and validate some of that information plus some additional compliance-related information. Like I talked about, if you work for financial services, you need to get your bad debt checks done. You need to get some anti-production things done. You may have company ownership requirements to see if you have any interest with any conflicting players, if you're working for a startup, for example. So all these things are not part of your CV. And you don't want to talk about them, but the employer just wants to know whether it is all here. Right? So that's the part we want to address, because, unfortunately, that is the part which is an unsolved pain for the recruiter, for the compliance officer, and for the talent. And at the end, it costs everyone time and money.

Paul Estes:

You see the articles across the web where someone's talking about...

Vivek Anand:

Have a degree or something, right?

Paul Estes:

They don't have a degree or some experience that they have. And I remember when I first started in tech, we used to have to send our proof of education, right? You'd have to go to the school and get the documents and stuff. So as you were talking about the information that I would put on my personal blockchain or verified account, it'd just be easy to put it all in one spot and say, "Look, here. I am who I say I am. And these are the credentials that I have."

We're in the middle of an unprecedented time right now as it relates to how companies are thinking about the future of how they work and how they respond and become more resilient in the future. We've always said that the future is a little uncertain and things are changing faster than ever, but you just look at the past four months and that has proved to be well beyond anything we ever imagined. When I look at this technology, how do you think Workonomix will help people as they start looking to be rehired or if people are losing opportunities and wanting to get back into the workforce?

Vivek Anand:

The whole rehiring process, one has to look at it. So what's happening today? Companies are following people that they think are good for their business, that they have the right experience because they'll say, "Look, for the next three, four months, I don't know, we want to follow you so that ... and then, we'll call you back." That's one example, right?

Now, during that time, even as a freelancer, right, even as an employee, I'm allowed to do any immediate jobs. Right? That's what the regulation says. So I can go and work ... Let's say I can go and help a hospital who ... heading up their systems because, right now, they have too much demand, or I can build something with a test facility. Or I'm a low-income group worker and I just start to do food delivery, right, or grocery deliveries because people need it.

Where do you capture all that? Nowhere because the thing will be ... If I follow someone, yes, that person still is on my system. Then, after four or five months, I want that person back and maybe I will give him a lot of forms. He will have to declare many things, okay, what I did in these four months. He did not work for any sensitive information related competitors, X, Y, and Z. Right? And we think if at this time this person would have like a Workonomix type identity, a portable identity, where it just says, "Okay, I did some deliveries in between. I had the hospital. I actually did a gig on a freelance platform and that it was not in the same industry, something else. And here is the proof." I think it would be very, very easy for the company to say, "Okay, everything is good. Please come back."

The other side is purely compliance. So that again, if you go into highly regulated businesses, they might ask, "Okay. Rehiring means you need to renew some of your compliance checks." Again, this can be done immediately with our approach.

So that's why we believe that in the rehiring process, there will be many cases where we'll be hiring the same skills or the same people, but you may have to review them again. And that's exactly where we can accelerate the process and help people to link back with the same or with different employers.

Paul Estes:

It's amazing to me how many times in my career when I was hiring somebody that I would look at their résumé and then we'd have a conversation. A lot of the skills, the amazing skills that they had just weren't on the résumé, right? They were maybe a part of a side hustle or something else in their career, but they were trying to show linear progression, a very structured career, and so they didn't feel that they wanted to add this additional thing to their résumé because it might be seen as not structured in a way. The idea that you could get an end-to-end picture of somebody's work, that, look, could be tangential to what job they're applying for but actually, from a diversity perspective, might be an amazing addition to the project or to the company.

Vivek Anand:

Yeah. I think that's the observation. I would say that goes back to the whole perception of what a skill profile is, what a résumé is, which is very, very old. Like you said, people have to hide such information, which information may be interesting for certain progressive employers. So we believe. So right now, as I said, we are an early-stage company. We are somewhere ... We are trying to fix an immediate pain, which is about compliance, getting the facts right, removing friction. However, if you imagine that this is the store ... this is your single store where you can get any references from other people, where you can enter anything. And you can just classify and say, "Okay, here I have my work experience and here I have my side gigs." Everything is in one wallet. It's kind of verified. It's true.

I think on that, that can be a very rich source of data to learn any type of analytics. Right? So some of the discussions we've had is we are not there yet. It's about, okay, if this really works, then this can be the master data source. Right? I mean, where should be the employee master data? Yes. You need to have it somewhere for your payroll and somewhere for your compliance. But at the end, the richest source of master data should be with the employee. And if we can give that power to the employee, to the talent, then it's in his interest to keep that comprehensive, updated, everything else. Right? Because then, he knows everybody's looking at it.

Paul Estes:

It's interesting when you look at employment because the system is built as if you're going to stay at the same job for 40 years or 30 years. That has never been the case. If you look at the Department of Labor information, it's more the exception than the rule that people will stay as employers for long periods of time. The résumé and the information is created for a world that just doesn't exist today.

Vivek Anand:

For me, résumé ... I did change a lot of jobs in my life, but I never had to make a résumé because either you find the job through your network or by chance that you meet someone. I think résumé is an instrument to make a first impression, right? That was the thing. That, okay, I'm looking for a job, I need to send something out to 10 headhunters and five ... I want to apply at five places. There's no point talking to them. First, send them a résumé, which is good. Now, the fallback of that is that okay, you have to do it 10 times, and all 10 of them might get different information. And if three of them come back, it's a very clumsy process.

Today, if you look at LinkedIn, right, it's such a powerful tool that you can easily connect to people. And even if people have very brief profiles, you can learn a lot about this person, right, what type of network he has, what conferences he went to, etc. So that gives you a good social image of a person. Then, the next thing you need is ... Okay, some of that needs to really be true, and how do I check that? And I think that's the gap we try to fill. So if you have these two things working, maybe you don't need a résumé anymore. You send your LinkedIn connection and you send a Workonomix link, and then they can issue a contract, which you can sign on Workonomix or something.

Paul Estes:

The more you kept mentioning résumé, I just go back to my first job. I remember putting it in an envelope. I remember being at my parents' house, putting it in envelopes and getting my first job because I mailed in my résumé, which says, I guess, a little bit about my age.

This is my favorite part of this show. It's called the rapid-fire section. I'm going to ask you a couple of questions and I ask that you just say the first thing that comes to mind. You ready?

Vivek Anand:

I'm ready.

Paul Estes:

What's one thing about you that's not on your LinkedIn profile?

Vivek Anand:

Well, I play guitar sometimes.

Paul Estes:

I wonder if that would be in your Workonomix profile. See, that's a perfect example.

Vivek Anand:

No, that's actually not even verified. So I'm still a dabbler.

Paul Estes:

There you go. If you could trade lives with anyone for one day, who would it be and why?

Vivek Anand:

I would say maybe Mahatma Gandhi just because of his sheer sense of purpose and associating with people, he could really make a big ... such a big change to our country and to the world.

Paul Estes:

What book or movie has inspired you the most over the past year?

Vivek Anand:

It's a not so well-known Bollywood movie where someone goes to China from India and then tries to make a new product which nobody has thought of and somehow he sells it.

Paul Estes:

What is one word that you would use to describe the next decade of work?

Vivek Anand:

Purpose.

Paul Estes:

Vivek, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. If somebody wants to learn more about Workonomix or get in touch with you, what's the best way to reach out?

Vivek Anand:

Well, they can just send me an email, [email protected], and I'd be happy to reply, or just contact at Workonomix.com, whatever they prefer.

Paul Estes:

There we go. We'll put all that information in the show notes. Thank you so much for your time today.

Vivek Anand:

Thank you. Thanks, Paul. It was great.

Paul Estes:

I'm your host, Paul Estes. Thank you for listening to the Talent Economy Podcast. Learn more about the future of work and the transformation of the staffing industry from those leading the conversation at Staffing.com, where you can hear from experts, sign up for our weekly newsletter, and get access to the best industry research on the future of staffing. If you've enjoyed the conversation, we'd appreciate you rating us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts or just tell a friend about the show. Be sure to tune in next week for another episode of the Talent Economy.

Vivek Anand
Vivek Anand is the founder of Workonomix, which simplifies work engagement through a single, trustable talent identity that is blockchain anchored. Vivek has 25 years experience in technology and consulting which spans across Europe, Middle East and India. Prior to starting Workonomix, Anand was a Managing Director at Accenture.