I read a recent Inc. Magazine article on Knowledge.io a company using blockchain technology to create a individual’s knowledge score. This knowledge score will be a verifiable way for individuals to communicate their experience and expertise. The article talks about the application of this blockchain application for the disruption of employee training. The company is launching in 2018 and is starting not with employee training but instead with product reviewers. This makes a lot of sense. Advertisers and brands are a much faster path to cash for a new company.
While employee training is not where the company is starting, it did get me thinking about the application and implications for the employee Learning & Development industry. I have written previously about my thoughts the move to learner-centricity, not solely in the area of solution development but also in the area of learning records. The application of a blockchain based solution in L&D has the chance to make this a reality. If you are not familiar with blockchain technology there is no shortage of primers and tutorials available. You can start here and go as far down the rabbit hole as far as you wish. For the purposes of this post all you need to know is that blockchain technology allows for the the creation of an independent and trusted ledger of entries. In this case a ledger of individual skills and performance.
New technology, like any change, requires a strong case for adoption. I believe that there are three tail winds currently blowing that will help accelerate the acceptance of a blockchain solution.
- Gig economy – A growing portion of the workforce is re-evaluating its relationship with employment. As the workplace becomes more project or gig focused and less employment based learning solutions will require a new dimensions of value. Portability not of the solution but of the credential associated with successful completion of the learning will be essential. Learners will be less likely to seek out learning experiences that do not allow them to get credit for that learning that can be taken with them to the next gig.
- Learner-centricity – This trend is already underway in the learning solution arena. Technology that allows for enhanced assessment and dynamic pathing for learners based on performance has made learning more focused for individuals. This trend will also extend to learning records and work experiences. Rather than have a series of silos or islands like former employers, LMS systems, online academies, universities holding parts of an individual’s history the individual will hold a single, portable, verifiable record. This blockchain verified curriculum vitae (BVCV) could serve as a companion to one’s LinkedIn. LinkedIn acting as the marketing brochure and the BVCV as the ingredients list.
- Micro-certifications – As employers continue to show increasing favor for “what can you do?” over “what have you done?” a verifiable record of smaller units of learning will be necessary. Learning solutions will increasingly be deconstructed into components to allow learners to better target desired skills which are favorable in the marketplace. Capturing the volume of these micro skills will require something other than a certificate for the wall.
How could a BVCV work?
Lifelong Learners (L3) would participate in learning opportunities provided by the multitude of sources now available. Companies, universities, independents and others would then enter the newly acquired skills data to the blockchain record. The learner would use their, always updated BVCV to present their value to potential employers. Employers would be able to seek out hyper specific skills sets as well be able to trust the professional record of potential candidates. Employers would contribute performance data, not unlike the ratings and feedback provided on the various freelance sites or the endorsements on LinkedIn or back channel rating sites like The Funded or RateMyProfessor and Glassdoor. All of this becomes part of the living BVCV record.
In addition to the value of the transparency and trustworthiness offered to employers the BVCV also also motivates L3 ‘s. The onus of upskilling individuals moves from corporations to the individuals themselves in the gig economy. Because the path between upskilling and monetization is clearer learners are better able to see how an investment in upskilling themselves makes sense. Helping L3’s see what skills are in highest demand in a marketplace could also assist on this front.
So what is stopping us?
- Understanding and acceptance – Blockchain is new to many. Many only know it through the bitcoin or other cryptocurrency application. L&D, recruiters, employers and learners must gain an understanding of the technology and its underlying security. It is only with this understanding will the required stakeholders adopt this as the path forward.
- Agreement on standards – While currency transactions are simple and identical in format, learning events are not. Standards will need to be defined and agreed by both suppliers and employers in order for the BVCV to deliver its highest value. The L&D industry can point to multiple examples of where they have been able to create a standard (SCORM, Tin Can, etc.) but the required inclusion of employers and recruiters into this process will complicate the process. Without buy-in from the parties that allow learners to monetize their skills the BVCV simply becomes another CV not The CV.
- Historical versus future – The great mass of skills and experience acquisition activity has already happened for many individuals. This is not to say that more will not occur but capturing the historical value creation is often a stumbling block to adoption. Any learner will want credit for what has been done not just what they do moving forward. The conversion of a learner’s current record to the BVCV is essential. Without this conversion the approach is less appealing to the a large portion of the workforce.
Personally, I think a blockchain solution is a win-win-win. Learning solution providers benefit from increased demand from motivated lifelong learners looking to increase their value in the talent marketplace. Employers and recruiters benefit by having a single trusted source for candidate evaluation and targeting. And L3s benefit from having a simple, portable, trusted means of capturing and monetizing the value they can deliver to an employer. The early adopters will likely be industries that already require CLE’s followed by compliance training across industries. We know why the blockchain is coming we just don’t yet know how or when.
Note: I have no connection to Knowledge.io or any blockchain companies. I am simply a fan 🙂