The biggest challenge to blockchain adoption is finding highly skilled workers.
By Monique Black
Blockchain is radically changing the world as we know it. The technology, best known for its role in recording Bitcoin transactions, is an encrypted digital network of information that is organized into groups of data called “blocks” and easily accessed by everyone in a “chain.” Blockchain provides an efficient and secure way to store and share personal data, creating an infrastructure of trust that will impact personal lives, business, and government across the globe.
It is expected that this disruptive technology will specifically transform transaction-based industries such as financial services, supply chain, healthcare, and real estate. Not only will HR teams need to provide strategic support to their companies’ blockchain endeavors, but HR must also prepare for the possibility of adopting blockchain technology into HR processes. For instance, blockchain is anticipated to augment background screenings by validating employment records and education credentials, optimizing efficiency and ensuring truthfulness of data.
While the emergence of blockchain is exciting and companies are working to understand how this technology may disrupt or revolutionize their businesses, the demand for qualified blockchain talent is exploding amid a limited global talent pool. In today’s labor market, the greatest roadblock to a company’s adoption of blockchain technology may be the inability to source, attract, hire, and retain qualifed talent. In fact, soon it may be easier to hire an astronaut than a blockchain developer!
According to a global freelancing website Upwork, 53 percent of hiring managers surveyed report access to key skills as the biggest hiring challenge. Job boards are already inundated with advertisements seeking blockchain talent for companies ranging from Microsoft and IBM to smaller start-ups just entering the space. LinkedIn, for example, has more than 2,200 job postings where “blockchain” is identified as a keyword in the job description. Likewise, the job board Indeed hosts almost 1,700 blockchain job advertisements.
With such rapid adoption of this technology in a relatively short timeframe, it is clear that there is not enough developed talent to meet the growing demand. This skilled labor shortage, in turn, is driving candidate salaries to astronomical figures. For example, according to Forbes, the average salary for a blockchain engineer in Silicon Valley is $158,000 compared to general software developers who earn a approximately $105,000, according a 2018 Computerworld report.
What Should HR Teams Do?
It is anticipated that HR teams will be tasked with adjusting traditional recruitment strategies to meet the emerging blockchain talent demands. HR leaders may want to consider adopting some of the following eight strategies to proactively prepare for the staffing demands that blockchain will bring.
1. Listen and learn. Adopting blockchain certainly has a learning curve, so HR professionals should gain knowledge of the technology while it is still in its early stages. There are many resources available—from books and articles to online training—that HR teams can leverage to become familiar with the terminology. Learning the lingo will help HR teams write effective job descriptions and identify and converse with prospective candidates.
2. Engage and network. HR teams will also need to leverage their professional and social connections in order to adapt. Joining blockchain networking groups online as well as in local areas can help leaders build relationships with other professionals interested in blockchain technology. HR professionals should also keep an eye on the blockchain evolution in the marketplace, especially as it impacts their businesses and industries. Other best practices include participating in roundtable discussions with industry leaders, engaging in brainstorming sessions with peers and team members to discuss insights and emerging trends, and conceptualizing the application of blockchain in their businesses.
3. Invest in training and development. HR should not only source externally for blockchain roles; rather, organizations should invest in training for internal staff with high potential. Developing blockchain skills internally can help alleviate the pressure of talent shortages. HR leaders should consider offering flexible scheduling so that staff can dedicate time to research, identify trends, and develop skills which could be relevant to the business.
4. Establish a budget and develop a compensation structure. In order to attract and retain in-demand blockchain experts, companies may need to shift their compensation and bonus packages. Many early-stage blockchain companies have implemented creative compensation practices for hiring and retention, such as issuing cryptocurrency and equity. These practices are becoming common for early stage blockchain talent.
5. Consider a distributed, global workforce. Blockchain is a worldwide initiative, and new talent is emerging all over the globe. HR teams should consider expanding company staffing models to allow for remote teams. Nurturing remote teams requires attention to maintain communication and culture, but the results can be incredibly rewarding. It’s important to keep in mind that hiring a distributed workforce will create unique compliance requirements specific to the situation, so organizations must be sure to perform the necessary due diligence.
6. Leverage companies or freelancers who specialize in blockchain. Outsourcing to industry experts can provide critical expertise, excellent operational efficiency, and speed to market. The cost for such skilled labor can be significant, so organizations should budget appropriately.
7. Use third-party talent acquisition expertise to hire blockchain specialists. Blockchain is a very relationship-driven field. Recruiters specializing in blockchain can help bring efficiency to the recruiting process by leveraging their network and relationships.
8. Don’t compromise company culture. Culture is the DNA of a company, and maintaining the balance of hiring for skill set and company culture will be important in this competitive market. With the introduction of blockchain technology into a company, culture may naturally shift. HR teams should consider putting proper measures in place to ensure that the talent being hired aligns with the desired current and future state of company culture. HR will be tasked with balancing company values and culture with hiring for scarce skills.
Monique Black is head of talent and HR services at blockchain fund Maco.la.