Today's post about blockchain technology use cases is courtesy of our board memberMark Wales.

Blockchain technology use cases - is Workforce Management one?

I recently attended a monthly industry group meeting with representatives from a variety of companies with a presence in the Pacific Northwest, where I live. These monthly gatherings, attended by folks from Costco, Starbucks, Amazon, REI, Nike, T-Mobile and other local companies, provides us with a chance to share insights about workforce management with a cross-functional perspective, hear from experts in the field about the technologies and processes transforming workforce management today, as well as what's next on the horizon.

At this month's meeting, Kurt Wedgwood, IBM's North America Blockchain Leader for Retail, Consumer Products, Airlines, Hotels, Restaurants, Rail, Freight, and Wholesalers gave a fascinating presentation on how blockchain technology use cases can transform a variety of established industry processes and relationships.

While the idea of blockchain - a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography - is not new (the earliest well-known example is from 2008 where it was used as a core component of the digital currency bitcoin), the application of this technology to a variety of business disciplines is growing. Blockchain creates a trusted “ledger” where transactions are recorded securely and can then be used by all parties, be it businesses, suppliers, shippers, insurers etc. What this does is to eliminate non-value activities, which is an idea that can clearly add value in a variety of circumstances.

What excited me most about Blockchain is is how it opens up new use cases and might relate to strategies and practices for our workforces. Those of us in the workforce management space have been talking and thinking about the growing complexity of work-life for managers and employees, and how AI (Artificial Intelligence), IA (Intelligence Augmented), and even the IOT (Internet of Things) will likely not so much replace jobs, but instead better equip our managers and employees to execute their responsibilities and deliver the right experience to our customers. Blockchain has the potential to remove non-value-added steps from our processes, creating simpler and faster ways to track products, shipments, and transactions allowing valuable payroll dollars to be invested in customer-facing activities that would allow our companies to retain and grow their customer bases.

Perhaps even more impactful: Imagine if blockchain was applied to our personal work lives? What could that look like? It could start in areas such as resumés and work history, eliminating a lot of non-value-add activities around applying for jobs, verifying positions, certifications and experience.

Could it develop into a ledger for time and attendance where both employer and employee would have visibility into time worked eliminating disputes and fostering an open and transparent relationship? Could it lead to a way for companies and part-time workers to manage their schedules across multiple organizations creating a better quality of work-life for the employee and generating higher engagement for the employer?

How else might blockchain transform workforce management?

It's early days, but blockchain is most definitely an area of innovation and disruption to watch in 2018 and beyond.

Is your organization using blockchain for human capital management? Do you see opportunities where you think you could? Tell me about it in the comments section!

SmartphoneThe following guest post was written by John Hollon, a member of The Workforce Institute Advisory Board and Vice President for Content at Checkster. Thanks, John!

I don't have a lot of pet peeves, but there is one that really pushes my buttons.

It's people who think they can do something else while they're texting or talking on their smartphone.

Believe me when I tell you, they can't.

We know people can't properly drive (or text) while on a smartphone, but in my experience, they can't walk and work on a phone either. I know this because several times a week I nearly run over someone at the gym or the supermarket who is so distracted by their phone that they blindly walk into the path of a moving vehicle.

So, I wasn't surprised by this recent CareerBuilder survey that detailed just how much smartphones are sapping employee productivity on the job.

It found that that 83 percent of employees have smartphones, and 82 percent of those with smartphones keep them within eye contact at work. And while only 10 percent of those with smartphones say it's decreasing their productivity at work, 2 in 3 (66 percent) say they use it (at least) several times a day while working.

Well, there seems to be a slight difference of opinion about how much those smartphones are distracting employees from their work. Yes, only 10 percent of workers think they are distracting, but a whopping 55 percent of managers listed cell phones and texting as the No. 1 productivity killer for employees.

Clearly, workers and managers have a different take on how smartphones impact the amount of work getting done.

“While we need to be connected to devices for work, we're also a click away from alluring distractions from our personal lives, like social media and various other apps,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “The connectivity conundrum isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be managed.”

Workplaces are continually evolving, and as this survey makes clear, what constitutes distracting smartphone behavior is up for debate. Employees see this as a minor issue, while managers are a lot more troubled by it.

But, it's sort of like the people on their smartphones who don't see me backing up or driving by in the parking lot - they'll probably be arguing that their phones aren't a distraction as they're rolling under the wheels of my car.

Yes, one person's distraction is another person's problem. That's why it's probably time we get a better handle on how smartphones should be handled in our workplaces.

Employee-MonitoringDo you check your work email as soon as you wake up? (Spoiler: It's not good for you).

Tablets, smartphones, and other on-the-go technologies make it incredibly convenient to check-in with work responsibilities at all hours of the day - not just first thing in the morning. And while it seems productive to constantly be available to your colleagues and managers, it may not be the most efficient.

Here are a few pros and cons as to how mobile technology can make - or break - the workplace:

Pros:

The Ultimate Flexibility

Whether you're a remote employee or someone who spends the majority of their time in the office, mobile technology definitely provides a new level of flexibility that employees have never had before. No matter where we are or what comes up, we can still be accessible to our teams and managers. It gives us the freedom to live our lives while still being able to do our jobs effectively.

Higher Morale

Thanks to the increased flexibility that mobile brings, it can also help to increase employee morale. Employees get to spend more time with their families, feel less pressure to be tied to their cubicle all day, and feel less stressed when they have to leave the office - because they still feel connected to their colleagues.

Improved Communication            

As a manager, having employees constantly connected to mobile devices makes communication easier than ever - with both remote and in-office team members. The convenience of mobile allows for a quick response time no matter how critical the email, text, or phone call may be.

Cons:

Loss of Work/Life Balance

The traditional 9-5 schedule assumed that employees were accessible to their employers mostly during set hours.  With mobile technology, it's more likely that work will intrude on downtime.

Burnout

Unplugging is essential to giving our brains time to turn off from work.  Always being connected to what needs to be done can easily lead to burnout, which, in the end, doesn't make us any more productive. Taking a break from our various mobile technologies outside of work helps to refresh our minds, giving us more bandwidth to come up with new ideas and be sharper when we're actually in the office - leading to better productivity.

Unrealistic Expectations

Some managers can take advantage of their always-connected employees by sending emails or texts after hours that require a quick response - or worse, calling their employees on the weekends. Respecting your teams' personal lives is critical, but the convenience of mobile can make it difficult for some managers (and colleagues) to recognize those boundaries.

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