Can You Hack HR? Consider This Creative Approach to Improving Your Employee Engagement
HR is about working with people and making the most of this most valuable resource, which is one factor that makes an HR hackathon such an interesting proposition. Hackathons emerged out of the software development arena, where these popular events are used to bring together teams that, over the course of an intensive weekend or several days, build a working prototype of some type of computer program, generally a website or app.
The idea is that by bringing together like-minded individuals, the resulting brainstorming will lead to, well, brilliance. At least that was the idea when employee engagement consultancy Brilliant Ink brought nearly 100 communications and HR professionals to an employee engagement hackathon in San Francisco in early March.
The sold-out Hack the Experience event split participants up into 12 teams for a day of creative, cross-functional thinking that resulted in 12 big employee-engagement ideas that they could take back to their organizations.
“Hackathons are pretty popular out here in the Bay Area from a coding perspective,” explains Brilliant Ink CEO & Founder Liz Kelly.
Kelly had attended a business-oriented hackathon herself several years earlier and the experience stuck with her. When the company began to explore ideas of how to get their free 2013 Employee Experience Survey in front of HR managers, the idea of an HR hackathon — a free-for-all brainstorming session — emerged.
“My real interest in the [HR] field is to figure out how to make employee engagement a little less nebulous and a little more actionable, especially for large companies,” Kelly says. Having done this research looking at engagement, and how to connect that into programs that large organizations can manage, the group wanted to share their findings. Kelly explains, “I thought it would be fun if we could get corporate professionals who never really get to do creative, free-for-all brainstorming to come together and work in this way.”
The hackers were tasked with zeroing in on those key moments that can make or break the employee experience, then working in teams to generate ideas for improving these areas.
Indirectly, however, the hackers were asked to engage in a task about which they felt passionate and that challenged them to think big and use their skill set to find a solution to the questions posed. That’s not hard work, that’s engagement; according to the Employee Experience Survey, a fully engaged employee reports, on average, that 76% of his or her personal and professional passions, skills, and interests are being utilized in his or her job, while a less-engaged employees reports, on average, 51% of his or her passions, skills, and interests are being utilized.
The points identified by the study as making or breaking employee engagement became touch-points for developing the problem statements for Hack the Experience participants.
One of the big points to come out of the study was that more support from HR in the later phases of the employee lifecycle can lead to higher levels of employee engagement. This means that HR should be involved beyond hiring and into onboarding, helping the employee navigate the company, and providing career support and development for employees.
And just how can your company identify ways to do that? Why not host your own hackathon?
“I think this idea of a hackathon would work really well internally as well as externally,” Kelly says. “The idea of putting people in the driver’s seat is a really powerful one, and that’s one of the themes that we saw come out of the Hack the Experience hackathon in general. People kept hitting certain notes over and over again, and employee empowerment and employee ownership of engagement kept coming up in various ways, whether it was through communication or innovation or driving the focus on particular social responsibility projects. I think that’s a really interesting nut to crack, and one of the ways that you could do that is through hosting something like this internally, and focusing it on your business challenges.”
The big winner from Hack the Experience was the Career Safari App, which helps users personalize the career journey. Employees can use the app to set, design and track career-related goals, as well as receive motivation and reminders designed to help them achieve these goals.
Brilliant Ink has left it up to event participants to spread their ideas among their respective companies. Depending on how they accomplish this, the big winners might actually be more engaged employees.