What’s A Hackathon And How Is This Used In HR?
A hackathon is typically an event where computer programmers, software designers, graphic artists, and others come together to create a new product. In fact, the Facebook “Like” button and Facebook Chat were both first demoed at internal Facebook hackathons.
Cisco Global HR Breakathon: In 24 Hours HR Will Never Be The SameWhen one thinks of HR solutions, the list spans traditional functions, such as compliance training, career development, risk management, and performance management. This is exactly what Fran Katsoudas and her HR team wanted to change. They used design thinking to “break” and then re-imagine HR solutions for 71,000 global Cisco employees. Cisco actually closed HR for 24 hours and announced to the employees they were using the time to engage the HR team and key stakeholders to create innovative HR solutions to deliver a memorable employee experience. After I spoke with Fran the process for conducting the HR Breakathon is essentially four key steps; from changing the mindset to identifying and implementing a set of HR solutions.
Create A New Mindset: The new mindset starts with having everyone at Cisco believe they are empowered to make change and even for issues they do not have control over. This empowerment fuels their energy to think of all the little and big things that could be changed to provide a more engaging employee experience.
Use Design Thinking: At its core, design thinking focuses on creating an employee experience that is intuitive, engaging, and mirrors a consumer experience. Companies such as Qualcomm QCOM +0.13% are using design thinking to rethink corporate learning, and Zappos is using this to re-imagine the candidate experience.
Create Hacks To Break HR: Provide Cisco participants in the HR Breakathon with guidance on how to identify a problem and work in small teams to create a solution. Instead of identifying one big problem to address, the Breakathon provided guidance on how to identify a problem as a way to empower participants to come up with what is getting in the way of creating a truly engaging employee experience.
Recognize Winners, And Begin Implementation: The entire process for the Cisco HR Breakathon was 24 hours, spanning 16 time zones, 39 countries, 116 cities, and, in the end, generating 105 new HR solutions.
Cisco HR Breakathon At A Glance
Over a period of 24 hours, Cisco HR employees joined with colleagues in the services and engineering organizations to come together virtually using a mix of Cisco collaboration technologies including WebEx, TelePresence, a dedicated Spark room, and a custom built Tracking App showing all the team activity in a leaderboard.
The Breakathon Outcomes
The Cisco Global Breakathon gave birth to 105 new HR solutions covering talent acquisition, new hire on-boarding, learning and development, team development, and leadership.
Judging was a careful process where detailed criteria include:
Analysis Of The Problem: How well was the problem defined?
Impact: Will the solution solve the problem and improve people’s employee experience?
Feasibility: Is the implementation realistic? Do the benefits outweigh what’s required for implementation?
Innovative: Is the idea fresh, creative and amazing? Did it make you go wow?
Quality Of Pitch: Is the three-minute video created to showcase the solution grab and engage you? Would you hire this team to sell your own idea?
The tag cloud below shows the distribution of the 105 ideas identified during the Cisco HR Breakathon.
Modeled after the Oscars, the winning ideas were recognized in several categories and addressed problems in new hire onboarding, recruitment and career development. One winning idea focused on the problem of improving the new hire on-boarding process. The winners in this category were actually two ideas: one a mobile app called YouBelong@Cisco to help new hires and their managers navigate the first days and weeks of their new job and the second, named Virtual Concierge a centralized point of support for face to face welcoming of the new hire along with digital support. Together they blend the digital and human touch of an employee’s first days and weeks at Cisco.
Five Lessons Can You Learn From The Cisco HR Breakathon
Lesson #1: Use Design Thinking To Form The Foundation Of The HR Hackathon
Applying design thinking to the workplace experience requires HR to move from its process mindset to a marketing mindset, focusing on the employee and how to create a truly extraordinary experience for employees. And in many cases the winning HR solutions incorporated consumer technologies increase productivity and innovation in the workplace.
Lesson #2: Create A Global Experience Where Diversity Of Thought Predominates
We all know we live and work in a global world, but are we creating enough global experiences bringing our employees together? The Cisco HR Breakathon was hosted on site in nine locations (Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Bangalore, Jerusalem, Krakow, London, Raleigh, and San Jose), plus it incorporated Cisco collaboration tools, including TelePresence, WebEx, and Spark rooms. The Breakathon was executed according to a follow-the-sun approach, starting in Sydney, moving to Tokyo, and then throughout the globe, ending in San Jose, CA. Says Fran, “I launched the Breakathon from Cisco’s Bangalore, India location to make the point we wanted a have a global dialogue on this important topic.”
Lesson #3: Use Collaborative Technologies To Engage, Inspire And Reward
Often Hackathons are executed by bringing everyone together in one location so they can generate new solutions offerings while engaging in a fun group activity. What Cisco did was re-create the energy of bringing a couple of hundred people together by using a mix of their technologies to capture the excitement and energy in each location. The judges and experts were also on call using collaborative technologies such as Spark, Jabber, and WebEx. Finally hackathons at their core are a lot of fun. So to be sure everyone was having fun and sharing this with others, Cisco used their own Web Tracking App and all forms of social media using the hashtag #WeAreCisco to provide a visual pulse of the Breakathaon in each location.
Lesson #4: Create A Robust Communications Program To Generate Early Excitement
The Cisco Breakathon was anticipated by a well thought out communications campaign which started nine months before the actual event. The campaign included weekly newsletter to key executives, and culminated in the asking participants to answer a quick quiz, starting with the question, “What is a hackathon?”
Lesson #5: Partner With Key Stakeholders And HR Customers
Cisco’ s Breakathon was inclusive not only globally but also in reaching out to key business units to involve them in the experience. The key, according to Fran, “We created a global and cross-functional event dedicated to hack all the ‘little and big things,’ that hinder HR from providing an extraordinary employee experience” Fran believes the power of the Cisco HR Breakathon was in empowering the HR organization to let go of process thinking, engaging an extended global community and putting the Cisco employee experience at the center.
I can see many more Hackathons like this emerging as a way to prototype, pilot, and test new HR solutions. And the overriding goal of doing this is to create a tangible way to improve the employee experience from the moment of hire through to on-going engagement on-the-job!
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