Ok, imagine this. Your company is a Software as a Service provider in a highly competitive field. Your engineering team is the backbone of these products- they build them, they debug them, they make them go live. You count on them and the work they do to meet your bottom line.

So why on earth would you encourage them to all stop what they’re working on? At once. For a WEEK.

It’s not a crazy vacation timeshare plot, or some reverse psychology trick to make them all work harder. It’s a way to spawn innovation while giving your employees some say in what they think could improve your company.

Here, we called it Hackapalooza. Some companies call it a hackathon, or a hack day. Our Engineering team broke up into groups and worked on projects that were important to them- one group worked on a new intranet, one wanted to clean up our inventory system, and one wanted to explore some different programming languages. The passion and drive shown were off the charts, and not only was that team totally energized at the end of the week, we got a ton of new ideas and projects that ended up benefiting the entire company.

Why was this successful? Our culture encourages this kind of collaboration and creativity- everyone was excited about the chance to work on something new, even for a week, and they were even more excited to see the projects go live later. Our kick-ass intranet was launched as a result of this week, and gives the entire company a way to share stories and successes.

Even if you don’t have an engineering department like ours, think about how a hackathon could be helpful for your teams. Are there internal projects that always get the backseat? Are there processes that need to be revamped? What do you think- how could something like this work in your company?

Editors Note: Candace Nicolls is the Principal Recruiter for Product, Engineering, and Marketing at Snagajob. When she’s not sourcing and interviewing, she’s baking for her coworkers or spreading the word about Snag through networking and community partnerships. Snagajob was awarded Entrepreneur Magazine’s Best Small Company to Work for in America in 2011.

About Marisa

Marisa Keegan is a leadership coach, trainer, and HR consultant for quickly growing organizations who are passionate about strengthening their employees, their brand, and their culture. She has helped lead the HR, culture, and engagement initiatives at two nationally recognized great places to work; Rackspace as Culture Maven and Modea as Talent Manger. She is an author at Fistful of Talent and Culture Fanatics. Marisa has her Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology and currently lives with her husband and twin boys in Richmond, Virginia.
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