How can companies jump-start team member engagement while driving innovation? At Scantron, one of the ways we do it is through a Hackathon. These semi-annual events pull together team members from all over the company, both geographically and positionally, to compete for prizes, bragging rights, and the chance to create the next “big-idea.” In addition to the tangible benefits, a Hackathon also delivers four key components essential for organizational health:

  1. Innovation: A Hackathon provides a unique situation where team members can have a fully open and creative environment in which to develop new solutions. The unfettered “what if” environment pulls team members from their day-to-day activities and allows them to focus on what is truly possible for an organization.
  2. Diversity: Diversity in backgrounds, education, experience, and approach to problem-solving allows for the most varied set of expertise to discuss challenges and create solutions. That diversity results in a much more comprehensive approach to innovation than you tend to see when participation involves smaller rooms with people of similar backgrounds or experience.
  3. Engagement: In addition to the engagement happening during the event (among team members, between teams, and with judges), there are more opportunities to drive participation. Through live-streaming, on-demand viewing, and voting, connections occur with team members from all departments. This solidifies the “one company” philosophy so many organizations strive to achieve.
  4. Morale Boost: Providing people with a new and different opportunity to fully participate in influencing company direction has a substantial benefit on team member morale. Additionally, when organizations are willing to invest in Hackathon activities (travel expenses, time, telecasts, etc.), it shows team members that the company values what individuals bring to the table, and encourages them to become active participants in organizational well-being.

At Scantron, our Hackathons have led to advances in our Assessment and Technology solutions as well as changing our tactics regarding legislation—specifically relating to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The events have also led team members to reconsider current processes within their own departments and how they could be improved, driving incremental improvements at all levels.

Most importantly, however, our Hackathons have created a stronger sense of team. In follow-up interviews, team members consistently rated cross-collaboration as a primary benefit to the Hackathon. This blending of experiences with locations has led to a deeper understanding of company solutions and developed connections that span across a global organization.

Events like our Hackathon are the foundation of our tagline, SMART STARTS HERE.