One week ago today, nearly 100 people joined us at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco for the first of its kind event: Hack the Experience, a hackathon with the (ahem) modest goal of revolutionizing the employee experience.
When we began planning this event nearly a year ago, we had a vision – to bring together people with responsibility for driving employee engagement in their own organizations (corporate communications, HR, OD and CSR professionals) for a free-flowing exchange of ideas that would address some of the most common challenges of employee engagement. We also had no idea what would happen. To our knowledge, no one had done anything quite like this before.
We needn’t have worried. When our sold-out crowd showed up, they were ready to get down to business. We gave participants one of several employee experience challenges to choose from, based on our own employee engagement research, then divided them into small teams to work throughout the day. We gave them sticky notes, white boards, markers, food, and access to floating facilitators, and then left them more or less alone to work their magic.
Our 12 teams of hackers immediately embraced the challenges they were addressing, and in just under five hours, came up with some pretty amazing ideas. We also saw a spirit of fun, play and enthusiasm that kept the day both high energy and entertaining. As for final presentations, let’s just say that we pretty much saw it all – from mandarin jugglers to pilots, Kevin Bacon impersonators to safaris – not to mention some very actionable hacks that participants can take back to their own organizations.
Here are a few of the themes that emerged throughout the day:
- Adventure is key – We need to infuse the overall employee experience with a sense of fun! Couldn’t agree more.
- Personalize, personalize, personalize – Again and again, we heard the drumbeat of customization and creating experiences that are meaningful to individual employees.
- Put employees in the driver’s seat – Giving employees ownership of programs and activities also emerged as vital to overall engagement efforts.
- Gamification – whether through trivia contests, scavenger hunts, or gaming technology, our hackers are enthusiastic about play and sport as part of the overall employee experience.
We’ve created a LinkedIn group to keep the free flow of ideas going and over the next week, we’ll be updating our Hack the Experience website with a final report of all hacks, plus a highlights video, photos and more.
Until then, I’ll leave you with this comment from one of our hackathon judges, which pretty much sums up the day for me: “I left with a sense of hope – that if we put smart people in a room together, they can come up with some great, original ideas.” Indeed.