Why internal hackathons are important to remote companies

When we talk about hackathons, you probably recall those big events for developers. However, hackathons have changed. Nowadays, t’s also important to be familiar with internal hackathons: events in which only employees or close business partners can participate

These hackathons could be part of a series of company events, or a solo challenge to promote team building, for example.

Internal hackathons have their own unique twist and set of benefits, but even more so if you’re company is full remote (or have a large portion of remote employees).

Table of contents 

How to break down silos with internal hackathons 🧩 
How to set up these events  👀
A case of study that proves internal hackathons benefits 🕵

👉 Hiring remotely? Check out our remote hiring tips article

When it comes to hosting an internal hackathon, remote-first companies have several benefits:

  • Breaking down organizational silos while embracing an innovative environment;

  • Employees have the opportunity to learn about colleagues' work, promoting internal networking;

  • It's an opportunity to align employees with the company's medium/long-term strategy and vision;

  • Share corporate values with employees located all over the world;

  • Is a method of entertaining people by incorporating gamification and a learning experience.

Let’s dive deeper into each one of those axioms.

Internal hackathons can help breaking silos down 🧩

When employees from different departments have the chance to know each other - fomenting collaboration and knowing other colleges' reality - they tend to be more united. 

If you are not familiar with the term “organizational silos”, that’s fine. You may have heard of this as terms like “turf wars” or “empire building”.  They are all referring to departmental-focused organizations. 

In other words, organizational silos exist when employees only consider their department goals. They don’t look at the entire organization. They compete for budget, control over the direction, and, worst of all, they don’t share information with other teams. 

As you might expect, when organizational silos exist, one department performs well while others perform poorly. And, at the end of the day, the entire organization pays a heavy price for it. 

To break silos down, you must cultivate a team mentality. Internal hackathon challenges can help foster that team-building experience while cultivating inter-department teamwork.

An innovative environment it’s one of internal hackathons benefits 🦾

Building a team mentality can be done in a variety of ways, but for remote companies, internal hackathons are a top choice. This causes people to be ”forced” d to step outside of their comfort zones while working with colleagues from different departments. 

Once they are working together - let’s say, a developer on the same team as a product manager, a designer, and a marketer, they will have different points of view on how to solve a certain problem. 

This creative and innovative environment may provide them with the opportunity to gain high-level experience in order to propose ideas or prototypes such as new process models or even new products or services.

Diversity: Employees may know each other work and life ☕

While working together, employees will also interact with new people, even if they are behind a screen. As a result, the internal hackathons benefits include social interaction, a more human experience, and companionship among colleagues.

By encouraging this internal networking, people will know each other's routines. In the future, if they need something from another department, they will know who to reach out to.

Another advantage for remote companies hosting internal hackathons is the sense of inclusion with a broader perspective. Just picture that people with different specialties, locations and skills will collaborate to solve a problem for your company.

It's clear that there's no limit to the diversity on the table, with solutions created by completely diverse groups.

TAIKAI is a virtual hackathon platform that makes an online hackathon event much easier to host. Talk with us today or Request a Demo, we’re always here to help :)

Internal hackathons align employees with company strategy and values 🗺️

If you believe that it is difficult to align employees with company goals, here is another reason to invest in internal hackathons: developing a medium/long-term corporate vision. 

By promoting these internal events, you can, for example, propose a challenge in which employees can co-create a strategic plan for the coming year or triennium. You set the goals, and they devise the strategy by combining their diverse backgrounds.   

At this point, it is important to use the hackathon to share a story from the start in order to achieve complete organizational alignment.

The CEO, for example, can do a live broadcast reinforcing the organization's history and broadcasting the goals and main theme that the company will pursue in the coming year. It could be retaining customers, improving the customer experience, or expanding the operation.  

Following that, the CEO may issue a challenge to the organization, and employees may draw the process.

Furthermore, your challenge should include corporate values that must be reflected in the project design. Can you see how this will encourage employees to better understand your company's values?

Remember that employees need to feel connected to your MISSION, and by explicitly including them in your internal hackathons, you may gain this sense of connection as one of the psychological benefits.

Internal hackathons as a way of company entertainment and gamification 🎮

Many people see hackathons as a way to gamify organizations. And they are not wrong. Gamifying is a way to engage your community during a hackathon.

You can use this to your advantage because gamification is a good way to improve organizations and activities by providing experiences similar to playing games.

Games could be a simple part of the internal hackathon to entertain participants, or they could be the main challenge to overcome.

Make sure rewards and workload don’t work against you

Some employees may be unwilling to participate in the hackathon if they are not compensated or if it adds more work duties and hours to their current workload.

Depending on the length and complexity of the hackathon, it is important to determine the rewards/prizes for the winners and participants, as well as the allocated time to the challenge. Allow your colleagues a few hours per day to work on the hackathon challenge, or, as tradition dictates, open a 48-hour window for participants to develop their projects while temporarily leaving aside their day-to-day workload.

Hosting an internal hackathon 👀

Of course, the right tools are required to make all of this a reality. Preferably, an all-in-one solution that allows you to manage teams, expose rules, submit projects, vote, and livestream pitches and challenges. TAIKAI offers the ultimate virtual hackathon platform, allowing organizations to fully customize their challenges according to their needs. 

👉 Learn more on how to host a virtual hackathon 

After all, the software is the most substantial component for remote companies hosting an internal hackathon: benefits of using an all-in-one program extend beyond participants to mentors and judges as well. 

Mentors can provide direct feedback as well as access projects on the TAIKAI platform. And judges always use a blockchain voting system to ensure decentralized trust and transparency in challenges.

Our blockchain-enabled processes also distribute rewards (KAI Tokens) to the participants immediately following the voting session.

👣 Hosting an internal hackathon recap

Now that you've learned more about the benefits of a great platform for internal hackathons,  take the following steps to ensure the success of your event with employees: 

  1. Define challenges based on an aligned-strategy theme.  Even if the challenge is about coding themes, it is critical that the proposal reflects your corporate values and strategic plan. Other non-coding themed hackathon project ideas include culture change, strategy plans, supply chain, and so on.
  2. Team rules: internal hackathons are more effective when they encourage diversity in team building. As a result, you could add to the rules that the teams must consist of only one employee of each department, or you could limit the number of participants from the same department within the teams.   
  3. Disclose: use your internal communications like intranet, email, and internal social channels to amplify your reach and ensure that everyone is aware of the challenge. Involve managers to support you in engaging employees. 
  4. Host and recap: once registration is closed, debrief participants about challenges, rules, and judging criteria and rewards before they form teams. Use video and newsletters, for example, to accomplish this. When the internal hackathon begins, recap everything broadcasting live stream.
  5. After party: once the internal hackathon is over and the prizes have been distributed, recap and remember the event. Make it known in your internal communications.

Taboola case of study: a perfect example of how you can benefit from an internal hackathon🕵️

Taboola is a digital ad company that wanted its team to present innovative ideas to help the company grow, so they created the Innovation Sprint Hackathon using TAIKAI’s platform. 

Employees were given the option of selecting a set of challenges by forming teams of three to six people with a variety of skill sets from various departments.

The deliverables were a one-page business plan highlighting the problem, scope, and solution, as well as a 90-second pitch. 

The hackathon was a huge success: 799 employees participated in the hackathon (more than half of the entire company), delivering 147 projects! All of this happened in just 20 days, from the start of registration period until the final pitch day and winner selection ceremony.

👉 Read the Taboola case study in full

To sum it up - internal hackathon benefits 💭

An internal hackathon has many benefits for remote-first companies - team building, connecting employees with the vision, mission and core values of the company and fostering intra-department teams collaboration are a few of them.

You can easily host an internal hackathon using TAIKAI's all-in-one hackathon platform. Make sure to request a demo or browse our case study selection to learn more about hackathons.

Carlos Mendes
Carlos Mendes
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