Hacking #HR and The #LinkedIn HR HackathonComments Off


Peter Capelli’s article “Why We Love To Hate HR And What We Can Do About It” identifies many human resources areas in need of re-invention, from annual performance management to workplace flexibility. But how can HR managers harness the innovation of the next generation of employees to achieve long-lasting structural improvements?

Enter Jams And Hackathons Targeting The HR Discipline

At Future Workplace we have successfully been hosting a series of 2020 Workplace Jams on topics such as wearables in the workplace, developing MOOCs for the enterprise and most recently re-thinking the onboarding process for new hires. In each case, we have created a time bound experience inviting experts from both HR and non HR disciplines to start a discussion, identify areas for re-imagination, and propose a process for doing this in their company. All Jams are online, time-bound, and include a digital asset in the form of a summary for members of the 2020 Workplace Network to engage with their teams.

But what about taking the Jam concept one step further and creating a live Hackathon with the same intent: proposing solutions to a business problem?

The HR Hackathon: Millennials Suggest Solutions To HR Issues

Pat Wadors, LinkedIn’s SVP for Global Talent, was looking for a way to involve interns at LinkedIn in working on a business relevant question and decided to use the model of a technical Hackathon to target a problem in human resources.

Conceived as the first ever HR Hackathon, Wadors focused on the specific issue of low levels of employee engagement across the entire employee lifecycle, from recruitment to onboarding, development, and the alumni community.

Over a period of six weeks, word spread and over  1,000 college interns working in Silicon Valley applied to participate in the LinkedIn HR Hackathon. The goal was to find a diverse group of interns, with a mix of undergraduates and MBA candidates, females and males, American born and international, plus a variation of technical disciplines, with 9-10 being outside the HR function.

The LinkedIn non-technical HR Hackathon was hosted this summer, with nearly 160 interns from around the Bay Area arriving at the LinkedIn offices on a Friday at 6:00pm and finishing up the next day at 11:30am.

HR Hackathon At-A-Glance

At the start the event, participants posted a profile card on a wall, sharing background information on themselves and what they hoped to get out of the experience. They were then formed into groups either from the same school or interning at the same company. There were a total of 31 groups, with an average size of 4-5 interns per group, with the goal of proposing a new idea in a 3-minute presentation pitch modeled after the venture capital pitch!

At the kick-off, LinkedIn HR leaders introduced the business problem: increasing employee engagement and then each group received a briefing document, providing further instructions and guidance. LinkedIn also assembled a team of senior HR practitioners to judge each team’s contribution.

The winning group received a $5,000 tuition scholarship (to be split among the team), as well as $250 gift cards for each team member. The runner-up group received a pair of Beats headphones (retail value $200) for each team member.

The Winning Project: [In]finite

The winning team, called Infinity, was composed of Lakshman Somasundaram and Summer Wu, both undergraduate students at Yale University and they tackled the problem of unsatisfactory internship experiences. First, they conducted secondary research and found that according to a Career XRoads report, only 32% of interns who receive a full time job offer at a company will actually accept the offer. So Lakshman and Summer identified a clear challenge: how to reverse that number so 68% of interns who receive a full time job accept the offer.

The team from Yale then conducted primary research by fielding a short online pulse survey, asking a sample of interns what they were looking for in their internship experience. Amazingly they were able to recruit 750 interns to complete the survey between the hours of 10:00 pm and 3:00 am. They then analyzed the results to find two major reasons why interns decline offers. First, companies do not have a clear understanding of the intern’s long term goals, and second, there was no clear open communication between the company and the intern.

The product of Infinity is called [In]finite and solves these problems with a machine learning-based mobile application that allows interns to give and receive feedback from management, learn about opportunities that are related to their interests, and connect with employees and other interns who can help them achieve their long-term goals.

What’s all the more impressive is this team of two undergraduates from Yale University had absolutely no experience in HR: one is majoring in economics and the other in computer science. In fact, Somasundaram said: “When I found out I was accepted to attend the LinkedIn HR Hackathon, the first thing I did was look up what HR was on Wikipedia!”

But that’s the point of the HR Hackathon, often the best ideas for re-inventing HR come from outside HR!

While many of the other finalist solutions also incorporated a technology component, such as a peer manager nomination system or anonymous surveys embedded into LinkedIn profiles, the common thread was each team of Millennials approached the business problem of employee engagement with a fresh pair of eyes. Each team proposed a mock up of a business solution–be it a mobile app, web interface or dashboard–to solve a key business problem.

In this respect the solutions of the HR Hackathon very much resembled a technical hackathon that might have been sponsored by the engineers at LinkedIn.

Three Lessons for Companies Who Want to Create Their Own Jams or Hackathons

Identify a pressing HR issue

Bring your HR team together and ask: If we could gather a group of top Millennial interns or new hires together to provide input on some of the biggest issues in HR today, what would we want them to focus on? The list will surely include a range of areas ripe for re-invention, such as performance reviews, teleworking, vacation policies, apps for the enterprise, MOOCs and wearables at work, and more. A HR Hackathon provides the vehicle to harness the energy of your Millennial talent and focus it on some of your toughest HR practices.

Think diversity of thought, participants, and discipline

Think like the Chief Marketing Officer of your company! Just as the CMO would recruit a diverse group of current and potential customers to discuss new product offerings, the target audience for an HR Hackathon should include a diverse cut of your workforce; including a mix of disciplines, tenures, ethnicities, and genders.

Consider partnering with companies in your ecosystem

If you think an HR Hackathon is one innovative way to move innovation further in the HR function, the chances are there are other like-minded HR practitioners who also see this. Find them and involve them in your journey. They may be in your company’s ecosystem as a customer or supplier or they may be one of the universities you recruit new hires from.

Pat Wadors, the brainchild of the LinkedIn HR Hackathon,says this about her experience planning and executing this: “This was the single most creative way to show just how ‘sexy’ tackling HR talent-related challenges can be! We were able to influence the next generation in their appreciation for talent challenges in the workspace. Companies in the future will benefit from that experience.”

So what do you think, how is your organization tapping input from outside HR to re-invent HR? We at Future Workplace will be organizing our own HR Hackathon in 2016. Stay tuned..

Pat Wadors, CHRO, LinkedIn, will be speaking at the next meeting of the 2020 Workplace Network, hosted at LinkedIn’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA next November! Click here to learn more about how you can join this meeting and learn from Pat!

This article was written by Jeanne Meister from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Talent HQ is a premier information channel empowering professional development for recruiting and HR communities through regional events including Minnesota RecruitersWisconsin RecruitersFlorida Recruiters and California Recruiters.

About Jason Buss

Talent HQ’s creator and editor is Recruiting & Diversity Leader, Jason Buss. Talent HQ is a premier online news and information channel for the Recruiting and Human Resources community.

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  • Posted on: Thursday, August 20th, 2015