How can HR harness the power of hackathons?

When you think of a hackathon, what exactly do you see?

How can HR harness the power of hackathons?

When you think of a hackathon, what exactly do you see? A group of hooded techies in a basement looking to defraud some banks? Maybe a rouge coder looking to cause some havoc online?

In reality, hackathons are much more innovative – and they could hold the key to unlocking your company’s true potential.

We spoke to Aurelie Wen, managing director North America at Agorize, who revealed how she’s reinventing hackathons, and explained just how HR can harness their power.

“There’s a big misunderstanding around hackathons,” she explained. “The term hackathon is a combination of the word hacking, in terms of finding a smart inexpensive solution to a problem, and the word marathon.”

The popularity of hackathons has grown massively over the past few years, so much so that the Vatican hosted their own earlier this year.

“The Pope is really openminded,” added Wen. “The Vatican has a Department of Innovation and a whole load of funding behind it. It was only a matter of time before they would be launching their own hackathon. They already have an startup accelerator inside the Vatican.”

Mark Zuckerberg is probably the one who has mostly contributed to promote hackathons. Facebook’s hackathons have become one of their oldest and most important traditions. Both the “Like” and “Tag a friend” features have been created during a Facebook hackathon.

“The way that hackathons have evolved is really interesting,” explained Wen. “Here at Agorize, we’re instrumental in this evolution; helping companies to realize the benefits of organizing a hackathon.

“They’re not just for coding, they can be used to hack any kind of problem. It could be anything from railway maintenance, to convincing men to use more cosmetics to creating a more innovative shopping experience for customers. You can apply hackathons to any kind of issue in any kind of industry.”

So, how can HR specifically take these hackathons and use them to their advantage? Wen believes it’s all about attracting the right kind of talent.

“The way we recruit today is broken,” she told us, “especially when you’re in a very competitive environment, like in Canada. Recruiters are struggling to recruit the right talent, and companies are finding it increasingly difficult to retain their top employees.

“It’s a war for talent. Companies can’t afford to rest on their laurels and think they’re secure in their talent, because you never know when another company will offer a bigger salary.   

“HR can use hackathons to help with their employer branding. It’s a great way to show to talent that their company is innovative and tech-forward.”

“Recruiters can see how the talent act and react during the hackathon, making it a much more authentic exercise than a regular interview process. On the other hand, the potential recruits also get a taste of the company’s tools, mentors, and work environment.”

“If businesses don’t accept that marketing and HR need to work together then, in my opinion, they’re in big trouble.”

Aurelie Wen will be speaking at our upcoming HR Tech Summit in Toronto, on June 26th and 27th. To find out more and secure your place, see the whole agenda here.


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