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How internal hackathons can motivate employees in 2023

Recruitment | 6 Min Read

How internal hackathons can motivate employees in 2023


A corporate hackathon is an event of intense collaboration and problem-solving, often focused on identifying innovative solutions to complex challenges. It is conducted to set a stage for employees to showcase their technical skills. Therefore, many organizations increasingly turn to hackathons to foster creativity, promote team engagement, and drive innovation.

Hackathons provide an energizing experience, leading to improved employee morale and a positive work environment. It helps tech corporations identify skilled employees and generate new ideas that contribute to business success and growth.

Hackathons can be internal or external. External hackathons invite participants from outside the hosting organization. Companies use these as recruiting tools to highlight their technology and culture to potential candidates. It allows the company to gather feedback and ideas from diverse participants.

Internal hackathons are organized and hosted within an organization and are typically open to its employees.

Most companies conduct online hackathons continuing with the digital-first methodology. Mercer | Mettl’s online hackathon helps companies create virtual challenges for their teams. These hackathons are designed to identify the problem solvers and best coders in various groups.

Learn more about internal hackathons to improve employee engagement and motivation in 2023.


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Understanding internal hackathons

A recent Gartner study explained that 35% of companies using aggressive innovation strategies prefer hackathons to accomplish their initiatives.

Internal hackathons boost team engagement and bring employees together to collaborate on projects. These events provide employees with an opportunity to break away from their usual routine and take a step back from their regular tasks, helping them think creatively and pave the way for potential innovations.

Innovation was mainly driven by a company’s research and development department up until recent years. However, now, innovation is a participatory and inclusive process. Organizations proactively seek employees’ inputs to identify issues and potential solutions in different business areas. This allows them to stay connected to the workforce’s needs and concerns.

During an internal hackathon, employees form teams and work on a project of their choice. These projects relate to the company’s existing products or services or are entirely new ideas. Some companies also allow employees to work on personal projects during the hackathon.

Features of internal online hackathons:

  • Internal hackathons have a theme or a focus area to guide the project. For example, a company might host an internal hackathon to improve customer experience or develop new features for an existing product.
  • It also includes presentations, demonstrations, and pitches to allow employees to showcase their work and receive feedback from their colleagues. Several companies also invite external judges to evaluate the projects and select winners. Attractive incentives offered to winners encourage better team engagement and promote healthy internal competition.
  • Through these hackathons, multidisciplinary teams collaborate and adapt quickly to tackle complex problems. Their shared focus and diverse skillsets are invaluable to the organization.


The positive impact of internal hackathons on organizations

Hosting a corporate hackathon boosts team engagement and innovation, providing dedicated time and space for employees to think of new ideas and approaches to problems. Hackathons help employees compete with colleagues and determine the best-fit solution to a problem or a challenge. The opportunity to win multiple awards and rewards is also beneficial.

Hackathons are motivating events that include social and recreational activities, like games, food, and entertainment.

In an internal hackathon, there is no hierarchy, and all employees are encouraged to contribute their ideas and collaborate. This creates a safe space for employees to share their thoughts and concerns and helps promote an inclusive and diverse organizational culture.

Hackathons lead to new products or process development, giving the company a competitive market. Professionals collaborate to work on software or hardware projects and build something new, such as a software application, hardware device, or process, over a short time. Internal hackathon examples include various platform features of Facebook, like ‘Safety Check’ and the ‘Like’ button. Similarly, Hasbro’s toy-themed hackathon resulted in the creation of 45 products in a few days and saved billions of dollars and years of research.

Hackathons help companies identify hidden employees’ skills, which can be encashed for the company’s benefit. The skills gap, if any, is also detected, and the company can conduct training sessions to fill that gap. This atmosphere results in greater job satisfaction as the employees do not feel stagnated in their careers.


Ten tips for running a successful hackathon

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Define the hackathon’s purpose and goals

Identifying the hackathon’s purpose and goals is important. For example, possible goals for a hackathon include driving innovation and creativity, identifying employee potential, retaining and recruiting talent, and introducing new technical skills.

Create a clear communication plan

A clear communication plan helps ensure team engagement. It allows employees to understand the hackathon’s goals and objectives, increasing participation and support for the event.

Methods used to communicate details:

  • Using internal channels, such as email, Slack, or an internal social media platform, to promote the hackathon and keep employees informed about progress and updates.
  • Using posters, flyers, and other visual aids to promote the hackathon in the office.
  • Hosting events or meetups leading to the hackathon to generate excitement and encourage collaboration.
  • Reaching out to employees who are not aware of the hackathon and encouraging them to participate.

Remember to share results and the hackathon’s impact with the entire company to highlight the value of the event and drive engagement in the future.

Set clear timelines and plan the logistics

Planning a successful hackathon requires logistical coordination, including securing a venue, arranging food and beverages, and arranging transportation for participants. Thus, set a clear timeline and plan out details in advance to ensure everything runs smoothly on the event day.

Invite a diverse group of participants 

A diverse group of participants brings different perspectives and expertise to the hackathon, which leads to innovative and impactful projects. Make sure you invite a diverse group of participants and promote the hackathon widely to attract top talent. This will team engagement in the company and help you spot hidden talent.

Identify and secure sponsors and partners

Sponsors and partners can provide valuable resources and hackathon support, such as funding, access to APIs and data sets, and mentorship. Identify potential sponsors and partners who align with the hackathon goals and reach out to them to secure their support.

Recruit a team of organizers and volunteers

A strong team of organizers and volunteers is essential for planning and executing a successful hackathon. Recruit a team of dedicated individuals who can help with tasks such as outreach, logistics, and on-site support.

Establish rules and guidelines

Establish clear hackathon rules and guidelines to ensure a fair and enjoyable experience for participants. This could include eligibility requirements, a code of conduct, and project submission guidelines.

Plan for a variety of activities and workshop

Consider including various activities and workshops to keep participants engaged and encourage learning and collaboration to improve the hackathon’s motivation. This could include skill-building workshops, panel discussions, and networking events.

Plan for hackathon outcomes

Have a transparent and fair process for selecting the winning hackathon projects. Consider judges with relevant expertise to help with the selection process and let the jury members express their expectations before the hackathon begins.

In addition, gauge employee enthusiasm and assess implementation ease, potential business impact, and environmental or social impacts when considering which projects to vote on.

Consider ways to sustain the hackathon’s impact and momentum beyond the event

A successful hackathon does not have to end when the event is over. Consider ways to sustain the hackathon’s impact and momentum beyond the event, such as supporting the winning projects or organizing follow-up events or meetups.


How Mercer | Mettl can help

Mercer | Mettl’s online hackathon provides an end-to-end hackathon management platform that helps host world-class events successfully and effortlessly. Companies can use this platform to identify top tech talent and encourage team engagement.

Mercer | Mettl’s online hackathon platform brings together participants from different company branches, eliminating logistical barriers. They also provide automation to ease the workload for the organizers.

The key features of Mercer | Mettl's hackathon management platform include:

  • Personalized event page: Mercer | Mettl's personalized event page effectively engages participants in an event.
  • Single dashboard: By scheduling tasks and stages quickly in a single dashboard, it becomes easier to plan and execute the event smoothly. Seamless collaboration with multiple stakeholders, such as organizers, participants, and judges, can also be facilitated through this platform, making it easier for everyone to stay on track.
  • Submissions management: These features allow easy tracking of submissions, their scores, and their status, helping streamline the assessment process.
  • Leadership board: It can also be included to provide live updates and assist in the assessment process, adding a competitive element to the event and keeping the participants engaged.



Tech companies, like Meta and Microsoft, are increasingly using hackathons to promote their brand and encourage team engagement. These events have gained popularity because they foster innovation and bring together people from different disciplines. Hackathons provide a fast-paced environment where ideas can be developed and tested within a few days rather than taking months to come to fruition. They are also great for companies to engage with and build a community of enthusiastic supporters.



What is an internal hackathon?

Why do companies host hackathons?

Who can participate in an internal hackathon?

Originally published January 25 2023, Updated January 25 2023

Written by

Vaishali has been working as a content creator at Mercer | Mettl since 2022. Her deep understanding and hands-on experience in curating content for education and B2B companies help her find innovative solutions for key business content requirements. She uses her expertise, creative writing style, and industry knowledge to improve brand communications.

About This Topic

Employee engagement is a process by which companies undertake specific activities to interact with employees and engage them. The activities include employee development, team building, skills development, trainings etc.

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