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These are challenging times. The world is in a state of frenzy after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak. A previously unknown strain of the virus has brought routine life to a screeching halt. The outbreak is significantly impacting multiple sectors of industries, including airlines, tourism, and many others, in varying measures. There has been a noticeably sharp decline in manufacturing activities, with other sectors equally bearing the brunt of this unforeseen development.
Heads of states, industry leaders and every other significant stakeholder have insisted on taking evasive steps in the form of social distancing. These aren’t perfunctory statements but real expressions of concern for the health and well-being of their people.
In these extraordinary times, organizations are taking sweeping measures, from an immediate halt on all non-essential business activities to large-scale adoption of remote working. Companies, eager to circumvent the lockdown to maintain the continuity of their businesses, and ensuring the safety of their employees, have urged their employees to work from home or telecommute. ‘Work from home’ has indeed gained mainstream currency. Industry observers have gone as far as to say that the very nature of work has changed and remote working is here to stay.
However, there are specific challenges to working from home. Let us understand them in some detail.
Working from the confines of one’s home in a lockdown situation takes a toll on engaging remote employees. Being physically away from work for a longer duration tends to lower the employees’ interest in their jobs. The work gradually starts to become monotonous. The lack of workplace engagement activities also brings down the employees’ motivation levels. There is a clear link between employee engagement and innovation, and with the absence of the former, the latter is also suffering.
A typical workday comes with numerous challenges which employees are expected to overcome over time. As employees surpass day-to-day challenges, their experience in problem-solving becomes a part of their learning curve. However, learning takes a backseat in remote work situations as people do not come across work problems which they are expected to encounter typically.
Interdepartmental collaboration takes a significant toll while remote working. A cross-functional problem that can be addressed by in-person communication, effectively and quickly, gets delayed or sidelined. Reaching out to different teams, working together on a common project, hence becomes challenging as team members are not readily available. Collaboration, innovation and engagement, all take a back seat.
When individuals do not get a proper environment to learn and grow, it starts reflecting on their work. The dependencies that can quickly be resolved in the office set-up get escalated in remote working. The individual is unable to get constructive feedback and, as a result, ends up producing work that might be considered qualitatively inferior. This directly impacts the creativity and remote work productivity of employees.
Amidst the Covid-19 outbreak, it has become crucial to engage remote employees. As the world continues to stay indoors to battle the swift spread of the disease, employers need to step up to inspire, encourage and engage their workforce. Engaged employees are an asset to the organization. They are aligned with the organization’s goals, are committed to their work, and have the zeal to continue outdoing themselves while looking for innovative ways to do so. According to Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis Report, companies with highly engaged employees drive 21% more profit than those with lower employee engagement. This indicates the immense importance for organizations to bring forth an employee engagement innovation, especially during this pandemic, and actively invest in employee engagement initiatives.
Employee engagement also has a direct correlation with attrition. When employees have meaningful work and growth opportunities, they tend to stick around.
There is a direct link between employee engagement and innovation. An engaged workforce is a creative workforce. Engaging remote employees creates a culture of openness wherein employees can bring new ideas to the table without any apprehensions. Innovation and employee engagement go hand-in-hand because engagement programs generate employees’ curiosity and help in fueling the creative side of your workforce. So, it becomes necessary for companies to take employee engagement innovation seriously.
When employees feel engaged and connected with the organization, they are more likely to consider themselves a part of the organization’s goal and growth journey. And thus work extra hard to solve for the business’s problems.
Hackathon is a medium for people to find ingenious solutions to organizational problems. Having an incentivized approach to a problem garners the interest of employees. They work toward creating the best solution to a given business problem, thereby fostering, both, innovation and engagement.
If the problem is technical, the solution will be technical. Conversely, the proposed solution will be non-technical for a non-technical problem. This fast-paced activity brings together a diverse set of people to decipher organizational snags. Participants take a responsive and agile approach to build solutions. The best prototype is then recognized and rewarded by the leadership.
At a time when the creative energies are low, employees need to be motivated to keep up with their work. The outbreak of a pandemic, evolving workforce expectations and a boom in the gig-economy mandate a shift from HRs. Hackathons are a means to keep the creative juices of your workforce flowing. They are valuable in generating innovative solutions that give a boost to employees’ morale.
Hackathons have various benefits:
The aim of conducting virtual hackathons is to resolve complex problems within a day or two, implying that the participants must focus all their energies in getting the work done in the shortest possible time-frame. The agility in finding bugs, breaking the system, or even proposing a business strategy increases the level of innovation and employee engagement, thereby improving efficiency and remote work productivity. While on one hand, organizations get multiple perspectives to solve the most critical issues. On the other hand, employees feel highly connected to the task and business at large.
In hackathons, individuals have to work in a team. The team’s collective goal is to come up with a plan to get the work done efficiently in the shortest possible time-frame. People working towards a common goal have a sense of fulfilling a common purpose. To meet this goal, employees do not hesitate to reach out to team members even if they belong to other job functions. This promotes team building and cross-functional collaboration, which was otherwise hampered in the current work from home situation.
When employees work on ideas they are passionate about, they end up venturing into new realms. At a time when the world is moving towards the gig model, it is critical to keep your workforce challenged.
Hackathons viably shorten the innovation process by materializing ideas into business solutions quickly. Instead of pushing an idea, employees feel motivated to address the problem to the best of their abilities, thus bringing out their creative side.
Remote hackathons emerge as one of the most practical ways to provide learning opportunities to the workforce. Sharing how employers can invest in training the gig workers, Graffersid CEO Sidharth Jain mentions, “Employers can tweak business problems in a way that would require employees to either learn a new skill or gain expertise in an existing skill.” So, when the work resumes, as usual, employees would have upskilled themselves as per upcoming technologies, he adds.
Participants could be required to learn a new coding language or software to arrive at the right conclusion to solve complex business, or coding errors, or any other technical glitches. Hence, hackathons also fruitfully cater to the learning needs of your workforce.
With the advancement of HR technologies, conducting hackathons, with an aim towards innovation and engagement, has become a hassle-free process. HRs don’t need to keep following up with the employees to seek project updates. A seamless virtual interface can now be your one-stop-solution to all your employee engagement woes.
The initial phase of hackathons kicks-off with launching the event page, which contains details of the task, timelines, rules, rewards, and any other relevant information that encourages employees to participate. At this stage, employers provide a list of multiple assessments, add challenges, define the parameters for evaluation and send an invitation to the assessors.
To participate, employees register themselves on the landing page and form teams. The teams collaboratively make submissions for various rounds by uploading the file on the platform. In the meantime, participants get access to live ranking, reminders and any additional support.
In the third and final stage, judges track the status and activities of the participating teams with completed and ongoing tasks. Judges can download the submissions, assign grades and share feedback with the teams.
Expert Consultation on Ideation
Leverage our in-house expertise to brainstorm collaboratively on hackathon themes, different rounds of contest and target audience.
Coding Simulators and Rich Question Types
Test domain understanding, business acumen and coding prowess with extensive question banks and a wide range of simulators.
Conduct Public or Private Hackathons
Our scalable platform is suitable and customizable for both internal and external hackathons
Seamless Participant Experience
Take tests any-time, anywhere with our online platform. Form custom teams, complete multiple rounds and track on the leaderboard.
Scale Employee Engagement Quickly
We hosted a Women’s Day special coding hackathon in India which reached 800+ colleges and garnered 57,000 registrations
Originally published March 31 2020, Updated August 14 2020
A writer at heart, Megha has been in the content industry for 4 years. Starting her career from print, her journey spans across IT, legal and consulting industries. She has been associated with Mercer | Mettl as Assistant Manager, Content Marketing for 2 years.