Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has acted as a barricade to businesses and organisations by ceasing their offline operations. Daily activities like punching the biometrics, enjoying in-person chat and meetings, and spending additional hours at the office are now things of the past. However, the same constraint has also pushed companies to adopt innovative strategies on every front to sail through the pressing times.
As a result, companies are relooking at their existing ways of operations on every front, bringing innovation to the table, and striving to acclimatise to the new world order. And with the gradual reopening of the economy, it seems that businesses are slowly but surely returning to health and ensuring smooth sailing even on the uncharted waters. While going digital is one of the most effective ways to respond to the pandemic, virtual hackathons have emerged as another great solution that has become mainstream over the few months.
But what is a hackathon?
For a better perspective, think of a way of solving a problem as quickly as possible. To crack the code, you will certainly need multiple minds to work and innovate together. That’s the simplest definition of a hackathon. In the pre-COVID times, this event involved a team of individuals intensively collaborating and brainstorming together in person to find out a solution to a particular problem.
However, doing so at a critical juncture like this isn’t considered safe anymore due to the higher possibility of contracting the virus. Therefore, a wiser way to make this possible is to host it online, that is, virtual hackathons. Since the advent of COVID-19, various companies have been leveraging this practice to study the untapped skills of talented individuals and identify how these people address real-world problems in a short time frame from the comfort of their homes.
A hackathon can be of two types: external and internal
External hackathons are, for the most part, conducted by organisations in colleges to access candidates’ problem-solving, time, and people management skills. It’s mostly hosted in the form of an interactive event, where candidates can participate and showcase their innovative skills to solve a complex business problem, thereby making it rewarding for both candidates and employers.
While employers get the opportunity to shortlist the best talents for their organisation, candidates get the hang of the organisation’s work culture in the process. For instance, ed-tech giant Imarticus Learning has been collaborating with various educational institutions and companies to host hackathons. Some of the recent hackathons include Data Science Hackathon in partnership with Skillenza and even a hackathon to devise a solution to predict the price of a used car by partnering with Analytics India Magazine. Going by a recent report, universities that integrated hackathons during the hiring process attained 70% on-boarding.
On the other hand, internal hackathons are in-house events organised by companies to drive employee engagement while also promoting healthy competition among them. Employees receive a lot of benefits by attending these hackathons. How? One, they get a platform to share their ideas against a problem and gain visibility across the leadership ladder. And two, it boosts their confidence to face problems and ignites innovation in them while also strengthening their portfolio to grab better opportunities in the future.
The power of hackathons
An organisation can also benefit from hackathons by using it as a platform for training and upskilling employees, thus preparing them for senior and more relevant roles within the company when the time is right. Following this approach, an organisation achieves two goals: it promotes the company’s work culture among existing employees and helps build a substantial brand recall value among prospective employees.
Numerous companies have been conducting hackathons for the aforementioned reasons. When skilled professionals team up together in several exciting activities, they learn and advance in various aspects such as planning, communication, empathy, designing, leadership, innovation, and many more. In short, a hackathon has so far been the best and most interesting way to come up with unique solutions to unique real-world problems while adding new values to everyone involved in the process.
With the on-going pandemic, more and more people are coming online and realising the potential of hackathons. In contrast, companies are also making the most of this innovation to reap talents they always looked for. Given the benefits offered, virtual hackathons are only going to amplify in full-swing in the coming days. In fact, it has emerged as the best platform for employees and employers to get in-depth insights into each other, creating a win-win situation. While it helps the employer unlock employees’ untapped potential, it also serves as a highly collaborative platform for employees to learn and become future-ready for jobs that don’t exist today.
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Nikhil Barshikar is the Founder and Managing Director of Imarticus Learning, India’s leading professional education company that offers training in financial services and analytics. Nikhil has spent the better part of his 16-year long career in investment banking and capital markets, having held key leadership positions at some of the world’s largest finance and investment banks.