Hacking the Hackathon: 3 ways to boost employee engagement

Written by Prajna Shettigar

Prajna, Navigo's Marketing Manager, is passionate about HR Technology and all things digital. She is always looking for creative solutions to help organisations turn their HR data into meaningful information.

March 16, 2021

At Navigo, we invest in our people. We always try to encourage growth for individuals and as a team. It’s a high priority for our people to love where they work. This is why Navigo culture is built around balanced wellbeing and making sure our employees feel challenged.

One of our many initiatives to maintain a healthy culture is our annual 24-hour hackathon. Many people associate hackathons with software developers coding all night, but a hackathon can be anything you want. All organisations, big or small, can use it as an opportunity to solve problems or identify better ways to improve operations.

Our hackathon tradition has been going on for many years and needless to say, it’s been a huge success. From culture to product dev to brand building, we’ve done it all. Below, we’ve listed the top 3 ways hosting a hackathon has improved engagement within Navigo and some tips on organising a successful hackathon in your own company!

hackathon team software


3 ways hackathons boost employee engagement

Getting to know other departments better

Departments that don’t usually get to work together now have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from one another. For example one of our teams this year included our CEO, a data scientist, marketing coordinator, workforce design advisor and a digital marketing specialist. Despite this being a diverse team with different skill sets, we all contributed our strengths and had a blast working together!

hackathon team

Living the company’s core values

At Navigo, we have three core values that shape the way we work: having a data-driven and disciplined approach, bringing new ideas to old problems and bringing fun and passion to everything we do. The hackathon allows us to do just that and ignites a sense of belonging to the organisation we work for.

Unique training program

Hackathons allow us to carry out ideas that we wouldn’t otherwise pursue. As a marketer, you wouldn’t necessarily be involved in technical product development aspects. A hackathon gives everyone a chance to think outside the box and to own projects they wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

hackathon team software


Tips to organise a successful hackathon

Before the hackathon: encourage participation and plan ahead

For the hackathon project, eliminate your normal hierarchy. Everyone should be encouraged to pitch their project ideas and be the team leader. Identify and prioritise the best ideas based on votes, impact or urgency. Make a list of your top projects and ask the remaining employees to sign up into a team (set max limits so it’s an even spread). Don’t forget to share your agenda a few weeks before and have fun reminders (e.g. a countdown clock 24 hours before the main event) to get everyone excited.

During the hackathon: communicate, encourage and have lots of fun

While hackathons are designed for solving problems, it’s also a great team building exercise. Set an encouraging tone for all newbies so everyone feels comfortable to contribute. Shouting the teams lunch during the hackathon is also a good idea – a great way to touch base and thank your people for the amazing effort they’re putting in!


After the hackathon: the prize should be more than just bragging rights

Once the hackathon has ended, all teams need to present their projects and a demo of the work they’ve done. The judge can then decide and announce the winning team and, if your budget allows it, include a reward. It can be anything ranging from vouchers, a team activity or a night in the town. This not only motivates everyone to work harder, but also sparks friendly competition among your employees.


And if you need a little more inspiration, here’s a little sneak peek from our awesome hackathon in 2021:


From employee engagement to org design, if there’s anything you’d like to discuss, get in touch with us!


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