There are three key ingredients to a great culture boosting activity. By Pam Selle (Developer, Paperless Post)
One of the things I like most about my current workplace is the culture. In an aggressive tech hiring environment, buffing up on how to build a great culture is definitely worth the time.
At Paperless Post, we recently had a Hack Day (or, per the company mascot, "Stampy Day").
Here's what it was, why it was fun, and why you should probably bring it to your company too - but more than that, how the underlying culture and ethic is great for any company.
Planning For Greatness: Encouraging Creativity
There are three key ingredients to a great culture boosting activity - that the activity inspires employees concerning their work, empowers them to take ownership and control of part of the product, and that the activity allows company members to collaborate, communicate, and otherwise work together toward a goal.
Encourage And Empower: Hack Day
Hack Day is an example of a culture boosting activity - a day taken off from the regular run of the business to focus on other "hacks" or projects brought by the team. These can be dreamed up features, new design items, brainstorming new approaches... a company Hack Day is related to the company, but that can include writing a company chatbot or designing costumes for the company mascot. It can be adding a new feature that saves 10 people 5 hours a week... each. The project can be as big, small, ambitious, or fun as team members want it to be.
The very nature of Hack Day encourages creativity and ownership of a project, both inspiring employees to dream up something for the business and empowering them to be in control of the outcome.
Empower And Collaborate: Who should participate in your Hack Day
Everyone. One of the best, most fun features of our company Hack Day was that it included everyone. Now, not all companies are small enough to be able to do this. But think about spreading Hack Day beyond the scope of your dev team. Can you involve Product? The Designers? Support? More ideas makes it more fun.
Encourage project members to take ownership of their project, give them free reign to do what they like, and see who matches up across teams.
Put It Together: How does Hack Day work?
Show up. Let people find people to work with. Work on things. Repeat.
This is the fun part, and there's not really a wrong way to do it, except by being too uptight about it.
Afterburn: What do you do afterwards?
Have a celebration the next work day to talk about each other's projects over lunch. Another great thing about Hack Day is that it doesn't matter if you don't finish. Remember, it's Hack Day! Low stress. It's all about fun and creativity.
Eeveryone talks about what they worked on, shows off what they did do, talks about the hurdles and what they learned. And everyone listening gets to see the smart, talented people they work with show off their stuff.
ROI: How does it help?
The three key components of Hack Day, or any company culture booster, are that it is inspiring, empowering, and encourages collaboration. When these three ingredients come together, it results in something that at the end of the day will make your employees say “I’m glad I work here.”
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Pam Selle is a developer at Paperless Post, bringing beautiful online stationery to users. She is involved in the Ruby, Python, and open source communities. A teacher at GirlDevelopIt and PyStarPhilly, she is passionate about opening web technologies to all and generally making the world a more fun place to live and work. Follow her on Twitter at @pamasaur.