Think about it: Does your employer really know all your skills? In most companies, people apply for a position, get that job based on their qualifications, and continue their work in the company using mostly the skills they list on their resume. In general—though there are exceptions—a manager will never think to tap, say, a writer for a photography assignment, because they might not know the employee is also an avid shutterbug on the side. This seems like the kind of problem that a savvy computer programmer could fix with an app —and in fact, a team from Frog and LRN’s and recent Reinvent Business hackathon has come up with a potential solution.
The two-day hackathon, open to anyone passionate about technology’s potential to create change, encouraged teams to come up with concepts or prototypes for tools that could close the growing "trust gap" between companies and a society that has been beaten down by a financial crisis, corruption, and unemployment (note: few people on the teams knew each other beforehand).
The winning team, Design Icon, came up with a tool they call Skillcloud: a social network-like platform that allows employees to broadcast all their interests, abilities, and hobbies outside of the office to their workplace. Once companies know that there is a passionate group of musicians or artists in their midst, they could build teams that generate fresh ideas.
"We were looking at the problem that people struggle to be their authentic selves at work," explains team member Christine Costello, a user-centered design practitioner. As she explains, people are often simply turned into one-dimensional beings. The struggle to be your "authentic self" in the workplace has been discussed often over the years—but this is the first solution we’ve seen that puts more of the burden on the company instead of just the employee.
Team member Margot Yopes, an associate consultant at Bain & Co., offered a personal example: She’s an avid trombone player, but unsurprisingly had no outlet for that in her work—until she joined the Bain Band, a musical ensemble in the company that plays at special events. It’s even billed on some job websites as a "special perk," proving that there is a hunger for these kinds of solutions.
The second- and third-place winners—a project to turn customer resource management software into collaborative relationship management software, and a "Google Analytics for emotions," will also receive mentoring.