Bottom Line: Eightfold.ai’s innovative approach of combining their own AI and virtual hackathons to create and launch new additions to their Project Marketplace rapidly is a model enterprises need to consider emulating.
Eightfold.ai was founded with the mission that there is a right career for everyone in the world. Since its founding in 2016, Eightfold.ai’s Talent Intelligence Platform continues to see rapid global growth, attracting customers across four continents and 25 countries, supporting 15 languages with users in 110 countries. Their Talent Intelligence Platform is built to assist enterprises with Talent Acquisition and Management holistically.
What’s noteworthy about Eightfold.ai’s approach is how they have successfully created a platform that aggregates all available data on people across an enterprise – from applicants to alumni – to create a comprehensive Talent Network. Instead of relying on data-driven signals of past accomplishments, Eightfold.ai is using AI to discover the innate capabilities of people and matching them to new opportunities in their own companies. Eightfold’s AI and machine learning algorithms are continuously learning from enterprise and individual performance to better predict role, performance and career options for employees based on capabilities.
How Eightfold Sets A Quick Pace Innovating Their Marketplace
Recently Eightfold.ai announced Project Marketplace, an AI-based solution for enterprises that align employees seeking new opportunities and companies’ need to reskill and upskill their employees with capabilities that line up well with new business imperatives. Eightfold wanted to provide employees with opportunities to gain new skills through experiential learning, network with their colleagues, join project teams and also attain the satisfaction of helping flatten the unemployment curve outside. Project Marketplace helps employers find hidden talent, improve retention strategies and gain new knowledge of who has specific capabilities and skills. The following is a screen from the Marketplace that provides employees the flexibility of browsing all projects their unique capabilities qualify them for:
Employees select a project of interest and are immediately shown how strong of a match they are with the open position. Eightfold provides insights into relevant skills that an employee already has, why they are a strong match and the rest of the project team members – often a carrot in itself. Keeping focused on expanding employee’s capabilities, Eightfold also provides guidance of which skills an employee will learn. The following is an example of what an open project positions looks like:
Employee applicants can also view all the projects they currently have open from the My Projects view shown below:
Project Marketplace is the win/win every employee has yearned for as they start to feel less challenged in their current position and start looking for a new one, often outside their companies. I recently spoke with Ashutosh Garg, CEO and Co-Founder and Kamal Ahluwalia, Eightfold’s President, to see how they successfully ran a virtual hackathon across three continents to keep the Marketplace platform fresh with new features and responsive to the market.
How to Run A Virtual Hackathon
Starting with the hackathon, Eightfold relied on its own Talent Intelligence Platform to define the teams across all three continents, based on their employees’ combined mix of capabilities. Ashutosh, Kamal and the senior management team defined three goals of the hackathon:
- Solve problems customers are asking about with solutions that are not on the roadmap yet.
- Accelerate time to value for customers with new approaches no one has thought of before.
- Find new features and unique strengths that further strengthen the company’s mission of finding the right career for everyone in the world.
It’s fascinating to see how AI, cybersecurity and revenue management software companies continue to innovate at a fast pace delivering complex apps with everyone being remote. I asked Ashutosh how he and his management team approached the challenge of having a hackathon spanning three continents deliver results. Here’s what I learned from our discussion and these lessons are directly applicable to any virtual hackathon today:
- Define the hackathon’s purpose clearly and link it to the company mission, explaining what’s at stake for customers, employees and the millions of people looking for work today – all served by the Talent Intelligence Platform broadening its base of features.
- Realize that what you are building during the hackathon will help set some employees free from stagnating skills allowing them to be more employable with their new capabilities.
- The hackathon is a chance to master new skills through experiential learning, further strengthening their capabilities as well. And often learning from some of the experts in the company by joining their teams.
- Reward risk-taking and new innovative ideas that initially appear to be edge cases, but can potentially be game changers for customers.
I’ve been interviewing CEOs from startups to established enterprise software companies about how they kept innovation alive during the lockdown. CEOs have mentioned agile development, extensive use of Slack channels and daily virtual stand-ups. Ashutosh Garg is the only one to mention how putting intrinsic motivation into practice, along with these core techniques, binds hackathon teams together fast. Dan Pink’s classic TED Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation, explains intrinsic motivators briefly and it’s clear they have implications on a hackathon succeeding or not.
Measuring Results Of the Hackathon
Within a weekend, Project Marketplace revealed several new rock stars amongst the Eightfold hackathon teams. Instead of doing side projects for people who had time on their hands, this Hackathon was about making Eightfold’s everyday projects better and faster. Their best Engineers and Services team members took a step back, re-looked at the current approaches and competed with each other to find better and innovative ways. And they all voted for the most popular projects and solutions – ultimate reward in gaining the respect of your peers. As well as the most “prolific coder” for those who couldn’t resist working on multiple teams.
Remote work is creating daunting challenges for individuals at home as well as for companies. Business models need to change and innovation cannot take a back seat while most companies have employees working from home for the foreseeable future. Running a hackathon during a global lockdown and making it deliver valuable new insights and features that benefit customers now is achievable as Eightfold’s track record shows. Project marketplace may prove to be a useful ally for employees and companies looking to stay true to their mission and help each other grow – even in a pandemic. This will create better job security, a culture of continuous learning, loyalty and more jobs. AI will change how we look at our work – and this is a great example of inspiring innovation.