Here at my company, Glassdoor, we like to say that you can’t build a great company alone. You hire great people and they build the company. When you give people the freedom and latitude to experiment, your best ideas can come from anywhere within your company. I recently experienced an exciting example of how this can not only work but can also exceed expectations, when Glassdoor was able to help solve a problem at the White House.
While 9.5 million Americans remain unemployed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are 4.6 million job openings in the United States. There is clearly a gap in matching those searching for jobs with the available positions: Where are these jobs and what is the barrier in filling them? Vice President Joe Biden was tasked by the president to find a solution to this issue as part of tackling the U.S. unemployment problem.
At an event at the White House this spring, Biden lamented, “If only we had a database of all the jobs and their locations,” they could be made available to job seekers.
I heard these claims and thought, I know Glassdoor has this data. How could we use it in a more efficient way?
As the head of the legal department and human resources, my technical skills are limited but I knew we have some of the best tech talent in the country, so I posed the question to a few Glassdoor engineers. Their wheels were turning just as a hackathon at Glassdoor began.
At Glassdoor, we’ve adopted the practice of hosting quarterly hackathons, when engineers take a break from working on their day-to-day projects and open up their minds to think and work creatively. We order food. They stay up late and generally work on whatever they think is cool, interesting and innovative.
The results often surprise us and sometimes turn into new features. But this quarter, they developed one idea that was particularly exciting. The engineers took my posed question and turned it into a visualization tool that was so compelling, the vice president of the United States asked us to come for a visit so we could show it to him.
Some of the best engineers and data minds at Glassdoor joined CEO, Robert Hohman, and me at the White House with Vice President Biden to showcase our new feature called Job Explorer.
In a nut shell, the tool allows job seekers to visually map out various career opportunities across the United States to see the regions with the most opportunity for their skill sets. It even allows two job seekers to search at once, making relocation easier for couples and families in which two people are looking for jobs at the same time.
Finally, the tool helps users uncover potential new career paths by suggesting other jobs that may be a fit based on career paths of others who have the same experience. As an executives, my job was to speak on behalf of our team that created this feature but also to let the real creators stand behind their own product and support them as they showed it to the vice president.
Ultimately, Biden was thrilled with the results and even mentioned Glassdoor in a few of his recent speeches about fixing the unemployment problem in the United States. This was a great win for our team of course, but on a larger scale this experience served as a reminder that innovation can truly come from any person in your company. As a leader, it’s your job to embrace creativity, bring it forward and stand behind it. The results may surprise you.
Related: EHarmony Wants to Find You a Job
Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.