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Programmers pitch ideas in ‘Shark Tank’-type competition

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Execs at Geneca, a Chicago-based custom software development firm, took a cue from the hit TV show “Shark Tank” to encourage its 100 employees to come up with innovative ideas.

The competition—set up like a science fair—is called the “Innovation Challenge/Shark Tank.” Winners receive funding from the company to develop new products, even if their ideas fall outside of their official job duties. The contest’s first winner was a 10-employee team that created an application to recognize employees for exceptional work by permitting them to award each other prizes. The company rolled out the program in the fall.

Geneca execs let the team work on their idea while on the clock, and, in fact, encourage staff to be creative during their 40-hour workweek—and then go home.

The privately owned firm doesn’t base employee bonuses on billable hours, but rather urges employees to work just 40 hours a week and to take all their vacation time.

CEO Joel Basgall says he also en­­courages employee teams to take on tasks outside their job descriptions. Example: When the firm outgrew its office and rented the one next door, a team of computer professionals knocked down the adjoining wall and reconfigured the plumbing.

Result: Nearly zero attrition.

Contact: Joel Basgall of Geneca, (630) 599-0900.

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