One of REA Group’s values is ‘Inspire It’. “The whole idea of ‘Inspire It’ is bringing out the best in people. How can you motivate and inspire the people around you, not necessarily just the people who report to you, but your peers in the entire organization,” explains Barb Hyman, Executive General Manager of People and Culture at REA Group. The focus on developing people pays off, not only in higher employee engagement, but in the success of the organization. “We have a really strong pedigree and history in the context of invention and innovation,” adds Hyman.
Two programs exemplify REA Group’s commitment to learning and development: their annual hackathon for students and the Big Idea competition, where staff members are encouraged to devise a game-changing idea, with the winner receiving financial backing from the business.
A hackathon for students
Richard Weissel took a break from IT to earn a master’s in education before joining REA Group as lead IT Developer. It was a friend who introduced him to a career opportunity within REA Group. Weissel says, “I was so impressed with the people I met during my interview, I knew that it was the right move to come here. I find myself back in IT, but my education background seems to be of increasing importance.”
Weissel hosted a three-day mashup for students interested in technology. He believes REA Group’s support for these kinds of employee-driven initiatives is one of their most important talent development and retention strategies. Weissel was inspired to host his own event after learning about REA Group’s involvement in Random Hacks of Kindness’ weekend hackathons working on solutions to social needs.
His first mashup was a huge success, with 20 students working on different team-building problems. “We’re hoping to get support to run the next event for longer, because feedback from the kids was that they wanted to spend longer on their solutions. The presentations at the end of the three days were absolutely remarkable,” shares Weissel.
REA Group’s volunteer bank
Part of what allowed Weissel and other employees time to participate in this event was REA’s volunteer bank. One volunteer day for each of REA Group’s employees goes into a bank at the beginning of each year, which anyone can utilize. Weissel says, “Everybody felt that they were supported to take leave to volunteer at the mashup. In terms of personal development, I think it's a really important thing for everybody to feel that they're part of something that is contributing to something bigger.”
What Weissel didn’t expect from the event was the way it would help him and his co-workers form a bond. “That was one of the wonderful outcomes for me. Now I have these wonderful relationships with people whom I wouldn't really have met otherwise.”
REA Group’s Big Idea
Linda Brunetti has been working at REA Group for seven years. She started in a customer-facing role, providing customers with training on how to build their websites and digital presence. Since then, she has moved within the company through various roles, and is now REA Group’s Adoption and Change Specialist.
She’s also the recipient of REA Group’s Big Idea challenge this year. “Essentially, the Big Idea challenge asks the company to come up with something that is going to be a game changer for us,” says Brunetti. In this year’s competition, over 60 people submitted pitches to REA Group’s Shark Tank-like panel of judges. Each participant gets five minutes to pitch their idea, followed by five minutes of questioning. There’s an audience as well - whoever wants to attend within the company is welcome to watch the pitches.
Gathering diverse experiences
Brunetti’s idea aims to inspire and inform people looking to style their homes. She says, “We recognise that there is a significant proportion of people coming to our site for home inspiration. My idea capitalises on this by creating an image-rich experience that supports people through the process of building, renovating and styling their home."
Brunetti received $100,000 to fund the project at REA Group and has been able to transition most of her role to her team members while working on the prototype. “We're only testing it in a small market, but from that we should get some more insights. I've had the chance to go out and speak to customers regarding the trial, and the feedback's been fantastic,” she says.
For Brunetti, the real prize is getting the opportunity to learn and develop her own skills.
She also credits REA Group for giving her a diverse range of experiences throughout her seven years with the company. She says, “When I was putting together my pitch, I knew I was drawing directly from my experience when I was talking to customers six years ago, right through to training the sales team and going out on the road with them. All of it came together to get me to the point where I am now.”
REA Group has successfully brought to life their ‘Inspire It’ value, and created some remarkable experiences for employees in the process.
For more learning and development inspiration, see our white paper on how learning and development impact retention.