October 4, 2016 platoproject

Part I: Inside the culture of one of Australia’s most attractive companies

LinkedIn names REA Group as one of the 25 most desirable companies to work for in Australia. In the first of a two-part interview Barb Hyman, executive general manager of People and Culture at the global property search company, answers our questions about purpose and values at REA Group.

REA Group, the Australian company behind realestate.com.au and other property websites globally, previously had a well-known statement of purpose, one often cited as a great example of what distinguishes a purpose statement from a vision or mission statement. So why would REA Group change its purpose statement? Barb Hyman, executive general manager of People and Culture, explains.

Barb Hyman: Previously our company purpose was “to make the property process simple, efficient, and stress free for people buying and selling a property”. As our strategy has evolved, our purpose has evolved to set our aspirations even higher. Our new purpose is to change the way the world experiences property. Our aspiration is to be there for life moments at every stage of the property journey.

We have moved into an era when people are looking less to things and more to experiences to achieve satisfaction in their lives. Our new purpose reflects that – we want to take people on an experiential journey from when they first start to look for a place to rent, to then buying, renovating or investing. We are a part of the life experience associated with your home – and your home is something that you care about a lot.

How else is REA Group changing?

Just in the year I’ve been with REA there has been enormous change in the business. We have gone from being a property listings business to, now, building businesses across multiple customer segments. REA Group employs around 1500 staff globally, with about 500 in Asia, another 200 in Europe, and 800 in Australia. Our staff numbers are growing at 10–15 per cent every year to support the tremendous growth of the business, which has achieved double digit growth

year on year for a long time. We are also now in another nine countries across four continents, which we weren’t six months ago; this change has come about through the acquisition of iProperty Group.

How do you interpret REA Group’s success?

I think the culture here makes a massive difference. The thing that really stands out for me, and for most people who have recently joined, is how much people care and invest in the organisation’s success. People connect with our purpose with their hearts and their minds and we know that the best work happens when people care deeply about what they are doing and why.

I believe our culture of transparency encourages our people’s commitment. Over 60 per cent of our people who work here in Australia are millennials. Research on millennials shows they value autonomy and transparency. One thing that you see immediately when you visit our offices is just how open they are. There is no executive floor and everyone’s on hot desks. If you walk around the office, it’s normal to see people in groups collaborating on agile projects and working through product road maps. In many organisations, the road map is top secret and only a few people see it. Here, it’s about trust and it’s transparent. You can go and see what any team is working on – you can go to anyone’s stand-up, which is a meeting where you check in on what we are doing, how we are making progress, what’s working and what isn’t.

We also launched our new values this year. It was not a top down process, we engaged our people globally to have a robust discussion about values.

It was a bottom-up exercise led by someone who isn’t at an executive level, involving ‘culture champions’ who were nominated by our people, rather than were picked. This grassroots way of defining what kind of values and culture we want to live by is very reflective of REA.

What were the values the organisation identified?

Through this program, we ended up with six values that we believe really represent REA Group:

Re-imagine it. We’re not afraid to try new things or fail fast. We love experimenting. Innovating. Working away at a great idea that will wow our consumers and customers. We’re all about challenging the status quo and taking risks. And at times, while it may feel uncomfortable, we know this is where the magic happens.

Own it. We get it done, creating stuff we know our consumers and customers will love. We’re committed to achieving our goals no matter what challenges come our way. If there’s a hurdle, we jump it; if there’s a way through, we’ll find it! We always seek to do the right thing, and if things don’t quite go to plan, we own it. We review what happened, learn from it and move on, smarter and better than before.

Inspire it. We’re thirsty for knowledge, and generous with it too. Which is great, because everyone here has something to teach, to inspire in others and learn. Likewise, we give and take feedback with an open heart and an open mind. Our curiosity is endless, and every day we seek out opportunities to grow ourselves and others. We don’t do comfort zones.

Do it with heart. People are the heart of REA. Every connection with each other, with our customers and our community matters. We care and we’re not afraid to show it.

Keep it real. We don’t expect anyone to fit a certain mould, we accept everyone for who they are, quirks and all. We’re a down-to-earth bunch who listen, are open with each other, and tell it like it is, respectfully. We’re not afraid to have a laugh. We take our work seriously, but never ourselves.

Do it as one team. Everything we achieve, we achieve as one team. No egos. No heroes. It’s our collective genius that gives us our edge and a willingness to stand by any decision that’s made for the greater good of REA. Company. Team. Individual.

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