4 key ways REA Group drives market-leading innovation

There are four key areas REA Group invests in to help drive innovation and capitalise on market opportunities to bring new and improved products and services quickly to market.

As a relatively young business in a highly competitive sector, innovation has been a key driver of the business’ success, said REA Group’s executive general manager, people and culture, Barbara Hyman.

“Technology is evolving so fast, so we’re always looking at what consumers value to help us create a beautiful consumer experience,” she said.

“Our product roadmap is so vast and complex that it takes up an entire wall of an internal space here, so we are always evolving our product pipeline to deliver a great consumer experience through technology.”

Some of the latest products REA Group have brought to market include realestate.com.au iOS and Android apps (which have been downloaded almost 5 million times). 3D virtual property inspections, agent profiles (which helps sellers pick the right agent for their property), and school insights (which provides information on local schools for buyers and tenants).

“Being able to win that war for talent is very real”

The four main areas that help drive innovation in REA Group – people, culture, technology and operating model – are interlinked in a number of ways, according to Hyman.

On the people front, building a talent pipeline (particularly for tech talent) for the medium to long term is an important focus.

“This kind of talent is not interested in linear career path; they want the opportunity to move sideways and round out their skillset, rather than just moving up,” she said.

“So, being able to win that war for talent is very real, so we need to be able to give them an experience which is really distinctive and offer them a working culture which is engaging.

“Developing this kind of competitive advantage is probably the thing that keeps me awake at night the most,” said Hyman, who explained that the company employs a range of talent identification and sourcing methods, including LinkedIn and industry conferences and events to reach talented passive candidates, as well as an internal referral program and network which generates a strong number of leads for new talent.

“A well-articulated, sharp, embedded purpose has been really important to our success”

One of the prerequisites of any potential REA Group employee is that they must believe in and contribute the business’ purpose, which is about helping people by making property simple, efficient and stress free.

“I think that’s really powerful because it creates a sense of collective purpose that we are one company, and it serves as a definite marker for how we build out our strategy, and it also reminds us that, ultimately, we’re a customer-consumer driven business.

“A well-articulated, sharp, embedded purpose has been really important to our success,” said Hyman, who explains that the company’s purpose permeates its strategy and culture.

“Our head count continues to grow at ten percent per annum (REA Group employs more than 1000 people, more than 600 of which are based at its Melbourne office) every year, so the quality of the people we hire is critical to the success of the business. We invest in their whole career journey.”

“We’re always looking at what consumers value to help us create a beautiful consumer experience”

REA Group recently moved into a new purpose-built office in Melbourne as well, which is designed to further collaboration and innovation.

The goal with the new space was to remove barriers to productivity by creating more spaces for people to collaborate, share ideas and operate more flexibly through “neighbourhood-based working”.

Instead of dedicated desks, each team has a designated neighbourhood and team members move between desks, increasing opportunities for collaboration.

The business also conducts regular “hack days”, which are held four times a year to provide opportunities for employees around the world to collaborate and collectively harness their ideas to move them from concepts into working, usable potential products.

In 2015, for example, 514 employees in Australia, Europe and China participated in hack days.

Image source: Toby Marosszeky