REA Group, which operates the leading property portal realestate.com.au, was recently voted one of the 25 best places to work in Australia and it’s not difficult to see why.
Earlier this month the digital real estate company ran its Hack Day – or more commonly known as REAio – a quarterly event that encourages employees to step away from their desk in order to collaborate with others in an environment that encourages creativity and innovation.
The event was initially coined Innovation Day and began in a tiny meeting room in 2010 where a handful of dedicated IT developers and senior tech managers were inspired by the way companies like Google and Atlassian were fostering the creative spirit of their employees.
Promoting creativity through collaboration
Teams work on the theme and promotion of their concept over a three-day period and are then invited to present their idea at a final showcase, where the winner walks away with the glory of holding the REAio trophy for the next three months. Some ideas may get snapped up by product managers from around the business, searching for new concepts to sponsor for their upcoming product roadmap.
Although REAio has spawned a number of successful apps for the company’s property portal, Kimi George – a Business Analyst who has worked on the event crew for five years – says creating a product for market is not the sole intention of the exercise.
“The purpose of REAio is actually not about delivering new products to market,” she told PPW. “Our focus is on giving people the time away from their regular day job to think creatively and use their skills to solve different problems – whether that’s a business or societal problem, that’s their choice; if the product ends up shipping to market, that’s just an added bonus.
“For us, the real benefits start to show when our people become so accustomed to practising this method of working regularly, that this style of ideation and creative problem solving occurs naturally in the office on any given day.”
Ideas generated from previous events over the last few years include Ask Izzy – an app that assists homeless people to find the services they need; and Spacely, a recently-launched site for finding short term and shared work spaces around Australia.
Developing new skills
George says REAio is important because it not only encourages employees to think-outside-the-box, but also promotes an environment that encourages skillsharing.
“The event gives our people the chance to learn something new (i.e. maybe a sales person gets to learn more about coding, and vice versa) and also enable our teams to work collaboratively with people they might not have worked with before,” she says. “All of these factors definitely motivate employees around Australia and now globally.”
The most recent event continued to build on this philosophy, with a series of short lectures introduced to further promote the group’s skillsharing culture.
“We introduced something new at the last event called ‘Spark Sessions’, which was a full day of short talks led by various people from around the business,” George reveals. “Anyone was welcome to come listen, and the topics ranged from soft skills like mentoring or how to work with people diagnosed with autism, to more technical skills like how to work with Docker or DevOps.
“Being able to offer a way for our people to share their skills and knowledge, or giving someone an opportunity to learn something new, brought a whole new dimension to our event.”