The Chief Inventor of this $9.5 billion business wants to stop labeling people as 'talent'

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Image: Nigel Dalton at REA LABs in Melbourne. Supplied.

The word “talent” gets thrown around a lot, but Nigel Dalton, REA Group Chief Inventor, thinks it actually carries negative connotations.

“We try to avoid the word ‘talent’ during our recruitment process where possible,” Dalton says.

“Instead we prefer to say ‘talented people’, because talent is a label that’s not always complimentary.”

Titles and roles are important across REA, best known for running Australia’s largest property website, realestate.com.au.

Dalton recently had his title changed from Chief Information Officer to Chief Inventor, a role he admits wouldn’t exist in “99.9% of organisations”.

When recruiting, Dalton said they aren’t looking for “talent”, they look for a balance between team work and individuality, but keep their requirements flexible.

“Every person will work within a team, but what that looks like for one team may be different to another.”

The one consistent factor they look for when recruiting, however, is diversity.

“Diversity … is something we think about quite deliberately now because we know that complex problems are better solved by a group of people who approach things differently.”

Teams across the REA Group are made up of people who differ in age, gender, culture or experience, and interviewees have to spend time with their future team as part of the recruitment process to see how they fit in.

Dalton said that REA Group also want to change “the image of being a manager” to remove the stigma of managers just being the “boss”.

“Management is a craft you want people to be proud of and when done well, it can lead to a pivotal competitive advantage,” Dalton said.

“Competitive advantage is more likely to come from culture and the ability to have a resilient organisation, than from a new mechanical toy.”

REA Group are so committed to team culture, they’ve built a ‘maker space’ in the REA Lab in their Melbourne headquarters, where employees can work on learning new skills or building passion projects.

“We want to continue to teach our people about the importance of invention and encourage them to build more things with their hands,” Dalton told Business Insider.

“Whether that’s building a microbrewery, creating new objects with 3D printers, or learning how to knit. Whatever craft they enjoy doing, we want them to continue. This is all about fostering a culture of creation and invention.”

Nigel Dalton will be presenting at the Melbourne NewCo festival on November 23.

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