Women in leadership driving engagement at Grays


Employee engagement soaring at Grays as women join the leadership team

Engagement jumps from 44% to 75% in just 18 months.

Grays has undergone significant change over recent years with three different ownership structures in the last 5 years alone. Following a management led buyout in 2019, the incoming CEO Chris Corbin, challenged the newly appointed senior leadership team to create a culture that was the envy of other Australian online businesses.

Chris said “Having spent close to 15 years in the business, I’d witnessed how Grays had suffered from conflicting priorities & varied strategies. In saying that, I always knew our core operating divisions had fantastic leadership. We quickly surrounded the sales teams with skills and experience that would help us accelerate our journey to becoming a best in class online marketplace.”

Fast forward to 2020 and with a participation rate of 86% via the CultureAmp platform, Grays achieved a remarkable jump in engagement from 44% to 75%. An incredible turnaround in a short timeframe performing above benchmark for Work & Life Blend (84%), Leadership (75%), Management (84%), Alignment & Involvement (84%), and Innovation (74%).

So how did they do it?

Lisa Malady, Head of People & Culture at Grays said “Every business is at a different stage and with Grays, it was important to recognise there was some change fatigue. We needed to make incremental changes aimed at getting the basics right. We’ve focussed on creating a better experience for our people by improving how we communicate, how we reward and recognise, how we encourage work life balance and how we help our people understand how they contribute to our strategy, every day.”

Unsurprisingly, Grays has also experienced a significant reduction in voluntary turnover in that same 12-month period, from 27% to 12%.

It has been a big year for Grays where they’ve launched new categories (Marine, Caravans and Real Estate) as well as their new Grays App. Grays achieved a record over 2 million monthly unique visitors in May 2020, up 60% from the prior year capitalising on the increasing adoption by Australians using e-commerce marketplaces to buy and sell assets online.

Grays Engagement key strength factors

“Our response to COVID-19 was extremely well received by our people. We communicated openly and often, ensuring they felt safe and supported. We quickly moved over two thirds of our people to a work from home arrangement, and we continue to encourage increased flexibility into the future. We’ve been able to redirect roles in impacted areas; such as sales roles in Victoria, to other business unit areas experiencing growth, like social media and customer service, to continue providing meaningful work for our team.” Malady went on to say.

Grays also credits much of its success to its highly aligned and diverse leadership team which was formed in September 2019. Malady goes on to say “Each member of our leadership team brings a wealth of experience and it’s that diversity of thought, coupled with the fact that we’re all fully invested in the success of this business, that’s enabled us to deliver these results. It was recognised in 2018 that Grays was underrepresented by women in leadership. Since then, Our Chief Operating Officer, Jeff McLean, has recruited an exceptionally talented female leadership team to drive each of our E-commerce, Legal, HR, Projects & Customer service functions.”

We all know that high levels of engagement & diversity lead to strong business performance, and this is proving true for Grays who have seen earnings grow over 50% in just 12 months.

External recognition is also starting to accelerate for Grays. In 2019, Grays was recognised as the 6th most loved E-online retailer in Australia, beating the likes of Kogan and JB HI-fi, whilst just last week, Natalie Ashes (Grays Head of E-commerce) was recognised in the top 20 of the prestigious CMO50 awards.

Lisa Malady said “To be able to shift the dial on engagement so significantly in such a short time frame makes me feel proud, but we aren’t finished yet. We’ll use the insights from this survey to continue to improve the experience working at Grays.”

Grays is one to watch throughout 2021, as it builds on the significant momentum it has created across its key business & people metrics.

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