Five long-time staffers reflect on 20+ years at CREA and what keeps them coming back

In a day and age where job hopping is becoming “the new normal,” there are five CREA staffers who have been with the association for over 20 years. I sat down with them to find out what keeps them coming back. Here are some highlights.

Françoise Smith, Senior Translator (25 years)

“It’s gone by so fast, it’s incredible,” says Françoise of the past 25 years.

She has seen a lot of changes during her time at CREA, including the introduction of many new initiatives and technologies and the growth of the translation team from one to three. “The work itself has increased immensely,” she explains. “We [the translation team] get involved in just about everything and there’s always something new to learn.”

Françoise says she appreciates CREA for being a “family-oriented organization” and for our staff’s involvement with various charities. “It brings people together,” she explains.

Janet Lemoine, Data Administration and MLS® Statistics Coordinator (25 years)

“It feels quite incredible,” says Janet of her recent anniversary. “Who stays in the same job for 25 years these days?”

She describes the work environment at CREA as a comfortable one where everyone is approachable. “To me, it feels like this big family,” she says.

Janet notes that CREA has come to offer opportunities for flexible work arrangements. “Right now, I’m working from home a few days a week, which is quite amazing,” she says. “That’s another way we’ve progressed.”

Gregory Klump, Chief Economist (22 years)

Greg joined CREA in 1992 with a mandate to develop a program for the analysis of the real estate market for the public, REALTORS®, and governments. He appreciated the challenge then and still does.

“I had the opportunity to help further build CREA’s credibility by way of analyzing the housing market,” he explains. “That’s why I was hired. We’ve come a long way, but there’s a lot more work to do and I’m still having fun doing it.”

He appreciates that CREA staff are given the chance to prove themselves without being micromanaged: “You’re given the opportunity to build something around helping members succeed with a big degree of autonomy.”

Kelly Berger, Desktop and Middleware Support Specialist (21 years)

Kelly calls her 21st anniversary “a proud accomplishment,” but she’s already looking ahead to the next milestone. “My next goal is 25,” she says.

Kelly got her start at CREA in the finance department. “I’ve pretty much worked for every department here in one shape or form,” she says. She eventually settled in our IT department thanks to her knack for working with new technologies and her ability to translate what she affectionately calls “geek speak” into layman’s terms.

“I find the work itself very rewarding and at times very challenging,” she explains. “It’s ever-evolving. When I started at CREA, we didn’t have technology or an IT department. We didn’t have servers or email. That’s all been built since 1994 on.”

Bill Harrington, General Counsel (21 years)

“It’s interesting to be anywhere this long,” Bill replies when asked how he feels about his 21 years at CREA. “The nature of this job was different than anything I had done before. I took to it and have really enjoyed it. It’s constantly challenging.”

One of Bill’s fondest accomplishments is having been involved in the creation of REALTOR.ca (formerly MLS.ca, until 2008). “I was the staff liaison on the MLS® Futures Task Force, set up in 1994,” he recalls. “It was the group that set up MLS.ca. MLS.ca was actually one action item in a large futures plan but it was the thing that took off and became an enormous success. I think CREA should be so proud of that.”

Employee Retention Takeaways

What retention strategies can be drawn from the reflections of these long-time CREA staffers? I’ve come up with three:

  1. Offer employees new challenges and learning opportunities.
  2. Demonstrate trust by empowering employees to take on projects with autonomy and offering flexible work arrangements.
  3. Foster a sense of community by having an open door policy and encouraging participation in charitable activities in the workplace.

Do you have any employee retention tips or stories? Please share them in the Comments below.

On behalf of all of us at CREA, thanks to Françoise, Janet, Greg, Kelly, and Bill for your commitment!

Sarah Thirnbeck, Associate Director, Strategic Impact, oversees CREA's national REALTORS Care® program, which aims to celebrate the amazing charitable achievements of REALTORS® across Canada and further foster a spirit of giving in our industry. She also oversees CREA's efforts to support local and provincial Young Professionals Networks across the country as well as new initiatives dedicated to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion on CREA's Board of Directors and committees. Sarah recently earned a Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability from the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto to complement her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications.


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