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For the past eight years, Graham Byrne has been in sales at NextRoll, working with the EMEA and APAC regions and most recently, he took on the role of Sales Director for the organization. At the start, Graham managed an in-person sales team, but has since expanded his responsibilities to managing multiple teams and people across Ireland and Australia, who are mostly working either fully remote or in a hybrid capacity.
The pandemic has required companies and leaders to be more flexible than ever, working in new ways, providing a more supportive and trusting work environment, and truly listening to how employees want to work.
Byrne shared that NextRoll made some huge changes in the past year based on feedback from the team. “We sent out a large sentiment survey to all employees, and we asked them ‘How do you want to move forward with this new environment that we find ourselves in?’” he said. “We correlated that data and identified how many people actually wanted to go back to the office, say, three days a week, how many people wanted flex, and how many people wanted to work remotely. Then we really adjusted our office setups.”
Once NextRoll reopened its offices, the company switched to a remote-first, flexible, employee-led policy in August of 2021. “We give most employees full control over whether they want to be in the office, flex, or fully remote. And nobody has any say in guiding employees towards their decision.”
In response to this change, NextRoll made some real estate adjustments. The Dublin office used to accommodate 150 employees, but the company decided to right-size their space after learning their employees’ post-pandemic work preferences. It moved to a new office in an iconic Dublin building, and its office now can accommodate 40-50 employees. “We never actually get those numbers. It's a sprinkling of people who come in each day and most employees are still very much remote,” he shared. So it made sense to right-size the space to NextRoll’s needs.
“The office managers in each of our offices are constantly looking for new ways to improve the environment and keep that collaboration and synergy between people who are in the office and people who are working remotely,” he said, adding that video conferencing has been a huge advantage to keep the team connected virtually.
Byrne’s leadership style has also evolved over the pandemic. Thanks to record high levels of stress and burnout due to the pandemic, he’s been placing more emphasis than ever on empathy and work-life balance for himself and for everyone he supervises. “In one-to-ones, we go through their numbers, pipeline, and projects they're working on, but I’m also sure to make a huge emphasis on really authentically finding out how they're doing and delving into their life and what's important to them – inside and outside of work.” He’s also set up a standing social meeting for Friday mornings for his team to catch up and have some time to chat.
Early in the pandemic, many newly-remote employees found themselves working overtime without a commute to break up the work day and without office distractions and social moments. But Byrne shared he’s no longer letting that happen, and instead is leaning into the flexibility and family time that remote work affords him. “Now, if I have a two hour gap, I'll pick up my son from school, we can walk home together and have chats and catch up on how his day was, which is an amazing opportunity for us to have that just wasn't available pre-pandemic,” he shared.
This family-first perspective has also made it into how they plan their Sales Presidents Club. In previous years, the top performers would all go on a trip together. But now, the company provides a voucher to each top performer to use on a trip as they see fit, with their own families and friends.
The trust and flexibility that a remote work environment provides is especially attractive to Gen Z employees, who happen to be the focus of NextRoll’s hiring plans. Byrne mentioned that it’s been very challenging to find experienced employees to hire post-pandemic, so the NextRoll team is focusing on hiring and investing in entry-level employees straight out of university. “We've had to alter our approach: instead of looking for people with a lot of SaaS experience or CRM or closing experience, we're honing in less on previous experience and more on core attributes,” he shared. “If they have those core attributes, then we can build them up through our training process. And the training process is another thing that's completely evolved online as well.”
Flexibility is so important to Gen Z, he explained, and forcing employees to come in on certain days or a certain number of days just won’t cut it for them — or for any employees who have learned to do their best work remotely. Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work Report shows Gen Z is the least likely to go into the office, and the most likely to change jobs to find the flexibility they desire.
“I think a lot of companies that don't offer that one hundred percent flexibility will probably lose out and experience a lot of people leaving the company, and having some brain drain,” he said.
And since seemingly every company is hiring, NextRoll has been motivated by the competitive talent market to streamline and improve its interview and onboarding process. “By having kind of long winded interview processes over a number of days or weeks, you see people dropping off and going elsewhere.”
Another benefit of going remote-first is that employees can be hired from anywhere in the country. Before, “We were limited to only hiring people who could commute to the Dublin office. Now, we have folks who are based across the Republic of Ireland.” He mentioned that because of this new policy, one of his employees moved out to County Cork, bought a house, and pays less on a mortgage than she’d been paying to rent in Dublin.
NextRoll is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Salt Lake City, New York, Dublin, and Sydney, and this new remote-first perspective allows for teams to learn from their coworkers across the world. “We've utilized different people from [all our] offices to host online training sessions at different times throughout the day,” he shared. And connecting with anyone around the world is easier than ever, with everyone conferencing in from their homes instead of having to fly across the world for a meeting. It’s led to greater cohesion and collaboration among teams on opposite ends of the world.
NextRoll’s remote-first perspective works incredibly well for the company and for its employees. The company adjusted its real estate spend, lowered its carbon footprint by not heating and cooling unused spaces and by reducing the number of flights taken for major meetings, and it showed true trust in its employees by letting them choose how and where they work best.
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