The $26 billion design startup Canva refuses to conduct layoffs. So it’s shifting employees into new roles

Jennie Rogerson, Canva global head of people
Jennie Rogerson, global head of people at Canva
Courtesy of Canva

Good morning!

Jennie Rogerson, global head of people at the design platform Canva, made a bold proclamation this month. She shared that Canva has no plans to lay off any of its global employees, despite a gloomy outlook for the tech industry and pervasive layoffs. In fact, the company has managed to avoid mass layoffs throughout the entirety of its decade-long existence. 

Rogerson, and Canva’s global head of talent acquisition, Amy Schultz, spoke with Fortune about how the company is holding onto its 3,500 workers (or Canvanauts, as they call them) by investing in a skills-first culture, encouraging internal mobility, and predicting what roles the company will need in the future to remain competitive.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Fortune: How do you rally existing employees around new projects and initiatives and prepare them with the necessary skills?

Jennie Rogerson: For me, the main thing is communication. We do communication differently at Canva than what I’ve seen elsewhere. For example, when COVID happened, we moved from stand-up meetings to ‘sit downs,’ and we do one every fortnight. The founders share what’s important to them and what’s top of mind, but we include function-specific content. So a few weeks ago, we did a people group one, then last week was focused on user voice, which is our customer support team. And when we do big initiatives, we tend to use that kind of forum to get everyone on the same page. What it does is give everybody the same context. 

Communication is the action center, which helps if there’s a need to change direction or pivot strategy.

Tell me about Canva’s recently launched “Pathways” team, which is helping employees gain skills and move to different roles within the organization. 

Amy Schultz: Last year, we set up our Pathways team, essentially our internal mobility team. We have dedicated ‘Pathways partners’ to help facilitate someone applying and getting an internal job and help them understand how their skills can be transferable to another role. We currently have two dedicated Pathways partners—in Australia and the Philippines. So far, we have received almost 300 internal applications from our Canvanauts and facilitated 60 Canvanauts moving into new roles.

Someone in the Philippines moved from our customer happiness team to people ops. And in China, someone from the talent acquisition team moved onto our design team. We’re seeing a cross-pollination of experience and skills across the organization.

What are the biggest learnings from the Pathways program? What’s worked, and what are some opportunity areas?

Rogerson: What’s worked well is leveling the playing field for people to see what roles are open. That’s important as we scale.

Something we need to do well in the future is connecting the jigsaw pieces between Pathways and what goals [leadership] has coming through the pipeline. So what skills are we going to need? How do we assess what skills we’ve got internally? How do we put it to the team and make sure that it’s a flywheel as we go? 

You told the Sydney Morning Herald that Canva would not cut staffing. How has your talent strategy set you up to be able to make that statement?

Rogerson: In January 2022, we announced a mantra called ‘Fewer Things Well,’ which stuck. It equates to fewer goals well, fewer meetings well, and fewer hires well. It was something that we fused through all of our communications. 

We knew turbulence was coming—we could see it—and we needed to be incredibly mindful of our actions. We are in an incredibly fortunate position to be profitable for the sixth year in a row. So infusing that [mantra] into our whole team, so everyone understood why we were doing it, and what it meant to not be able to hire all of the people that we probably wanted to hire at the time, and how important it was for the future, laid the groundwork for a great approach.

Amber Burton

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes, and insights from the field.

A recent survey from career site Resume Builder finds many employers are continuing to utilize surveillance technology to monitor remote employees. Over a third of surveyed employers said their company requires employees to work on a live, monitored video feed. Though the practice might seem invasive to some, it appears to be paying off for leaders. 

"Ninety-seven percent of respondents ‘somewhat’ (34%) or ‘strongly’ (63%) believe that implementing this software has increased employee productivity," according to the report

Around the Table

A round-up of the most important HR headlines, studies, podcasts, and long-reads.

- Spotify’s $100 million diversity fund only spent about $10 million in its first year. Bloomberg

- Accenture will lay off 2.5% of its global workforce, totaling about 19,000 jobs. CNN

- Jobs referencing ChatGPT and other A.I. tools on the career site Indeed more than doubled last year. Sidenote: Indeed plans to lay off 15% of its staff. NBC News

- Wages for the lowest-paid workers grew 9% between 2019 and 2022, faster than those for any other income level. Axios


Everything you need to know from Fortune.

Presidential union. President Joe Biden reportedly plans to run the first presidential reelection campaign staffed by a unionized workforce. —Will Weissert and Zeke Miller

Pursuit of happiness. Knowledge workers ranked mental well-being as their top priority over career ambitions. —Megan Leonhardt 

Forced to change. Ikea was forced to improve its process for handling sexual harassment allegations after an employee complained about its current practices. —Chloe Taylor

Healthy lifestyle. Hybrid workers have more time to sleep, exercise, and make healthy eating choices than before the pandemic, according to a survey from the International Workplace Group. —Alexa Mikhail

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet