CHRO

Chief Chat: Jennie Rogerson on office culture and growing companies

Canva’s global head of people embraces flexibility and connection in today’s remote-friendly world.
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Canva

· 4 min read

Canva’s global head of people Jennie Rogerson is based in Sydney, Australia, but we spoke to her while she was in Austin, Texas, visiting a newly-opened “flagship office.”

Rogerson shared her approach to building culture, RTO, and dealing with the increasingly complex elements of workforce strategy.

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

How has the office journey been for Canva during the pandemic?

We didn’t have many remote folks prior to Covid-19…At the same time as the rest of the world, we moved to flexible working, which was a journey. We really centered ourselves [on] guiding principles of flexibility and connection, which has been so instrumental in moving forward.

We’ve centered all of our decisions around the flexibility to work how best works for you…if you prefer quiet time, if you prefer not to be around people, that works. If you prefer to be around people full-time, you can be. And on the connection side, it’s really important that our teams come together and put the product first, then make sure that you’re having that deep connection time [and] make sure that you’re connecting in ways that are different.

That’s not to say that connection can only happen in real life or in person, I think it’s really important to make sure that that communication can happen anywhere, be it Slack or Zoom or whatever it may be, I think it’s incredibly important.

What is the current office policy?

We still don’t have any regimental asks for people to come back to the offices, but we find that people are still coming together in a really big way in all of our spaces around the world.

We really leave that up to our team and trust them to make the decisions that are right for them. And make sure that we’re kind of thinking team first, or what it means to make sure that we’re shipping our goals and connecting as much as possible with those two philosophies of flexibility and connection top of mind.

With Canva turning 10 years old in 2023, what is the state of its workforce today?

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We are now 3,500 people around the world…We were founded in Perth, Australia, which is quite an isolated town. The founders then moved to Sydney and then we kind of escalated…We opened offices in the Philippines, in China, then the US, and then we acquired companies across Europe. Now, [we] have offices in Vienna, London, and the Czech Republic. Those are our core offices. Then we also have hubs around the world, in places like Brisbane, Melbourne, Auckland, which are on the smaller side, San Jose being another one, where kind of pockets of our people are based…so it’s fairly dispersed, but we’re really intentional of how we grow and which teams we have in each location to make sure that we are utilizing the time zones.

How have you managed the increasing complexity of the workplace and economy as an HR leader?

We have a mantra internally called, “Fewer things well,” and that really homes in on things that we build for our product and it also really embeds in our talent strategy as “fewer hires well.”

So, really making sure that we are not growing for growing’s sake, every person that we have is going to really contribute and evolve our culture. But also we hired them specifically for goals that we want to take on. So, making sure that people are being brought on that can elevate and evolve our culture as we grow.

I think also bringing in new skills, new talents, looking in different locations. So, things like really being intentional of not needing university degrees when we hire, it’s been amazing for us in the last few years, and just making sure that we are searching in different locations from diverse backgrounds.

For example, I come from a hospitality background, we hire a lot of people from hospitality backgrounds and different areas that they can really add to our incredibly diverse team. And making sure that we are not just looking at the same talent pools as everyone else.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.