Hire right, hire for success

“We spend a lot of time hiring, and I often say this is the most impactful thing we can spend our time on.”

Hire Right, Hire for Success


When it comes to hiring and retaining talent, we can all learn a thing or two (or three!) from a unicorn. No, not the mythical creature, but from Canva, Australia’s only technology “unicorn.” (According to Wiki, a unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion.  Canva have hit $55b.)

Since its foray into the tech scene as a graphic-design-as-a-service company in 2012, Canva has grown from strength to strength. And its robust growth is partly due to its recipe for recruitment and retention success, which has three key ingredients:

  1. Strong focus on a supportive, diverse, and quirky culture
  2. Deployment of small but empowered teams
  3. Strategic talent acquisition and structured on-boarding


A downright quirky culture … and healthy dose of science

Zach Kitschke, Canva’s Head of People, labels their culture “downright quirky” and shares that it has always been in their DNA to celebrate team milestones with unique company events, such as drone-racing, dove-releasing, and plate-smashing. These extraordinary revelries energise and motivate team members to deliver the company’s vision: Empowering the world to design

As for empowering its employees, Canva has two full-time internal coaches whose main job is to give employees proper guidance in their growth and development. Canvanauts as employees are affectionately known, especially new ones, are also empowered to do a self-review and assess their opinion of their strengths against the views from the people they work with closely. This 360-review process reveals blind spots and enriches Canva’s constructive feedback culture.

Fingerprint for Success, a cutting edge people analytics platform, based on science, not moonbeams, enables people to identify their motivations and attitudes at work and is used by Canva for all hires, and with all teams, to make sure people have the right superpowers to succeed, and to help them develop as the needs of the business change.  Because it looks at motivational traits, and not personality, the insights mean that a specific area can be identified and flexed (which is difficult with a tool like DISC or MBTI which applies broad labels).  

Fingerprint for Success is also used to inform the job description, craft the advertisement and attract the ideal candidate using language which resonates with them.  Specific interview questions can be targeted to help uncover areas of fit with the role, or where the candidate may struggle.  And with a dynamic interface, the candidate’s F4S can be compared with the team in real time, enabling identification of who will be culture additive, assisting in ensuring cognitive diversity of the team.  

(If you’d like to know more about Fingerprint for Success (F4S), get in touch or you can find out what your superpowers are now, by clicking the button below and creating your own free F4S.)


Empowered employees lead to Empowered teams

In 2018, Canva was awarded the top spot in the 100-999 employee category on Great Place to Work’s list of 50 best places to work in Australia. Other recognitions include a 4.8-star rating on Glassdoor with a 100% CEO approval rating. Canva’s focus on small but empowered teams, a strategy since its founding days, seems to work in its favour.

During the planning stage of any project, each group is encouraged to pitch ideas and share goals. Projects are then assigned to dedicated teams with the right skillsets. This structure allows transparency to thrive in Canva. With transparency, teams attain milestones faster, avoid unnecessary organisational hierarchy, and celebrate wins together. 

Hiring and retaining talent for success 

Team Happiness, aka HR, coordinates closely on a hiring strategy with teams that need a specific position to be filled. Potential candidates are given a chance to shine by tackling similar problems that current Canva teams face. This allows the team members to see how candidates spot opportunities and align (or not) their values with everyone else.

Once a candidate is chosen, the new hire becomes everyone’s responsibility. Canva team members explain how they work with one another to reach goals while an assigned mentor provides moral support for the new employee in the form or daily and weekly check-ins. As part of the onboarding plan, newbies receive an email drip campaign that details everything about Canva, from what to learn about its company culture to what to expect on the first day.

They also get to meet Canva’s three co-founders, Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht, and Cameron Adams, who share what Canva was like during its startup phase, what its current plans are, and what’s in store for the future.


“We spend a lot of time hiring, and I often say this is the most impactful thing we can spend our time on.”

– Zach Kitschke, Head of HR

So what’s in Canva’s future?

Well, the future looks bright for Canva.  As announced at their Summer Season Opener held at Luna Park in Sydney (yes we were lucky enough to score a seat to watch all the action live!), they announced that they have surpassed more than 2 billion designs on the platform and in 2020 will foray into integrated apps, video and a desktop version, along with making the 1% Pledge (1% equity would give them a $34m fund to play with!).  They are also living their dream by giving Canva Pro free to not just NFPs but to schools too.


To learn more about how Canva hires and on-boards the right people to drive stellar business growth you can read HR Insider here.




Share This