Today I am honored to introduce you to Claude Silver, the Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia. Her work focuses on the “people-side” of business; she dedicates herself to creating a workplace where employees can thrive. She has enjoyed leadership positions at JWT London, Publicis London, SAYMedia, and Organic. She also founded and ran a Surfing and Outdoor Adventure company in Northern California, where she taught surfing 265 days a year! Throughout this Talent Talk you will learn more about her current role at VaynerMedia, practices she employs, and great insights for aspiring professionals in the field of talent management and the employee experience.
TSL (Talent Science Lab): Please describe your current role, and what that role entails.
CS (Claude Silver): My role is Chief Heart Officer; I oversee people operations and anything to do with our employees and their experiences here. My hope is that people come away from their experiences at VayenrMedia feeling more grounded in the skills they wanted to develop, and feel a sense of growth when it comes to their own evolution. When I say their own evolution, I mean the interpersonal skills, such as self-awareness, forgiveness, and how to operate on a team. Working in teams means everything here—nothing gets done alone. There is no one person that operates alone, or can operate alone, with the exception of Gary Vaynerchuk—the CEO.
TSL: What impact does VaynerMedia have on the lives of their employees and the audiences they reach?
CS: For the employees, I absolutely believe we are teaching them both hard skills and life skills at VaynerMedia. We are doing social media marketing, digital marketing, strategy (from cultural anthropology to ethnography), we are teaching people how to apply paid media, which are the dollars behind paid advertisements—these are skills one needs in communication and marketing today, because the main focus is how to reach a specific audience with a set message. The life-skills, (I certainly don’t call them soft-skills because I think that is offensive), are skills such as self-awareness, empathy, accountability, gratitude, kindness, and much more. We teach people to “let go of the reins” and focus on the things that truly matter—this is very subjective to every individual, but I want people to lean in on the parts of their job that really matter to them. As terms of how we are effected our audience, I hope we are tickling their emotion in some way, shape, or form, because that is what advertising is, it is how you get someone to click an ad. Whether it is a pretty picture, or an emotional video; you really need to know how to target your advertising and create a story that will hit people’s emotions.
TSL: What onboarding practices do you employ that you believe contribute to teamwork and comradery?
CS: Every employee does a 4-day orientation, no matter if you in the C-suite or a Junior Copywriter—they are all in the room together. The first thing I think that happens is people start to see that we try to be as flat as we possibly can by taking down the fictitious barriers people think are there between someone in the C-suite and another employee. I think this builds comradery and everyone is getting the same education from each subject master. In terms of team, I think they become a cohort together; they may not work directly together because they were all hired for specific roles, but it is always nice to think, “Oh yeah, I did orientation with that person 2 years ago”. We also buddy people together for lunches and try to get the DNA of VaynerMedia (putting people 1st) into the way they work with others.
TSL: What is the most important aspect, lesson, or training activity new-hires go through during this 4-day orientation?
CS: It would be collaboration. It would be the sense that every person is being trained or taught immediately by different subject-matter experts. They see the materials we put out and the way we think, but they are witnessing people taking time out of their day to come in and train them. This fosters collaboration, because it is all about knowledge sharing. Our culture believes in sharing knowledge with one another—which is one of our winning formulas.
TSL: What kind of training and development do you offer employees throughout their time at VaynerMedia?
CS: Depending on their department they will go through a myriad of different trainings to provide them the skills necessary to perform their jobs. Whether or not that is learning how to create storyboards, create screenplays, radical candor feedback, presenter training, facilitator training, or paid media trainings. Some are very niche and department-dependent.
TSL: What are some innovate practices your organization does that others do not?
CS: I believe the way we train people to think about digital media and social media is different. I don’t think we are the only creative shop on the block doing this, but the point of view Gary Vaynerchuk brings to the organization is very rare. Such as, market for the year you live in; most clients are thinking about their marketing and their budgets is as if it is the year 2000 or 1980—it is very antiquated. But Gary has evolved our thinking, and quite frankly the market’s thinking. For example, Gary observes what people are doing while they are on their phones—not eaves-dropping, but noticing what apps they are using. This is something anyone in advertising should be doing.
TSL: What scientific tools or measures are you currently looking for in your line of work as Chief Heart Officer?
CS: One of the things I am asking for is a way for us to quantify and qualify why people leave. We do an exit interview with every single person that leaves—every person. In that exit interview we get so much information, they are either leaving for another job, or moving to another area, or there wasn’t enough opportunity, etc. That kind of data is very important to me and this is something I think can be built. I am interested in employee happiness, employee fulfillment, and employee satisfaction, but I haven’t found anything that speaks the language of VaynerMedia. Data is everything! If I had the right data, I could potentially make changes more rapidly.
TSL: What advice would you give to an aspiring professional hoping to enter the arena of talent management?
CS: The advice I would give to several individuals trying to get into different areas of work that have to do with people is to focus on relationship building and maintaining. How does one get the confidence to be-friend a client or make that cold-call introduction? These are skills I think are necessary in today’s day and age. This is all about human-to-human interaction, and skills that enable people to be more comfortable with this interaction are the most important skills to have. I think most other things can be taught.