24: Unlocking Potential Through a People First Culture

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Claude Silver is the Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia, one of the world’s hottest digital agencies, founded in 2009. Claude’s passion is facilitating growth and change in people, teams, and companies. She is dedicated to helping people find meaning in what they are doing and guiding colleagues in identifying and remove roadblocks. Claude cultivates the heart of the agency’s success, its people. Kyle O’Connor joined Claude at VaynerMedia’s New York office to discuss how they have built and maintained a ‘people first’ culture.

Key Learnings From This Episode

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  • Claude Silver Quote on HR Studio PodcastClaude’s passion and purpose: Claude feels her purpose is being of ‘joyful service’. She knew that she wanted to serve people and to provide help, guidance, happiness, mindfulness, and joy to people. Her passion is facilitating growth and change with people, teams, and companies, and unlocking people. While Claude was doing business strategist work, she found that mentoring and coaching brought her more joy and was pivotal in her career journey.
  • HR’s name change: VaynerMedia changed the team’s name from Human Resources to People and Experience to focus on people and experience the team provides or co-creates with employees. 
  • How does VaynerMedia maintain its ethos of ‘people first’? VaynerMedia has an open door policy. All members of the leadership team are approachable. Specific actions include:
    • Regular “one-on-ones” to listen and ask questions such as are employees being challenged.
    • Mini Town Halls where she brings together approximately 20 people (about 75% new hires along with others who have been with the firm for three to five years) to talk about culture and questions they may have.
    • Lunch & Learns and SLACK (a cloud-based team collaboration tool) which is very helpful for a company with six different locations.
The way to maintain ‘people first’ is through high-touch so that employees know they have a team of people who care, and they know they have a CEO who puts people first.
  • Who is Gary Vaynerchuk? Gary is the founder, face, and heart of the organization. He considers himself HR. It is imperative that Claude and Gary are aligned.
  • Creating a safe space for employees: It is about connecting. If there is empathy or trust exchanged, then people are more willing to let down their guard and let you in. You ultimately get an incredible explosion of a relationship, and with that, anything can happen.
  • Mentors who have had an impact on Claude and her career: Claude includes Nicole Crane, COO with Organica in San Francisco with whom she worked in 2006. Claude also includes Lori Bitter, President & CEO of JW San Francisco who was heartfelt and extremely smart. Finally, Claude’s father who is an entrepreneur. Other mentors and contributors to her success include her mother and friends who keep her grounded and honest and remind her to play.
  • What resources does Claude use regularly? Claude looks at Gary’s content regularly. She also reads NOBL, a Medium blog created by Bud Caddell. It is very helpful for teambuilding, organizational development, and operational development. Bud is a strategist and Claude follows people who have combined marketing strategy with the world of culture, HR, and people and experience.
  • Measuring success: Claude feels if she is all about being of ‘joyful service’, and if she is all about unlocking people and facilitating their growth and change so that they are happier employees and more successful employees, that is the way she can measure her success. Claude quoted Maya Angelou: ‘People forget what you said, people forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’  And that is what it is about.
  • How does VaynerMedia use SLACK? One example is an LGBT group created using SLACK. One of the company’s main priorities is to support diversity and create an environment where people feel safe to be themselves. Another example is an account based SLACK that replaces email and is used by the Anheiser-Busch team.

Recommended Reading and References from this Episode

To Follow Claude Silver

Claude Silver's Question to HR Studio Podcast Group Members

When you end your week and you look back on your week, how do you know it has been successful?  
What are the clues that tell you it was a good week?

Claude Silver HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Claude Silver HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - 8:00am
Human Resources
Kyle O'Connor
Claude Silver
HR Studio Podcast