12 May 2019

Digital Nation Viewpoints: Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia


As VaynerMedia’s first Chief Heart Officer, Claude Silver was handpicked by CEO Gary Vaynerchuk and works as his number two, with a remit to connect the agency’s 800 people across five offices. She joined in 2014 from Publicis London, where she was head of strategy and digital and has held senior positions at media owners and advertising agencies including SAY and JWT London. 

How can companies create and maintain a unique culture?

Employees need direction, and direction comes from the top, so values do have to be blessed by someone in the C-suite. Culture champions, roles like mine or chief inspiration officer or chief culture office - there’s often not a firm a job description - are a new art. We’re all figuring it out from what we intuitively feel the culture needs and what the data tells us the culture needs. 

Are companies in the digital sector recognising millennial cultural values?

I really do think so. Potential employees are asking now how we create culture; how we retain our talent; how we create a sense of happiness internally; what is employee engagement?  The root of the word culture comes from the Latin cultura, which is cultivation of the soul. Companies and leaders are increasingly understanding that this is what human beings are asking for: to be cared for, taught and coached, because there is very little separation now between work and life. 

How important is salary in the wider context of employment today?

Salary isn’t the most important thing anymore. Finding a purpose that is greater than self is very important; working towards something or for a cause is very important. Having internal affinity groups seems is very important right now. Bringing in some kind of mindfulness or wellness programmes are things that seem very important as well. And philanthropy of some sort. 

For instance we use an online giving space, RaisedBy.Us, where you can separate out a percentage of your salary to be donated each month to a charity of your choice. Thus an employee knows that every month 10% is going to charity and that makes them feel good. It’s so much more than about the salary and the benefits. 

How do you increase diversity across the workforce?

I think about the long-term impact of diversity all the time. If you look at diversity and strip back what that really means, it means I want to belong at your company; to feel physically and emotionally safe. And that means there needs to be others like me. So if you’re a person of colour, there are other people of colour. If you’re LGBTQ you want to know there’s, say, a Pride group. Or if you have dyslexia you want to know we have tools to help you.

So, the short and long term benefits of diversity are that you're creating community, you're creating culture.  Just hiring for diversity is not enough. 

We’ve created something called Vayner Allies, a group who have been trained by a psychologist who is a professional in cultural competency. Now, the courageous conversations they enable allows HR to scale because not everyone should want or need to come to the HR department immediately. People issues are not always HR issues. 

How is training changing to fit the needs of today’s employee?

We have a lot of coaching at Vayner, one-on-one or in groups. We’re trialing life coaching and are bringing in meditation and yoga. I’m working with people on figuring out what their values are and helping them identify a purpose or a guiding principle. 

As we continue to foster and nurture this younger generation one of the things incumbent upon us to teach them is to manage their energy. Energy management is something that is needed in today’s age when there is a lot of anxiety and mental health issues.

As employers we need to be aware of how we take care of your mind and body and hopefully your also your spirit.



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