ROI Simplified: Keep People First
A conversation with keynote speaker Claude Silver
The HR Conference & Expo is happening in Vancouver, B.C. on May 2-3, 2023.
One of the conference’s keynote speakers, Claude Silver, graciously sat down with PeopleTalk via Zoom to discuss her role as chief heart officer for VaynerMedia, how motherhood has changed her point of view as a leader and what people can expect to learn from her keynote.
Tickets for the conference are still available and can be purchased at cphrbc.ca/conf2023. Early bird deadline is February 15th!
Your title is chief heart officer, what exactly is a chief heart officer and what does a typical day look like for you?
A chief heart officer is someone who puts the hearts of others at the centre of their heart.
My role is to make sure that the experience our people are having at VaynerMedia, from the minute they submit their CV, to their last day with us and beyond—VaynerMedia has an alumni program— is a positive one. I am accountable for that piece of our organization.
The title of chief heart officer came from a discussion I had with my boss Gary about what I really wanted to do. I told him, all I care about are the people and their heart beats.
BOOM, the role of chief heart officer was born.
As a chief heart officer you really need to be connected and in touch with the organizations’ and people’s heart beat.
Also, a big part of the role is being able to hold space for people to share their thoughts and experiences, whether that is one-on-one or in a group setting. That is something that is very different from what a CHRO or chief people/talent officer does.
The role really encompasses everything. It involves holding and caring for your organization’s culture, it’s cultivating great humans, managers and leaders, truly caring for our people and making sure our vision of being the single greatest ‘people’ organization on earth is being met by not only the leaders, but everyone.
Are you at all surprised more organizations don’t have a chief heart officer?
There are three-or-four of us now, but I’m not surprised more organizations haven’t hired one.
If we have this same conversation in five years and there aren’t more, I will be a little upset that more organizations don’t have someone whose responsibility is to connect with every single employee and infuse the organization with empathy.
I’m very hopeful, that right now we are on a disruptive path to change an archaic way of working and treating people, because we can only keep bending things (the old way of working) before they break and we’re left with some sort of anarchy in the working world.
At 25, you started your journey towards becoming more self aware, something that I admire and hope everyone does at some point. How did you start on your journey and what have you learned about yourself along the way?
My journey actually started before that when I was 19-or-20, when I began to grow more independent and step out into the world on my own.
I learned two things pretty quickly. One, getting out on my own provided me a much needed kick in the butt. And two, there was no way I was ever going to be of service to others if I wasn’t able to understand and help myself.
Through becoming more self aware I learned that to be an empath is a superpower. When we use terms like ‘soft skills’, in a way, it weakens the superpower sort of like kryptonite does to superman. I tend to ignore it when people refer to empathy as ‘soft’ because it’s a very important skill too.
I used to think that life was linear. You chose your path at 20 and away you went. What I’ve learned is life is anything but linear. We are fluid and ever-changing. As long as we keep optimism alive, the next thing will come. And you don’t need to always have all the answers.
And maybe the most important lesson I have learned on the journey is that I can have and be many things.. I used to think that I could only have a one thing like being able to understand the spiritualty of human existence. But now, I also realize I can have that, as well as enjoy snowboarding really fast, as well as love playing with my kids.
You really can have more than one passion all at once.
You’ve been a mom for about 4 years now, I know when I became a dad it certainly changed how I viewed things in both my personal and professional life, how has becoming a mom changed how you view things?
Humility! I used to think that I was a pretty empathetic person to parents when they would mention they needed to pick their child up at daycare or take them to the doctor, but there was always that little voice in the back of my head saying ‘really?’.
When I became a mom myself, I learned that everything starts with your kids and stops with them. So, becoming a mom certainly gave me a lot of humility and perspective on things.
I’m now able to connect better with people who are parents within our organization and when things come up, now, I’m like, “I get it…and I’m sorry in the past if I didn’t always sympathize.”
Before I had kids, sure I had hobbies, but my life for the most part was work—I didn’t really care too much if it was an 11-or-12 hour day. As soon as I became a mom, I stopped working 5:30 and I didn’t start any earlier than 9:00 in the morning. I want to make sure I’m there each night for dinner, bath, bed.
The other thing since becoming a mom that has been brought to the forefront for me is imagination and creativity. I love my time with my kids where I’m making up songs, having tea parties or just doing whatever.
Culture and belonging are so important to any workplace or organization, how do you suggest leaders go about ensuring they have a healthy workplace culture, where people feel they belong?
First and foremost, leaders must be willing to get vulnerable.
Leaders must be willing to listen to learn, not just listen so that they can talk over someone. There’s so much each of us can learn from one and other, whether we’re connecting on-screen or in-person. If leaders choose to really get to know their people, I mean really get to know them. Find out about people’s families and what their kids/pets names are. Find out what kinds of interests people have and why it’s of interest to them.
When leaders actively do that they will find connection with their people. It’s not hard, and it goes a long way towards building a healthy culture.
I really believe that leaders set the vision and people are motivated by progress. People want to know that they are going somewhere and it’s the right somewhere. I really believe that for leaders to communicate that, they need to have humility and a heathy amount of self awareness.
You’re speaking at the HR Conference & Expo in Vancouver on May 2, 2023, what excites you about speaking at this event and what takeaways are you hoping attendees leave with?
In my heart, I really want people to know that everything is the ROI to putting people first.
There is nothing that isn’t the ROI.
What is the ROI? Making people happy. Making people feel more fulfilled, curious, inspired and engaged at work. Making people feel that they’re in a culture that wants connection, rather than one that is about fear.
So, if there’s one thing people walk away with, is just knowing, that this works. It works if you stick to it and beat that drum ever single day.
Ian Esplen is CPHR BC & Yukon’s communications specialist. One of his responsibilities is to put together the content for PeopleTalk magazine. In his free time Ian enjoys hiking with his dogs, spending time with his family and watching his son play hockey.
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