Editor Jon Kennard talks to UNLEASH World keynote Claude Silver about humanity and purpose in HR.
Do you bring your whole self to the office? Are you ready to embrace your flaws if it makes you more resilient?
VaynerMedia’s Claude Silver tackles the difficult questions ahead of her talk at our Paris event.

Jon Kennard and UNLEASH World keynote speaker, columnist and VaynerMedia chief heart officer Claude Silver discuss the importance of culture, purpose, humanity and more in this mini deep dive ahead of her session at this year’s show.
Jon Kennard: I can’t wait for your talk, but also for what we’re going to be talking about today.
So my first question is about the event – one of the overarching themes of this year is around purpose. We see that word at quite a high-level word in a lot of companies’ mission statements, but how can we translate that word from high-level mission statements into the work that we do every day?
Claude Silver: It’s such an important question. Because in order for things to become habitual, for people to really gravitate and grab onto them, they need to become action-oriented.
So it’s not enough to have your purpose statement on your wall or your website, you need to bite-sized chunk them, and show people how to actually live the purpose, live the mission, so that they literally become action-oriented every single day; it’s not enough to just say you’re empathetic. How do we show empathy? How do we show kindness, and then that mission statement, those foundations of the purpose statement become a part of the actual DNA of the organization? But it needs to be shown.
It’s like in screenwriting; we talk about show don’t tell. So, we need to show people and make them desirable for people to want to practice and want to use on an everyday basis. So that’s the first thing I would say, is make things available to people bite-sized, chunk them, and then show people how to bring and manifest certain purposes, mission statements, and values to life, and then it’s in the water stream. And that is also how you can scale culture. That is exactly how you can scale it. It’s not just your CEO, or myself or the HR team, that is pushing culture all day long.
Every single person has a responsibility to carry the culture, the values and the mission statement. But we need to make that digestible and desirable for those people.
JK: So, to zero in on your talk, my first thought when reading the title of your talk, which is ‘Bringing Humanity back into the Workplace’, I don’t know why, but my mind immediately went towards human flaws; because I think we talk often about our positive attributes, but we also have to acknowledge that we – as rounded human beings – have flaws and imperfections. In an increasingly competitive business world, how can we incorporate this recognition of failure into our work?
CS: You know, I’m smiling because we’re perfectly imperfect. And the idea I believe, of the workplace of today, is to incorporate the whole person into the workplace, messiness and all.
We no longer want people to come in armored and look exactly like each other. I think it’s really important to acknowledge the fact that we are perfectly imperfect, we are all learning, we are all on this journey together.
As we open the door to new frontiers, work as you and I know it is very different than it was two and a half, three years ago. And so I believe success really lies in the empowerment of each and every individual to bring themselves to work – and that doesn’t mean being messy and sloppy with your emotions.
I’m talking still about having self-awareness and emotional regulation. But we know that Gen Z, and the younger part of Millennials, this is who they are, they are coming to work, they are asking to be met, they are asking for emotional and mental health support, they are asking for purpose in their work, and they are also saying ‘accept me as I am’.
And I believe the more we can find acceptance not only for them, but ourselves, our own imperfections, messiness, flaws, if you will, I believe the stronger the organization will be and the quicker we can get to innovation and creativity, collaboration and everything else that we know is needed to really break through today.
JK: So aside from flaws, is there anything else that means being 100% human at work to you?
CS: Being 100% human at work to me means bringing in your imagination, bringing in every single thing that we have in the past kept out of the workplace. Maybe that’s joy, maybe that’s friendship, maybe that’s recognition of one another.
It’s the simple things that you and I do in our own families, in our own small cultures of our football clubs, or our girlfriend’s dinner night out. But we in the past have kept all of that separate. And so that means we are not being our full 100% human selves at work.
In order to do that, we absolutely must greet ourselves and allow ourselves to walk through the front door every single day, flaws and all, and be open to failure. Because if you’re open to failure, then guess what, after a few strikes, you will hit a home run – it is just the natural law.
Practice and practice and practice. And if we are not accepting failure, if we are not accepting flaws, and we are not accepting the natural state of being alive, quite frankly, there is no way that we’re going to get to optimization, perfection, or expertise.
If we don’t keep on trying and failing and trying and failing, getting up again and getting up again, each and every failure makes us I believe more resilient, and quite frankly, stronger and more motivated to get it right…
For the full conversation – listen above…
See Claude keynoting at this year’s show! Don’t miss out on UNLEASH World in Paris this October.
Editorial content manager
Jon has 20 years’ experience in digital journalism and more than a decade in L&D and HR publishing.
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