Crafting Connections through the Power of Storytelling
Co-Founder of H3 HR Advisors and Program Chair, HR Technology Conference
CEO and Principal Analyst, H3 HR Advisors
About this episode
Crafting Connections through the Power of Storytelling
This episode of At Work in America is sponsored by Paychex, one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement, and insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes. After years of being in survival mode amidst a global pandemic, HR leaders have been challenged to get back to business — ushering in the era of the dynamic workplace. In our 7th Annual Pulse of HR Report, find out how these leaders are optimizing the work experience regardless of where it’s done, addressing widening generational gaps, and increasing productivity not just for their employees, but also themselves. Visit paychex.com/awia to check it out today.
Today, we spoke with Elena Valentine from Skill Scout Films about the power of storytelling in life and the workplace.
– Importance of telling good stories
– How to capture culture through film
– Connecting people to a mission
– The value of work
– Personal stories of why we do what we do
Thank you for joining the show today! Remember to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!
Welcome to At Work in America, sponsored by Paychex. At Work in America digs in behind the headlines and trends to the stories of real people making a difference in the world of work. And now here are your hosts, Steve Boese and Trish Steed.
Welcome back to the At Work in America show. We have a great show today. Trish, you are super excited. I could tell already from our brief pre show interaction, you’re fired up for today’s show, which is pretty awesome. I am to actually but yeah, we’re gonna have a good conversation today.
You know what? Hello, and yes, I am excited. This is just, you meet those people in your life where you just connect like little magnets. And I feel like our guest is a magnet for me like anytime I see her which is not often enough. I feel like I just gravitate right to her. So yes, I’m super excited. I say I love the topic we’re doing today, Steve, this is a good one.
Yeah, it’s a fun topic. We’re going to be talking about storytelling, for talent management, for recruiting for brand awareness and plenty more, before we welcome our guest. In fact, Trish, perhaps even you should welcome our guest today, I usually welcome the guests maybe maybe we’ll pitch it over to you to welcome the guests. But I will thank our sponsors, and our friends at Paychex. This episode of At Work in America is sponsored by Paychex, one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement and insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes. After years of being stuck in survival mode. And it’s the global pandemic, economy leaders have been challenged to get back to business by turning in the era of the dynamic workplace. In the seventh annual Pulse of HR report, you can learn how these leaders are optimizing the work experience. Regardless of where work gets done, addressing widening generational gaps, that’s a real thing, by the way, and increasing productivity not just for their employees, but also themselves. And you can visit paychex.com/awia and check that out today.
Great. Well, thank you. And thank you for letting me welcome our guest to the show. Today’s guest is actually, as I said, someone who I find just so compelling to speak with and spend time around anyway, we’d like to welcome Elena Valentine from Skill Scout to the show. She actually works with organizations who adopt storytelling for brand awareness, talent, management, and more. She is currently the CEO and co founder of Skill Scout films, which is a production company that creates compelling films to inspire candidates and employees into action. She is also the co founder and board president of Mezcla Media Collective, an organization that supports more than 800 plus women of color, and non binary filmmakers in Chicago, her ultimate goal is to create visual love letters that touch the human spirit, and ignite positive change. So Elena, welcome to the show.
Elena Valentine 3:02
I am blessed to be here.
We are blessed to have you. I think that you know, it’s interesting. We read bios for people all the time. And you know, when you talk about love letters, and storytelling, and just helping women of color, and women in general and nonbinary, like you truly embody the type of personality that that means this with every fiber of your being. So we are blessed to have you on the show and can’t wait to just talk about what you’ve been up to and what you’re doing with organizations more specifically.
Elena Valentine 3:35
Yeah, so it’s Skill Scout. And you saw this in the bio, where the business of winning hearts and job changed lives. And so the short of it, especially when it comes to the workplace, we’re helping people picture themselves in those jobs. We also make commercials, music videos, and commercial ads. But inevitably, we built this business proudly on the shoulders of talent acquisition and talent management and HR to really tell those stories. And these are really important stories, right? You know, what we really need to remember in this space, is we’re asking someone to change their entire life, their family’s life, their future, and the stakes are much higher. And so finding a job is a very high consideration decision. And so the more that we can equip candidates, employees to really see themselves in these jobs to win their hearts to win their family’s hearts. It really makes all the difference. This is not just any standard purchase on Amazon, right? In for both of you probably have kids, right? Like, you know, you’re thinking much more about a larger package here and a decision like this. So Storytelling does that, right? Storytelling moves people to action by moving their hearts first. And that has been a mechanism by which we have been moving people to action. Since we had fire, millennia and millennia and millennia ago.
That’s so true. Could you maybe just as we get started first, if I’m listening to the show, and I’m not familiar with Skill Scout films and how this all came to be, can you maybe just give us a couple of minutes of kind of the backstory and what really inspired you bringing this forward, because it’s not something that again, I’ve worked in HR for many years, I didn’t ever have a resource, like what you provide. So and I know you’ve been around now for quite a long time. So maybe just the backstory, if you will?
Elena Valentine 5:48
Well, I’ll do two quick Reader’s Digest, because that’s important here. Certainly my why and kind of coming into this in my own fascination about jobs. And then Skill Scouts. So actually, this is really interesting. I’ll ask you guys, you know, Steve, what did you want to be when you grew up? Think when you were like, 9-10 years old?
And I give you the every mail, or? Or the real answer I wanted to be. I wanted to be a pitcher for the New York Mets. I still want to be, I haven’t given up completely on that dream.
Elena Valentine 6:22
That was a dream? What about you Trish?
I wanted to be like in the FBI, or the DEA or something. I wanted to be an investigator who like handled crime.
HR. That’s good. Yeah. Good. All right.
There’s investigations and crime. So I mean, let’s be honest.
Elena Valentine 6:43
Yes. And built your career really on investigating and asking good questions. Haven’t you trashed, right? So there’s always a thread. So it’s interesting on my desk, I have a photo of my 10 year old self. Oh, my goodness. And there’s a lot of reasons for this. But when I think about this photo, and I think about what I wanted to be when I grew up at this stage, I remember writing that I wanted to be an oceanographer. And I wanted to be an oceanographer like Jacques Cousteau, because Jacques Cousteau is the goat of oceanography. I remember writing stories about it. I remember reading bios. So I’ve had a fascination about the world of work and what people have do with their lives. For as long as I can remember, right, I was that three year old kid that played dress up, playing all kinds of roles, I had an alter ego named Dr. Dick, and all like surgical wear, right? Like I had names for all of this. And what I realized as I got older, if I could articulate it was that I was fascinated about these jobs, because of the people who live them. I was I was fascinated by their stories. And so that really just always sparked an interest for me. And then my first job out of college, I was a labor union organizer. And if there is one thing that I will take away from that experience, which really was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, was really connecting and understanding what work meant to one’s identity and what work meant to one’s livelihood.
Elena Valentine 8:18
And in just the myriad of ways in which work showed up in people’s lives, that sometimes this was beyond a paycheck, it was what this paycheck could allow them to do, could build generational wealth and legacy for their family, I mean, all kinds of things. And so that really has been the foundation in the core for me about what work means. And certainly people owning their stories of work. When I think about really the foundation then of skill Scout, in a quick synopsis. My co founder, Abby and myself are former design researchers at an organization that was working on a national project, with the WK Kellogg Foundation aimed to connect young people to employment. These were young people between the ages of 16 and 24. Who didn’t look at on resumes. Some of them had never left their neighborhoods and they lacked access and exposure to jobs. They’re being shut out from the hiring process. And so despite hear me knowing that the workplace is filled with opportunities, our hiring processes were not. And you know, so part of the goal there was to really think about how we can connect these young people to the world of work and among many things that we kind of discovered and understood. A couple of things rang true one job descriptions don’t show it a job as like resumes don’t depict a candidate skills, and you cannot be what you cannot see. And what we knew even then what well over a decade ago is that media is literacy the 21st century.
Elena Valentine 10:04
And if we’re going to YouTube to learn how to braid our hair and get tours of the White House, we’re going to YouTube to learn about jobs. I mean, Trish, your kids going to YouTube going to tick tock to learn about jobs. And so we knew then that there was something here about what we could do to bring these jobs to life, initially, just to get young people excited about the world of work, and to help themselves screen in or self screen out of these roles. Because as we know that that’s a big part of it, there’s, there’s so much that a job post can really do, versus helping someone viscerally see and feel what this job is like, especially for a young person. And so that’s where it started. That was the spark, you know, inevitably, guys, I quit my job for impact, right, I saw social injustice in the world that I thought, and believe that story could help with what we have built today is a production company, again, that has been, you know, really founded and built on the shoulders of this industry, to help tell stories of work, to win hearts, and to move people to action, and to take pride in what they do and who they are and to own their stories. And so it started there. And we’ve had, you know, certainly the blessing of working with companies of all times, we’ve proudly built this business on the shoulders of small to mid sized manufacturers, if you could believe that. So I know my CNC machinist and my tool and die makers very well, American made, but have had the blessing of working with all kinds of of companies and brands at this point, Nike McDonald’s, Wendy’s Lowe’s, AutoZone, Playstation. And also some of you know, the best companies that you’ve never heard of.
Elena, I’m glad you gave that example. Or you mentioned you, you really have done a lot of work and had a lot of success with the small and midsize manufacturing companies. Because one of the questions we say I think about all the time, right when we’ve done I don’t know how many shows over the years on talent, attraction, employer branding, right, or whatever the subtopic is. And I always think I always ask the same question like of every guest like, well, what if I’m not Nike, right, which has such a compelling and last up and well known story? What if I’m, you know, a local manufacturer of you know, PVC pipes, right? That’s hard to rally around, that’s hard to get super fired up about it. And I’ve asked that question in different forms. 100 times probably, and I usually get a similar kind of answer. I’d love to know, like, when you’re working with organizations around storytelling around kind of making that more visceral connection between what the organization does what people do and trying to create these opportunities, or make people aware of the opportunities. Hey, what if our company’s not that sexy? It’s not that exciting. We’re not. How do you help them tell their stories?
Elena Valentine 12:58
Small businesses are thriving, and not sexy industries, or making sexy things? Right? I can, I think articulate this in a couple of different ways, especially when I think about manufacturers which by the way, I will share a few examples for the for the episode on this one. I’ll take manufacturing is a prime example. Because part of the reason why we started there, naively was that this was an industry that was very welcoming, very open and historically, has long attracted the non traditional talent. Okay, and, you know, basically, you know, invented the world of continuous improvement, right? Like, these are folks that train their people to have long term and really thriving careers. But they suffered from a major perception gap, they still do. So there isn’t just a skills gap we’re talking about, but it’s a perception scout. And when I think about that question of Alright, well, well, how do you get, you know, the likes of the PVC pipe manufacturer, inevitably gets back to the why, in the mission, in what is a surf, it’s getting less to that this is what we’re going to do all day. And this is how you make the pipe and you’re going to stay in it for eight hours a day. It’s not about the what it’s going to have to do with the why and more importantly, like what does this help us achieve? What does this helps us do? Right? This helps us have safe homes. This helps us you know, thrive. This helps us run America. You know, you know I think about our truckers and our logistics, right? Like we would be nowhere without them in the pandemic right like there’s such kind of this higher level. Why? Because everyone like this is just like a human desire. We want to be part of something much bigger within ourselves in the fact is when I walked into many of these manufacturing facilities who mind you, I mean, these are some of my big mentors and leaders that I still look up to, I don’t just see a PV side business, I see a legacy. I see a legacy business. And what I love about these legacy businesses, they’re not here to build a business to sell, they’re here to build businesses to last, that is something that I can absolutely be proud of. And get behind, in part, because I’m here to build a legacy business. But that’s what employees can be a part of, too. They can be a part of a legacy of a second, third, fourth, fifth generation business. That’s what manufacturing and some of these non sexy businesses have been doing for a very, very, very long time, before the sexy tech of Silicon Valley ever came.
You know, I’m really glad you start with manufacturing, because, and I’ve watched many of your videos over the years, especially on manufacturers who are, you’re sort of putting those pieces together to help them tell their stories. I, you know, I started my HR career in manufacturing as well working with manpower. So when I think back, as you’re talking, I’m thinking of my time at Nabisco or GE, and, you know, when you think about making a light bulb, all of the different aspects or packaging that light bulb, right, each person needed to know that they were doing something bigger, that was important, right, we all need light bulbs. And they were so proud. I remember when I got married, still very young, they gave me a huge box of every kind of light bulb you could imagine. And every employee was so proud of their role in creating what was going to help me start my life. And like that really stuck with me that this is not just about making a light bulb that’s going to go out of GE and like, never be thought of again, right? They really viewed their job as something like this is going to help this person right in their life. So I love the fact that you can sort of tell those stories. Could you maybe talk a little bit about organizations who might maybe their manufacturers, maybe their health care, maybe their you know, other professional services, firms, finance, whatever? I think there’s a big disconnect in being able to convey your culture. Right, if you’re not trained to convey that culture, in a way where people can understand what their tie in is, right? What are some of the ways that you’ve worked with your clients to kind of capture culture? And convey that story through the film in a way that that really does help make that connection?
Elena Valentine 17:48
Yeah. So I’m going to say, you know, three things. One is, look, we’re not change management. We also can’t put lipstick on a pig. So I want to be very clear, right that like, we, you know, it’s interesting, we’ve had engagements where we kind of go through the process, and this company realizes like, Yo, timeout, like we can’t do this video, we have way too much toxicity that’s been coming up that we have to deal with. So I want to say that number one, that, you know, companies have to be ready to tell that story. And especially when it comes to employee storytelling, and corporate storytelling of this kind in the workplace, you got to be ready for some real. And that’s the fact. Right, as much as this is about moving hearts. This is also just as much about being about hard work. It’s not sunshine and rainbows here. So that’s number one. So it’s part of its company’s being courageous enough to recognize that when it comes to workplace storytelling, we got to be a bit upfront about that, too. And it’s not to say that, that that can’t be visualized and captured in a way. That’s, you know, that’s super negative. But there’s, there’s some truth telling here that maybe we’re not, you know, we’re not gonna get in Hollywood for someone who’s creating a narrative. So that’s important. You know, what I’d also say is for any of these companies, there’s kind of two ways that you know, that you can, you know, really see culture. It’s when you can get someone to cry. That’s when you can get someone to laugh. Right.
Elena Valentine 19:33
And I think about when I am producing of a video series for a company. Look, we’re, you know, getting a huge laundry list of it’s gotta reach this many of us, we got to have these applicants blah, blah, blah, right? It’s got to make an impact and that’s fine, right? But in the moment of filming, that’s holy ground And what I have to do in 30 minutes with this person, this employee is to make them feel seen and heard and celebrated. That’s, that’s my goal. Because if I can make them feel seen and heard and celebrate, if I can make them cry if I can make them laugh, if I can make them smile, if I can make them own, their story of work, we’ve won. So that’s part of it. There’s certainly art and science to that. And that’s something that we, you know, certainly work with our clients to also help think about and do. But that’s also part of the the magic of this. Now, we certainly have a couple of kind of more New Age strategies of how we’re kind of helping folks think differently about that. But I’ll, I’ll certainly stop there, because that’s a bit of the kind of the big, high level stuff.
Thank you so much.
Man, I’d love to you to comment a little bit about yet sort of finding that right balance, right. So we’re talking about creating compelling video content, trying to reach people’s hearts, right? emotional appeal, to some extent, right, we’re talking about employees, largely, it sounds like sharing their stories being very real. How much of also do you have to worry about? Or do you have to worry about oh, and by the way, like, you know, the, the factories in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, were open from 8:30 to five, and you get, you know, we’ll start you out at 18.75 per hour, you know, like, all those kind of nuts and bolts of what people are trying to find out about, right, when they’re researching opportunities, and the things that you know, what’s that balance? Or do you worry about that? Or do you have to worry about that?
Elena Valentine 21:51
You know, Steve, my perspective has changed on that. And so Skill Scout, you know, so when we started, and we were working with young people, it was important that what we were doing was being as transparent as possible, both getting to a bit of a mission, and also saying, okay, and we’re gonna start at this time, you’re gonna be on your feet for eight hours a day. Right? And there’s value in that there are plenty of job posts that go into it, and plenty of ads that go into that. I mean, there’s also certainly, you know, videos that do that, too. But what I think what it’s inevitably come down to, for me, Trish and Steve, when it when it comes to the stories that we know, go viral, the stories that we know really move is because we’re either getting candidates and employees, you know, to bring them to their knees, or bring them onto their feet. When it comes to this job and this opportunity. It’s still about winning hearts. For me. There is of course, a balance in this is where the medium of film does very well, because we can show it, right? I don’t have to say you’re on your feet for 10 hours a day and lifting 50 pounds, I can just go into a logistics facility, showing lots of people carrying heavy boxes, and standing on their feet a lot. Right? So So part of the Steve is I think that you know, when it comes to film, that’s why it’s so great, because there’s so many ways that you can tell that story, or sometimes it doesn’t necessarily have to be verbalized.
One thing I like that you have shared throughout the years of videos that you and your colleagues at Skill Scout have created is when I look at them, I’m seeing you capture absolutely the the skills of the job, right, that’s critical. The reality of the job, right, like you said, you’re not there to put lipstick on a pig, you want to show what it really is. But one thing I think that organizations of all types have struggled with is showing and making people feel like they can be long in that company. And you might not even get that if you go and interview with 235 people, you still might not feel like you might be like, Well, I’m getting some information but I don’t do I really belong here. It might depend on who you talk to. One thing I think about when I watch these videos is I feel like that’s a little bit about what you’re capturing is information that is multifaceted so that I can feel like what I fit here but I belong here with the type of person I am. Feel like a part of this thing that I’m being shown. Is that a consideration when you’re working with these clients in in trying to capture belonging.
Elena Valentine 24:48
Yeah. Is it’s for the viewer. Right? Well, while our our buyer, right is this company that’s hiring us to do this. Our responsibility is to constantly ask See, number one who is the end viewer here? And asking the question, which the viewer is going to be asking is what’s in it for me? What’s in it for me, and here’s the deal. And this is something that’s continuously changing. And in, especially in today’s world, we live in an attention economy. We live in an attention economy, right? And we need to create content that stands out from the rest. You know, I remember and this, this is kind of what helped how have shows you how the, the industry has at least changed or is trying to catch up is, you know, almost a decade ago, I was still needing to convince HR about the value of video, and how ads with video perform better. And we retained 65% of what we see in here versus what we read like, Okay, if we’re still talking about that, that is so 2000, late. Right, like, by, right, your kids are reflections of this, right? They’re natives of this, they know it. And so this is what they’re used to. So part of the question that we have to ask is, how am I going to get a 16 year old to watch this? And keep it interesting for them? They’re the experts about what’s going to be interesting. And so that’s part of it. Is that like, long gone? Are these conversations about like, why video? Like if, if we have to have that conversation, we’re probably not even the right agency for you. Because we’re over here to try to get your stuff not only to go viral, but maybe you could be a Superbowl commercial, right? Like, that’s where we’re at, because we’re trying to get the highest visions highest eyeballs highest impact.
That brings up something in my head where I’m thinking about like, Okay, you’re right, there are so many businesses, though, that still you would have to still have that conversation of why video, right? Do you anticipate that there is going to be a jump, if you will, from like, kind of those people who are still in maybe leadership positions who are closed off to this idea of using video to make these connections and to have people reached in, in I didn’t say a different way, just in a way that’s that’s modern, versus like, I feel like people in college are like my daughter, she’s in you know, marketing and PR and journalism right now she’s this is their norm, this is what they’re like they expect this like, so is it going to jump when these kids are now coming into the workplace is there going to just be like, sort of a massive jump forward,
Elena Valentine 27:46
30 jumped, and, you know, no one moves a late bloomer company than their competitors. So, you know, all you have to do is take good stock at any industry, including manufacturing, and some of the non sexy ones, they already have video, right. And, you know, when you know, when we’re looking at the next generation of who our leaders are Gen Z, right coming in, it’s kind of a no brainer. And the fact is, our technology is changing, you know, let alone our platforms, our attention spans, you know, the world of AI, which is completely transforming all of creative and every industry. You know, if anything, what we’re learning, regardless if this is film or not, right, this is all industry is that, like, we got to be up to pace. And we got to be okay with doing some early adoptions and taking some risks. Or those that are leveraging the API’s and everything else in the world and doing it smartly are just going to continue to thrive and get ahead, and in our case, attract and retain the best talent, because the best talent, those eight players, they also want to work with companies who not only have good values and ethics, but who are also like up to speed and on top of the fact that like, we need some good technology and some good, you know, paths forward so that you know, you know the path to efficiency here, when it comes to this stuff.
Yeah, Elena, thank you. I’m glad we’re having this conversation, because I felt like I needed to I’ve been swimming in AI nonsense for weeks and weeks and weeks for the projects I’m working on. And I appreciate the fact that we’re talking not so much about technology. I mean, there’s elements of technology here, right, obviously, the filming itself, the editing and the delivery systems, right that you’re using and the metrics and measurements for the success of these these video campaigns. And, but we’re really just talking about the human element, right? We’re talking about connecting people connecting to a mission, telling stories, kind of and that’s yet to be at least completely overtaken. by AI, then do you think this is a good kind of maybe just a general message to make sure we get back out there into our community who right now I feel like is consumed with chat GPT. And let’s make this let’s let’s flood the internet with this awful crap content. Right, that’s been recycled over and over again, I’d love for your thoughts on sort of more general thoughts on technology and how that’s impacting some of this stuff.
Elena Valentine 30:26
I look, I’ll go back to the attention economy. I mean, or even better, with my inner child, Ratatouille, anyone can cook. Anyone can make it. Anyone can blog. Anyone can write a book. Okay. All right, cool. And then there are those, right, that are like the Goggins and the Mondays and those that are just going to get so deeply within their craft, right. And leverage technologies is needed to support but are just going to just go after the craft. And, and I think, especially when it comes to our worlds, we can either walk this path when it comes to AI and fear, or walking this path, so leading with love and recognizing that, okay, this is the reality of our industry and our industries. Let’s get smart about it. Let’s understand how we can start getting quicker about some things that we know, because now it’s just going to be about timing, right? What we’re finding, and I’m just going to take my industry, for example is, you know, we still need absolute kind of wild creative, and things that are going to make people move. And what AI can do is help us create those creative treatments, and create those visions, faster to get them to client, for them to cry for them to laugh and say Yes, right. So I think for us, we’re embracing it. I’d much rather embrace it than not, and see how we can just be better artists, better creators, better storytellers, better impact makers, by doing it, and leading with our ethics. And I mean, that’s the big question, right? Is that like, yes, this can get in the hands of all kinds of people.
Elena Valentine 32:27
And I accept that that’s going to happen. I also can’t do anything about that. So I take a good Marcus Aurelius like stoicism to this to say, like, Look, I can’t control the things that happen. But I can certainly control what my reactions and emotions are two that and how I am going to approach this. And that really goes to kind of the impact which I know that we wanted to talk about here. You know, my job is my ministry. And I believe that business and small business can change the world. And we’re more flexible and amenable than religious and government institutions. And then if we have any chance of entering the next era of humanity, the next era of positive humanity, is because we have business leaders who are here to do good in this world and do good business. And I’m just here to be on the righteous side of that.
I am so in awe of what you do, and the way that you can articulate what we need not just for a certain industry, but for all industries. For all size businesses to be able to come forth and tell their stories to be positive to love this idea of not worrying so much about what we can’t change, right? It’s what you can impact is where you should focus your time and energy. I’d love for you to tell us. What are you thinking about? Right? Obviously, you know, we’ve kind of gone from longer storytelling trying to get people even on board for storytelling to now short form storytelling, like, what is it that that Elena is really excited about passionate about in the coming few years? Is there a new direction and new refined focus what’s kind of on your mind to help the communities that you’re not just serving, but leading really.
Elena Valentine 34:29
I’ll take this from a more personal standpoint, because, you know, we have a big, you know, revamp and launch of kind of all of our latest work coming out, which is super exciting. And I manifest right that I am building a business that merits Superbowl commercials, right that that’s where I want to get I mean, I want to get to the highest levels of of the craft and tell stories of highest good right so let’s just assume, right that’s, that’s where I want to get to I am excited about that. And I’ve never been so excited about, you know how we’re building the business to get there. But I’m gonna take it back a little and, and really say two things. One is every day without fail, this quote comes up for me, and it’s Mother Teresa, and she says, If you want to change the world, you go home and love your family. And someone asked me a few years ago, right before the pandemic, am I a filmmaker artist? Or am I a business owner first? And I got kind of crunchy about question that response because like, well, you know, well, I want to be a creative, like, That’s sexy, like, huh, like, and then you go through something like the pandemic, and you lose 50% of your business overnight.
Elena Valentine 36:03
And you’re crying in your pantry, praying that I don’t have to let anyone go or do salaries. And that’s when you know, I’m a business owner. Now I have my receipts to prove it. And I say that. Because in a world of HR, and a world of workplaces, as someone who is serving the HR industry, I feel it is my duty, it is my obligation, it is my responsibility, to fail forward in my own workplace, and to be a leader that leaves with love. And to see my business as a way that I can change the world and change the generational legacies of anyone who comes through it. That’s why I do what I do. And I’m very proud to be a business owner first. So what am I excited about? I am excited about the ways that I will continue to ensure that my people feel safe and celebrated to do their best work. Because if they can feel safe and celebrated to do their best work, I will get to the Superbowl.
I thank you for sharing that very personal story. I think Steve and I will agree we resonate with that as small business entrepreneurs ourself, right, when your business dries up immediately, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Do you looking back over those years, those pandemic years, those toughest years? Do you think that without that you would be as good as what you’re going to be in these next few years without those lessons, even though they were difficult.
Elena Valentine 37:58
Trish, the True Metal of a leader, the True Metal of a company comes out in crisis. Just like a good little song, why be great till you gotta be great. And I just had to be great. And the fact is, Trish, there’s a reason why not everyone business owns. That’s one of the hardest things. This is tough on families. This is tough on marriages. This is tough on all things.
Right, all of it. Right. Right,
Elena Valentine 38:27
You know, all kinds of things. And I continue to have challenges all the time, is early as this weekend, right? And so it’s going to get back to my why. Right? Like, I am the impact that I always wanted to see and be in this world. It’s gonna get back to why I am doing this. Because I believe that small business can change the world. And that I want to be the next generation of leader who’s going to do good business and do good in this world. That’s who I’m proving this for. And if I can do it for my company, I attract other companies who want the magic and goodness of what we can do for their stories too. Because I take care of my own stories. That’s what this is. I’m going first, my team is going first, my company is telling stories. We’re going vulnerable, right? So that we can give permission for others to do it.
I think that the silver lining is this makes you a better, more empathetic storyteller. And this will elevate you is already elevating you and the type of partner you can be for the companies that you serve and for the communities you serve. I know that you do a lot you mentioned, you know in your bio, that you work with women, you work with non binary, you work with people that maybe don’t have the ability to have that voice elevated and shared in the way that you have audience for. Could you talk a little bit about that, and that part of your passion and how you bring that forth into the world for goodness?
Elena Valentine 40:24
Again, this, this goes back to I am, you know, I built this business on HR, and talent acquisition, how could I not also be a company and be a leader, that gives a shit about ensuring that people belong. It just, it just comes down to like, I can’t be authentic with you as a client. And to help you tell your stories of dei and to help you tell your stories of belonging, if I’m not pulling up the receipts for myself individually or in his organization, so that to me was just so clear, coming into this industry that like, I gotta, I gotta prove by actions here, right, I gotta prove by my receipts, not by, not by my words. So that was number one, I think and also to, you know, given where we came from, we came from the world of youth, we came from the world of disenfranchised youth. And so we recognize so early on how important that was, and that that’s where impact change, for me impact change, for me to recognize that I could be the company, that could be a place for any and all kinds of talent. And that if I can put those on the margins into the center of my strategy, everyone wins, everyone wins.
Elena Valentine 41:46
And so Mezcla Media Collective, you know, came out of that kind of desire to be that kind of employer to be that kind of change. And what it is really turned out to be in the biggest blessing is something so much bigger than myself and my company and my hiring needs. It really ended up becoming a safe haven and a safe learning ground for primarily emerging filmmakers, to let their hair down and fail forward together and learn this industry, which is typically so unforgiving. You know, we talk about, you know, I walked into manufacturing businesses, you know, are second, third fourth generation businesses. And I don’t see just what they do, I see I smell legacy. And I can only pray in feel and feel blessed. That Mezcla is part of my legacy too.
Thank you for sharing that. And the stories really resonate with us for a couple of reasons. Well, for me, I don’t want to speak for Trish, necessarily, but one is we have spent a huge portion of the last few, maybe three years on this podcast and others we do about trying to amplify voices of folks who don’t often get heard, and, and, and have difficulty accessing opportunity for various reasons. It could be physical disabilities, it could be emotional, could be learning disabilities, you name it, right. If formerly incarcerated individuals, we’ve done a few shows on that. And I think of any kind of thing resonates with me the most about what we do in terms of our legacy. It’s that right? Like, I’m going to remember and I hope people remember the shows we’ve done with Special Olympics athletes, way more so than the shows we’ve done over, you know, software provider XYZ has released new technology, ABC, right. And so right, we find we’re hopefully finding a good balance between that. So I really love that.
And also secondly, like, you know, and I’m saying this, from the heart, Paychex has been our sponsor on the show, you heard me read the Paychex ad at the beginning of the show. Paychex is their legacy is helping those businesses right that you’re talking about many of them Elena, right, these legacy businesses, the small businesses, right in communities all over the country, over 700,000 of them now that they help and when we threw out the pandemic years, we talked with them about things like paycheck protection loans and tax credit loans, and what can we do to help keep people you spoke so eloquently a few minutes ago, Elena about your struggles as a small business owner about caring for and supporting your people through the pandemic and and I think about how much they did for they’re trying to do right as best they can through what was just an awful few years. So it’s a great, it’s a great it ties in so well, you know, your stories and your experiences with what we’re trying to do here. So I really appreciate that as well. So that’s not really a question. It’s just an observation, Trish and Elena, so thank you for letting me share it.
Yeah, yeah. Well, I think That’s, I think people gravitate towards others who have maybe a different approach but but similar values of what’s important. Work is important. Like you mentioned at the very top of the show, Elena, it’s like this is something that we all do. And people really do, for the most part, take pride in what they do. We spend so much time doing this, whatever job that we have attached ourselves to, it is a huge part of our identity. It’s a huge part of our family identity. We, you talked about generational wealth, I think that you know, what we are demonstrating for future generations in our families, whether that’s your children or nieces, nephews, right on down the line, whether it’s a family friend, that you’re mentoring and showing and demonstrating how you show up in your in your job and with respect with class, with strong work ethic, I think these are some of the things that have not always been shown. Certainly not to my generation, I’m getting ready to turn 53 and I was not shown some of these things growing up, right. I had my dad as my example. And that was kind of it.
We’ve been keeping them from you Trish that’s been applied.
I think that’s the difference. I do feel like that’s a huge generational benefit that has come with both the millennials and with Gen Z is that it’s now a much more transparent, open look at the reality of work and the role that we play in work and the work that and the role that workplaces in us. It’s that reciprocal relationship. Right. So I don’t know I’m fascinated by what you’ve done, Elena, and also excited and a little like nervous and anxious to see like what’s coming right. I know. First of all, I know you I know you’re going to be having Super Bowl ads like no doubt.
That’s right. What do we need to find out the power of manifesting and streaming.
I believe that like I put it out there too.
I think she will have one. I don’t have one. And I think Trish, we’re going to have H3 HR logo on the hood of some NASCAR car before. That’s fine. That’s my Super Ball. Elena, thank you for the support. I do I want that I want it zooming around the track with our logo on it.
We’re kind of laughing about this, Steve. But I believe in this manifestation of what we want to do. And I believe in being our best like, Elena, what you’re doing, you’re not just saying like, I just want to be a filmmaker who makes some little stuff that might help some businesses know, you’ve got like these big meaningful goals. And I think it’s also really interesting to watch how you put that out into the world. And then how you make yourself available to such opportunities, right to make these things happen. That’s also a huge learning opportunity for people listening. Like don’t be shy. It’s okay. Like, I give an example. Like if you surround yourself by people that think like this, it’s bound to happen, even if some of its crazy and won’t happen, but like you mentioned, like Monet, so I just started watercolor painting, ooh, because I’m an empty nester now. So I need something this thing looks good on you, girl. Oh, my goodness, I don’t know. It’s stressful. I got a gray hairs from it.
But so I’ve calculated I’ve spent about 100 hours watercolor painting, which is not that much, right, when you think of the benefits still actually think about, you know, 10,000 hours, at least right to be able to do something like well, but my goal is not just to paint a few pictures. My goal is to become a professional where I actually get paid for art. Now I am not an artist, but I am going to do my damnedest to, like make this happen, and a manifesting that and I think that’s what is my point is that you’re listening to the show. Think think big, right? Surround yourself with with companies and people who think big, who dream big and who go after it. And even if you you mentioned earlier, if you fail, fail forward. Right? You’ll never know, you’ll never succeed if you’re not willing to take those big, big steps. Right? I see that in you. It’s just so clear. Do you feel that do you see that in yourself?
Elena Valentine 49:37
Yeah. No, and I will say this. It’s not just only about thinking big. For me, Abby, and I, quite frankly, have two very simple business development methods. We give more than we get, and we grow with gratitude. Right? So what does that mean? Inevitably it’s like I’m here to be like the hype woman. for humanity, like, I’m so down for like Steve’s dream of NASCAR, and like your dream is artist and Heck, yeah. Right. And when I see it, even just the breadcrumbs, may I celebrate you and cheer you forward, because that’s what we need. Like, we just need cheerleaders, our clients need cheerleaders, our candidates need cheerleaders, like, I’m here to create cheerleading visions like that. That’s what this is, right? Like, I’m here to create visual love letters that touch the human spirit, and be a cheerleader while I do it. And so that’s part of it. Like, I think that I, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the hype, people around me. And it just goes, you know, with the saying of hey, when I when I lift all boats, my boat gets exponentially raised to. Yeah. That’s a very simple strategy.
Elena, this has been so much fun. I’m really happy that we were able to talk to you today and see you and you look great. And you’re looking excited. I love your background. By the way, for folks listening on audio, they will have to post a little bit of this video on Zoom. That really cool. What’s that guy? stabilator that character in the monopoly? Monopoly guy? Yeah, it was things ever. So well done there. Right. So I love it. So Elena, for folks who want to find you connect with you learn more about skill set with skill Scout, where’s the best place, we want to tell them to go?
Elena Valentine 51:36
Get at me on LinkedIn, I’d love to connect with you. And certainly, if you are exploring your own storytelling, get at me, I’ll bring one of our creative directors who just have a brainstorm about what those possibilities can be for you. And we’re in the middle of a website relaunch. So I’m excited and eager to share that out in the world. So you can you can see, really what we can do. But more importantly, for us to help build your visions. That’s what this is. I don’t I don’t I don’t sell videos, I sell visions. So let’s build a vision together.
Awesome. I love it. Thank you so much. Great to see you hopefully get to see you out on the road here. And in the fall, there’s a lot of industry events happening. Maybe we’ll run into each other and talk about talk about this some more good stuff. So Trish, great stuff, I knew you were super excited before we started recording. And I’m glad we were able to do this today. And it’s super fun. And I’ll love to tell the story. Someday about when I worked for before there was video, YouTube. I mean, there was video. But before there was YouTube before there was all that I think one of the best employer branding, I know we’re talking about things that are bigger than that videos I ever saw. Those I worked for AT and T and it was there was an earthquake somewhere. I don’t remember what it was it was not in the US. And 18 T flew all these technicians over to where the earthquake was to basically rebuild the connectivity for the phone infrastructure. And they made a 10 minute video about about the project and it was incredible. You I remember leaving, watching that video thinking you’re going to charge I was in accounting for gosh sakes. I was ready to charge through the wall, you know, for our company, like what we were doing was so incredible, I thought at the time, right? So it can be really, really powerful stuff. For sure. Right? And I still remember that video today. Right? 30 years later.
Elena Valentine 53:33
You are part of something bigger. You felt a part of something bigger.
Definitely, definitely. All right. We gotta we gotta let Elena go. We gotta let her get her customers and serving her people, which she does so well. So Elena Valentine from Skill Scout films. Thanks so much for joining us today. Trish Steed. Thank you. Great to see you. And we’ll see you soon we’re gonna be back out on the road this week. And thanks to our friends at Paychex, of course, who are who are there for their clients in a major way small, medium sized businesses.
Steve, Paychex also you told a really good story about them. I just want to make mention, they not only did that for their clients, they did that for non clients as well. They have so many free resources and they continue to for small and midsize businesses especially.
Elena Valentine 54:19
I hope someone in marketing or in talent branding at Paychex has been telling those stories because if not Paychex, I’m coming for you. Those are the stories Paychex should be telling I want to be part of something bigger. I want to be a connection.
We’re going to make the connection then we want to make the connection because there really we wouldn’t. We wouldn’t take a partnership with a sponsor that we didn’t wholeheartedly believe in what they’re doing and it is about the
plan and what and wonderful people there as well. The people that we work with at Paychex. They are just fantastic people. Well, we’ll end here for Elena Valentinem for Trish steed. My name is Steve Boese. Thank you so much for listening all the show archives at HR Happy Hour. Net. We will see you next time and bye for now.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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