Holly Shannon

I’m Holly Shannon and along with Paul Jones, we welcome you to another great episode of the Culture Factor. And today we have Jeff Bettinger. He’s the chief employee experience officer at Nu Skin. He leads human resource talent across 35 countries. Jeff has looked Culture expert with many awards like HR o today, along with many others, honoring him in the areas of culture and engagement. Jeff’s leadership has boosted Glassdoor ratings and improved virtually every metric of talent acquisition and human capital management. And today on the culture factor, we hope to uncover his strategies for other leaders to deploy. So let’s get right into it. Welcome, Jeff Berenger to the culture factor.

Thank you so much, Jeff.

Paul Jones

We’re really excited to talk about this topic. And as we dive in, let’s talk a little bit about what a timeless company is. I think, you know, you and your work history you’ve had quite a bit quite an experience with being involved in creating timeless brands and timeless cultures. What is that to you?

Jeff Bettinger 

Yeah, I’d say a timeless culture is one that knows who it is. You know, I think that one of the things that happen in organizations is that throughout the lifespan cycle of a company, there are some ebbs and flows, some ups and downs of really staying true to what that culture is and who that company represents. And I think that you know, whether you’re reading Good to Great or other books when companies lose sight of that, that’s when they tend to struggle and have some level of, you know, falter and, and challenge. So timeless cultures, timeless brands are those that really stay true. They have to evolve, obviously. But it’s a company that really, really truly understands who they are, and stays very, very in tune with that.

Paul Jones

I love that concept. Can you tell us a little bit about your work with creating these timeless cultures?

Jeff Bettinger

You know, I’ve been very fortunate through my career to work at some organizations that really have transcended elements of time with their culture, whether that’s the USA, the big financial services firm, out of San Antonio and their commitment to military or you know, Most recently, I’ve been with Al Khan, which then was a division of Novartis tele spun off. And it was really, you know, part of that culture challenge that created some of the need to spin-off of the parent company. And, you know, 75-year-old company, or 70-year-old company, while I was working there, really knew who it was and was struggling with how to integrate into a different culture. And so coming back to that culture is really what set the company up for, you know, real successful launch and IPO just about a year ago. And then for the last few months, I’ve been at Nu Skin a 35-year-old, direct selling organization, again, with a very rich culture, engagement scores that every company would dream of having. But it’s all about that foundational culture that really, you know, ties people both to the brand but also as an employer of choice.

Holly Shannon

Jeff, if history in court principles are the foundation of Nu Skin. What are those principles? And how did they create Nu Skins company culture? Because you said they have a long-standing history of having a strong one and also going forward under your leadership?

Jeff Bettinger

“Jeff, we’re a force for good. If you think this company is about selling lotions and beauty products, you’re wrong”

Yeah, tell you what was really interesting about just even my interview process was Nu Skin knew who it was. And it was an exciting experience to walk into an organization that really knew who it was. I’ve walked into other organizations and they’ve been in the midst of a little bit of a cultural struggle, and not knowing who they were. But when I came into Nu Skin, I remember meeting with the chief executive officer, and he said, Jeff, we’re a force for good. If you think this company is about selling lotions and beauty products, you’re wrong. We are a company that makes the money we make so that we can make a difference on this planet. And then he started to tell me about the long history and relationship with the country of Malawi and the hundreds of thousands of children. They’re fed by Nu Skin every year into the millions now over the life of the company, but it’s an exciting experience to walk in and see that they really know at the core, it’s all about being a force for good and opportunity for all. And those two statements are how I’ve been able to, you know, use that to help provide a little bit of a rebirth for, you know, or people in the company. Going back to those principles, and really tying everything back to that has been a real, real successful thing so far.

Paul Jones

Let’s dive into that a little bit. Jeff, you know, it’s so interesting. Anytime that you I feel like anytime you talk to most executive teams and founders, you’re gonna get this really dense, really purpose-driven feeling from a lot of these people, but a lot of times they get locked up in the executive team. So how do you create and enliven this idea or this culture? Or what, what are some things that you’ve done? Or what are some things that you’re doing to, like you said, reinvigorate the culture there?

Jeff Bettinger

But really, it all comes back to every single person from the frontline to the top of the house, being able to know and understand their place in the value chain of that cultural experience. And so at Nu Skin, you know, a call center, individual who would be, you know, kind of an entry level role in our organization really understands the difference they’re making, because during every single phone call, they have the opportunity to take donations for our force for good foundation. And so I found that really driving the culture to the very front line and having everyone feel they’re very connected to it is really what makes a big difference. When I was at Al Khan. We actually konza eyecare company, we actually had an app for people’s phones, where they could look through their phone lens and see different experiences that people with eye illnesses struggle with, whether that was macular degeneration or cataract, they actually look through the phone. And I remember putting that in front of people and having people look through that lens, if you will, and seeing how profoundly limited sight was. And I mean, in the moment, people actually getting very emotional because they’ve had family members with some of these challenges and being able to see the world through their eyes. And then knowing that even though I might be just putting boxes, you know, for shipping to somewhere in the world, somewhere out there, someone is going to see better because the product I put in that box will end up with them and help to cure or at least treat some of those elements of their challenges with science. So it’s really bringing the purpose to the core of the year. Everyday work of the everyday employee. And when they’re pushing it, it’s very difficult for a senior team to lose sight of it, they always need to be in tune with it. But if everybody is singing from that same page in the, you know, songbook, it puts people in a position that they can really identify with, and move with that purpose-driven culture.

Holly Shannon

You know, Jeff, without Khan, you know, that’s such a good explanation of product strategy versus people strategy with Nu Skin. You know, you’ve talked a little bit about the people’s strategy and how you know that your call center might be working with donations for force for good. But can you share with us a little bit of the product strategy and the people strategy for from Nu Skin not just from the donation perspective, but obviously you are a for-profit company as well. So what does that look like with your culture?

Jeff Bettinger

“by telling those stories throughout the organization by helping people to meet those individuals, or in our case, even just see their names on the various walls throughout the building, they really begin to identify with the fact that they are impacting people’s lives”

It really is. You know, in our culture, the whole purpose of an opportunity for all, when you think of Nu Skin and direct selling, the goal of the organization is to enable entrepreneurs, it’s to help individuals have an essence of business in a box, that for a very low investment, they can open that box. They can use the tools and platforms and products we provide, and build themselves a career build themselves a new way of life. And, you know, it’s exciting for us to hear their stories. One of the things that we have done at Nu Skin and has been in place for many years before I came, is we actually inside the building lists the names on the walls of the individuals who have reached certain milestones within the company. And we do that because we want everyone to keep sight of that ultimate goal of really empowering people to take control of their own lives and their own futures and desks. And so you know, when you’re in that type of a company, you hear an awful lot about, you know, success stories you hear about the challenges people go through. But you get to hear the stories of life-changing experiences where people have really changed the whole future for themselves and for their families. And by telling those stories throughout the organization by helping people to meet those individuals, or in our case, even just see their names on the various walls throughout the building, they really begin to identify with the fact that they are impacting people’s lives for the better as people take a risk with us.

Paul Jones

I love that example, Jeff. And that’s actually one of the things that we do in CompanyTribes that I think is so impactful. I think a lot of companies, when they have those successful people, they’re going to put them up there and they’re going to say, hey, look at this person. They’re being successful, but they don’t actually tell the story of success. And I think that’s so much Foreign is it’s not just let’s celebrate the outcome, let’s celebrate the success. But what was the journey to get there? That’s really where a lot of the inspiration comes from.

Jeff Bettinger

“I mean, one of the richest people in the world, driving just an old pickup truck and the message is sent to us as employees we’re going to be frugal”

You know, you’re absolutely right. Storytelling is really the core of how culture is passed on. And that’s not just within companies that’s, you know, in civilizations is those key core stories that really establish the identity of a group of people. And so within a company, you know, I worked at Walmart earlier in my career, knowing the stories of Sam Waltons, you know, desire to be very frugal, and what he did knowing that, you know, he named his dog food brand after his own dog that used to ride in the back of his pickup. And here you had somebody who was, you know, fairly wealthy. I mean, one of the richest people in the world, driving just an old pickup truck and the message is sent to us as employees was we’re going to be frugal, and we’re going to be very careful about how we spend In the corporate dime, which, you know, was a story that conveyed 1000 messages, and those powerful stories that can convey those thousand messages, really help a company to establish who they want to be, and then instantiate that for for really timeless experiences.

Holly Shannon

You know, it’s so beautifully said and it’s really nice to look at the positive sides of how storytelling can enhance a culture. You know, we obviously are going through a very difficult time, you know, with the pandemic, and with COVID and layoffs, and, and so forth. In our last conversation, of course, the culture factor is about to be privy to, you had talked about a theory about what you felt layoffs, equated to and I think it’s sort of built into Nu Skins company culture. Do you think you might be able to elaborate on that?

Jeff Bettinger 

Yeah. Really, you know, it’s all about the metaphors. You know, in Nu Skin our metaphor for who we are, is we’re a family. And so when we have to it has happened when we have to go through the process of laying off individuals, which is something we really don’t want to do. We end up having we’re losing a family member, and we don’t want to lose our family members. And so, you know, that’s the metaphor for us. Other companies call themselves teams and you never like it when an individual goes, you know, down for the count in a team. But we really, at Nu Skin, we define ourselves as a family. And so, you know, it’s a very serious thing. I’ve been with executives who have actually gotten a little teary-eyed, going through that experience of having to, you know, go through the process, and that’s because they’re losing family members.

Well, that would account for why your Glassdoor ratings are so high because you really take the time to treat everybody as family.

Paul Jones

And Jeff, could you elaborate on that a little bit more? You know, I think, in a lot of companies, a lot of people talk about family.

It’s something that I think is quite common in the workspace, but it’s not something that is common to actually feel. So if family is something that you really want to create, what was it what suggestions would you have for those out there that that think that same way, but want to really show their employees that like, no, we’re really serious about this?

Jeff Bettinger

Yeah, I’d say that. When you really think about the genesis of the company. Every company starts really, as a family. It’s really rare that just two or three strangers get together and they start something special, that becomes a timeless brand. You know, usually my Mom or dad or helping out or aunt or uncle or cousin or brother or sister, when you think of it that way, and how a company grows and expands, you know, you start to really instantiate the importance and value of what family really does mean. So within our organization, we have expectations, you know, of managers, the same that you would want regular communication between members of a family, you know, we actually measure our managers on both the quantity and the quality of their one on ones that they have with their employees. Because our basic expectation is that every single week, an employee is going to have a one on one with their manager. And that allows us to be in a position to be able to, you know, both set the expectation for the culture but also set the expectation for the employees to experience that they are, you know, that they have someone who cares about the ins and outs of the ups and downs of what’s going in their life,

Holly Shannon

and that in and out and up and down is everybody’s experiencing it on every level of the company no matter what position they’re in, whether it’s, you know, call center or the CEO. So it’s, it must be very heartwarming that they can sit down once a week with their manager and have, you know, whether it’s a heart to heart or business conversation, in some cases, they overlap in these days, right.

Jeff Bettinger

Yeah, I think that especially during this covid crisis, we focused real heavily on mental health with our leadership team and really making sure that they’re checking on their people. And so we really look for people when they’re having those conversations with their employees to spend time and we’ve actually given them discussion guides on how to really start out thinking about the individual thinking about that family, how are things going a couple of times during this crisis with most of our team working remote, we’ve actually offered mental health days to allow people to, you know, just have that opportunity to have a conversation with their manager about the stresses, and then being able to take just a little bit of time away and and not have to, you know, deal with the ins and outs and the challenges of work life balance.

Paul Jones

You know, we’ve been hearing a lot of really great stories about what you’re talking about in terms of this idea of family coming out of executives coming on the culture factor, an example I’ll share an example story, but first, when COVID hit my family and I actually moved out of state we were in an Airbnb for several months. And it was amazing because my family came to my house, they mowed my lawn, they fixed broken sprinklers. They really helped with needs that I had that I couldn’t attend to. And so as your as you were talking, I was thinking about that experience and I was also thinking about some of our past interviews and a lot of really cool stories have come out where, you know, all employees are working remotely. And it can be a little bit of a challenge when you’re a parent and you have kids at home. And so some companies have organized a couple of hours where employees that don’t have kids are engaging with the kids at home on a zoom call, while the parents go in and work for a little bit without having to think about entertaining their kids. A lot of those kinds of same things are have come out and I think a lot of it is because executive teams are being much more intentional about how they’re connecting their employees and uncovering those needs and then it’s really kind of a Connect, connecting the dots to this person has a need, how can we rally behind this person or this group of people to help them right now and that creates the sense of unity.

Jeff Bettinger

Yeah, you know, like I actually jotting a few notes. I love some of those ideas that you’ve shared. And we see that those who are connecting on a very deep and personal basis, both during work hours and outside of work hours are really our most effective managers where their teams are the most engaged.

Holly Shannon

The reason why we learned that story, we had a previous interview with Lindsey Kaplan from chief and she said that, um, they didn’t, there were a lot of people who worked there that were single, they just didn’t even realize that some people were completely swimming in the weeds because, you know, you’re immediately like there’s no school, there’s no camp and there’s no daycare. So even if you had an infant, for example, that was going to daycare, you might not have had the homeschooling issue but you have two people working in a small apartment, trying to get work done. And now you have your child with you full time. So it’s really interesting. They wrap tallied and created like, called it, Chief camp or something like that. And I just thought like that was such a lovely way to work together and it actually created that sense of family that you speak of. And I’d love to see other companies apply that technique because I think that, you know, especially ones that really care about family and it sounds like Nu Skin does. So that might be an interesting model for you to, to use.

Jeff Bettinger

I think the norm is, you know, once in a while on a conference call, you’d see somebody’s child sitting on their lap or, you know, crawling over their shoulder. And I think companies that can’t embrace that are the companies that are going to lose in this you know, perpetual war for talent or in or people with pets or people you know, just living their lives and being forced to in essence live their life in a you know, situation. under an environment that’s not normal, I am kind of grateful that I had some time that I worked with the Petco Corporation. Because, you know, we lived in an office environment where people could, you know, be more flexible and bring their pets and other things. And so I got to see some of that life and work integration happening there. And it has impacted the way we’ve helped train our managers here at Nu Skin. To deal with the new reality. It’s that, you know, we, we actually encourage them to say hi to people’s children and, you know, really connect with the family, not just their employees when they have those, you know, interruptions that can come.

And we’re immediately immersed in people’s personal lives and nobody saw that coming. So it’s interesting that, you know, as managers, I think you have to, while you might have been a compassionate leader or one that you know, worked from that ethos, now you’re vulnerable yourself. Because people that maybe are working for you are seeing your bedroom, your living room, your kids running back and forth. You know it, it’s completely different. It’s changed how we manage, because now that personal component is sitting at the table.

Well, but I think that that’s where the opportunity lies is what we’ve been doing with my minus ones or my, you know, minus the individuals who are two levels below me, we’ve been doing a series of lunches this month. And there is no business agenda. We purposely don’t talk business. The very first thing we talk about is what we’re all eating, and how easy or hard it was to make it. You know, and we got people jumping up to go get their soup out of the microwave or whatever. And we’re, you know, that sense of normalcy, but also the vulnerability to you know, show My kid or to show my pad or to show my messy office, or the fact that on that day, you know, from the waist up, I’m wearing a dress shirt and a suit coat, but from the waist down, I’m in a pair of basketball shorts and slippers.

That’s the new business casual. But that’s

good, that’s gonna go public here soon, like, you’re gonna see that happening, people are gonna be wearing tuxedos on top and then just their boxers when they’re gone.

That’s how they kind of roll their

you know, it’s just that type of vulnerability. And authenticity is really what drives part of Nu Skin’s culture of being authentic and a family. And so I’ve really appreciated seeing that and helping to try and model that for our managers as well.

Paul Jones

So Jeff, let’s dive back into this family because I think Nu Skin is so interesting in the sense that you have these courses Values family being one of them, but you’re also a worldwide company. So you’re not just impacting Americans, you’re impacting multiple companies with many different cultures. I would assume that that would be somewhat of a challenge like how across, you know, people culture, how have you what are some strategies that you use to unite an entire organization across the world under these values?

Jeff Bettinger 

I think the first step is you have to look for what are the lowest common denominators, and then use those to create the overall framework. But if you use the metaphor, for instance of building a house, you know, the corporation, the corporation collaborates globally with its various regional and country offices, to look at what are the most common elements of who it is that we want to be and it Nu Skin we define to eight of them, right, we defined eight factors that said, this is exactly who we are. But how in the Tokyo office, or in the Sydney, Australia office, those are embodied is partly incumbent on them to define within the framework. So back to the house metaphor. We’ve given them the blueprint, but we let them choose the color of paint and where pictures are hung, as long as those colors of paint and those pictures and the placement of the furniture aligns and doesn’t violate those lowest common denominator values, which I know using the word lowest common denominator is sounded like a marginalizing them. I mean, they’re incredible things about customer obsession and being exceptional and about fast speed. And those things are core to us. But it helps to give us a guide to remove the things that don’t help us stay true to that culture. No matter where we are in the world, but how they want to celebrate a birthday or how they want to celebrate an anniversary, can vary from place to place as long as it aligns to those core, you know, eight values that we have.

Paul Jones

What are those core values?

Jeff Bettinger

We’re a force for good. We’re accountable and empowered. We’re bold innovators are customer obsessed with direct and decisive, or exceptional or fast speed. And we’re one global team.

Paul Jones

Hey, wait, I just want to clap. I am clapping right now for you, Jeff. That was incredible. You it’s almost like you wake up in the morning. And that’s what you say. Right? When you get out of bed that was amazing.

Jeff Bettinger

To think about that, my CEO when he hired me says you will be the embodiment of our culture, which is what any leader really should be. But as the head of HR, there is you know, there’s a need for me to know and understand our culture just about as well as anybody and being a newcomer to a 35-year-old company. It takes a little extra work to get them. 

Paul Jones

So Jeff, I want to dive into that the HR aspect of this really quick because I think, generally with HR, you know, you’re doing a lot of the operational stuff of the business hiring, firing. And and these are very legal driven, right? So it seems to me like a lot of times HR people are set up to fail when they think culture is always something that they want to do, but it’s very, it’s very little of what they actually get to do. How, how have you balanced that? Do you do you get that sense of kind of this dichotomy of you’ve got the body of the business and the soul of the business to watch out for but, you know, anytime that an HR person walks around, your heart rate comes up a little bit? So how, when you’re talking about these feel-good things like values and things like that? Should they live in HR, should they live somewhere else? How does How do people in HR How do they live? Those, you know, so that so that they actually bring us to life.

Jeff Bettinger

So saying that that would be almost like saying, you know, budget should only live in finance and no one else should be held to a budget. You know, compliance belongs in legal so the only people that need to be compliant are lawyers, you know that none of those statements would be factual. You know, culture resides within the organization and the people’s experience. And HR may be the keeper of the culture or the creator of how to personify or to define, you know, how to elucidate what the culture is, but the everyday experience that managers provide is really what drives the culture. If you think of a hub and spoke, you know, kind of a model or a wheel. The culture is at the center, but how we hire a person is tied to the culture. How we give feedback in preparation for a promotion, is part of how we exemplify Culture, how we do corrective action is part of the culture, how we define and develop compensation systems is all part of the culture. And so if you put the culture at the center, and then tie all the elements of the human experience to the culture, as an HR function, you’re actually helping managers then to better live the culture, because they have the tools when they do need to hire someone to do it in a way that’s culturally appropriate, and helps to transfer some elements of that culture to that new employee. We wouldn’t ask every manager to conduct a new hire orientation with their three or four people that start every year. So yes, HR takes care of employee orientation. But then we do a warm handoff to that manager who knows and understands what this culture is about and starts to frame up the employee experience in accordance to that culture.

I like that. So basically, you’re kind of The you’re acting as a guide. So you’re using these values, these cultural values as a backdrop, and then you’re taking operational, operational things and putting them in the foreground and saying, Okay, do these fit together? And if they don’t, how do I mesh these to better create operational procedures that better reflect our values. And I think a lot of times people think about culture and procedure differently. But it’s, you know, with the hub and spoke model, you’re really combining those. You’re using the the culture as your Northstar, Northstar, so to speak, and saying, does our processes fit? Are they in line with these guiding principles that we have?

Yeah, so you know, for instance, at Nu Skin, one of our core principles is that we’re fast speed. And so when we’re designing a new process or a program or a policy, the first question we have to ask is, can someone do this fast speed? Are we putting too many barriers The way for them to be able to accomplish this. And so, you know, that’s just one example of how you might apply the culture to how you have to create a process.

Holly Shannon

You know, Jeff, when you bring in a new leader, when you’re hiring somebody new, what is it about the process? Like, how do you share with them? those eight factors and how do you determine that they would be able to uphold those?

Jeff Bettinger 

Well, I mean, we use behavioral interviewing, to really take an understanding of the individuals orientation towards these cultural values. The beauty of our cultural values is that they’re, you know, they’re fairly timeless. They’re, they’re a little bit of mother motherhood and apple pie and, you know, Chevrolet you know, it’s tough to argue that you don’t want a culture that’s accountable and empowered. But what we then look For in the interview process are examples of how a person has shown that they’re accountable, that they take accountability for their errors that they take accountability for projects they’ve been given. Or if it’s about one global team, we look for examples of how they have collaborated across boundaries across cultures, to find the very best solutions, despite cultural or geographic nuances. And then when we deal with our managers, you know, we really, just this week, we launched a training program, where every one of our managers will get to pick two areas of our culture where they think that they have the greatest opportunity to improve. And we’ve used our engagement survey results to help them identify where they may have some gaps. And between now and the end of the year, every manager will have the opportunity to go to some skill building to help them in those areas where they have opportunities to continue To improve so it’s about really helping them to have the tools to spot where they may have issues and then give them the opportunity and the skill building experiences to to close some of those gaps.

Holly Shannon

That’s amazing. I mean I it’s it’s really nice that you give them the tools to grow and lead and become stronger. I mean that it just makes it just shows them that we not only have a good company culture at Nu Skin, but we care about you being a part of it and what your contribution to that is.

Jeff Bettinger 

Yeah, absolutely.

Holly Shannon

This was great. Jeff, I can’t thank you enough for coming to the culture factor. I I really think you have provided such a great roadmap for for other leaders here.

Paul Jones

You know what’s cool too and Jeff, thank you so much for coming is your background is is your kind of I would say you’re kind of an expert in this I mean working at Petco and Walmart and all of these big brands like They’ve done a great job of bringing to life connecting their employees not just to their values, but to their product. I love the example you shared of the app that was created so that people could look at the different AI issues. That’s, oh, man, that’s such a great example. So I really enjoyed the interview and appreciate you coming on and sharing some of your insights.

Jeff Bettinger

Thanks so much for having me.