Walt Disney and his team created a unique system for training and developing employees. Van France, Disney’s first human resources executive, founded Disney University to teach how to engage your employees and create the “happiest place on earth” to work and play.
Cast members strive to achieve “good show” by always being helpful and cheerful. They avoid “bad show,” which includes showing “backstage behavior” to visitors. To engage your employees, Van established Disney University based on guiding principles that he named… “The 4 Circumstances.”
“The 4 Circumstances” In Which to Engage Your Employees .
- “Innovate” – To succeed, Disney University must be at the cutting edge and “comfortable with risk.”
- “Support” – All HR policies and training methods need upper management backing.
- “Educate” – Disney regards education as an “indispensable commodity.”
- “Entertain” – Employees will learn more if they’re having fun, and they will be better equipped to make sure guests have fun, too.
“The Disney University’s success is due to its uncanny ability to capture the hearts and minds of the thousands of employees it serves.”
Van challenged workers to become Disney experts. To accomplish this, he made an effort to simplify the company’s operational procedures by teaching its employees four concepts.
Disney University‘S 4 Concepts To Simplify Operations and Engage Your Employees.
- “Safety” – This is always the paramount concern for both visitors and employees.
- “Courtesy” – Smiles and helpfulness fit Disney; frowns and disinterest do not.
- “Show” – Everything a visitor sees must conform to the Disney ideal.
- “Capacity” and “efficiency” – The visitor count and profits take care of themselves if cast members execute the first three items well.
“Blaming the economy is a convenient excuse for not providing training.”
When The Happiest Place On Earth Becomes Less Happy.
Some 20 months after the launch of Walt Disney World in Florida, the company hit a rough patch.
Employees were worn out from the grand opening, and their opportunities for further career advancement seemed blocked.
As morale declined, executives realized that they had to adjust Disney University to address these circumstances. The leaders made the following changes:
- They added new programs to Disney University’s curriculum to groom leaders, communicate more effectively and support workers as members of the Disney family.
- Each division received its own full-time HR manager.
- Leaders used employee opinion surveys to gather data to guide their policy decisions.
- Division HR leaders worked with Disney University coordinators to craft curricula.
These changes led to better training and development and to more open communication among leaders and employees.
The company’s employee retention rate climbed to 72% from 17%. By responding to employees’ concerns, Disney pulled itself out of a crisis.
“The excuses and rationale for ineffective training programs flow like water: ‘If I had the staff and budget of a Disney University, life would be easy’.”
“IT’S NOT THE ECONOMY,” STUPID!
Walt always strived to “keep plussing the show”even during financially challenging years.
A sluggish financial environment was no reason to lower standards or to accept lower revenues.
“Plussing the show is as much about attitude as it is about budget.”
Walt often strolled through the park, observing and talking to employees. He called the constant quest to improve the visitor experience “plussing the show.”
Van responded to the challenge with a new course. He taught executives and employees the five pivotal steps required to “plus” the show.
5 WAYS HOW YOU CAN HELP “PLUSSING” THE SHOW.
- “Think teamwork” – All staffers are in this together. Everyone makes a difference.
- “Think audience and guest” – Visitors aren’t just figures on a ledger; they’re people.
- “Think happiness for others” – Everyone has a role in creating fun.
- “Practice being friendly” – Warmth sets a park’s tone even in areas visitors never see.
- “Think quality and pride” – Both are crucial ingredients of good show.
“The best is never the best, and pay attention to the smallest details.” -Walt Disney
“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.” -Walt Disney
The Walt Disney Company offers employees stress-busting activities and special events and perks to engender camaraderie. The company makes a continuous effort to be a good corporate citizen. Disney overcame cultural challenges when it opened parks outside the United States through the development of Van’s Disney University.
“Creating The Happiest Place on Earth is a fine balance of values and…a lot of hard work.”
- Disney U. How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees. Doug Lipp. McGraw-Hill, 2013. Pages: 222.
- Photo by iStock