Creating a Culture of Excellence (Like Disney)

Companies have an obligation to communicate the full culture to candidates

Doing a Google search, you’ll see more than 10 million hits on creating a culture of excellence and of employee engagement. One of the best examples of a company with an incredible culture is Disney; they continue to get it right.

Scott Milligan, SPHR, Business program consultant at the Disney Institute, told a standing room only auditorium that companies have an obligation to communicate the full culture to candidates and continue the engagement with all employees.

Creating a Culture of Excellence (Like Disney)

“Organizational culture is by design, well defined and clear to all. All three are critically equal,” he said. “But if the culture is not by design, it’s culture by default.”

Through the entire process, from initial application and interview (Audition in Disney-ese) to “Orientation”, employees, called Cast Members, are all part of the great show. By saying their employees are entertaining Guests, not serving customers, the entire atmosphere changes.

Pixie Dust  & Happiness Isn’t For External Use Only

In the casting videos for potential hires, every single Cast Member says “I create happiness.” And that’s part of why they’re so happy. Disney wants to hire the best and focuses on attitude vs. aptitude. Those candidates who have attention to detail, care for others and are aware of risk taking, all with a big smile on their faces are the ones most highly sought. Milligan calls it “Training for the Emotional Buy-in.”

“The way you do training send seismic signals about what your organization values. The extent to which you genuinely care for your people is the extent to which they will care for your customers and each other,” Milligan said. “Individuals need to know how their work contributes to the organization’s goals.”

Asked how Disney would have incorporated the newest technologies, especially social media, Milligan said he no doubt would have used it in a new and innovative way, in much the same way he was the first to use sound in full length cartoons and animatronics in theme parks. Any negative comments or posts by disgruntled former Cast Members and Guests are usually overridden by the company’s ability to maintain integrity and constant positivity. Employer branding remains important.

“They need to have a voice too.”

Employment and Working at Walt Disney World

Even Walt Disney World buildings and décor convey a sense of fun, wonder and performance. Upon entering Casting (Human Resources), candidates are treated to doorknobs which are essentially character noses, seeing the brand of the characters being the focal point, not giant portraits of stuffy business suits from the board, and walks down the long corridor signifying a journey thru whimsy mixed with reality.  They focus on whimsy while working and employment.

In the words of the immortal Walt, “We soft pedal job titles and feel one activity is just as important as another. Culture is what you are when you aren’t even thinking about it.”

Read more from Blogging4Jobs writers providing a look into SHRM 2012 from Josh Tolan and the keynote of Malcolm Gladwell on Millenials and Facebook Recruiting from Jessica Miller-Merrell.

Heather Dutcher is a Community Manager at Xceptional HR and Blogging4Jobs #SHRM12  Conference Correspondent.  Experienced in journalism, marketing, and college career services, she gets the bigger HR and workplace picture.   You can follow her on Twitter @heatherdutcher

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  1. […] In business where risk-taking is critical to the success of the business the last thing you want to do is reduce this business-critical behavior by making surprise changes or announcements. The more you can communicate the business or workplace environment to employees, the better off you are in a number of situations.  Because having an employee freeze up or fail to perform at that critical moment in the workplace can effect the bottom line as well as your workplace culture. […]


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