The great Walt Disney once posed the question, what do customers remember more–products or people? He determined that the answer was people, and so began the Disney mission to integrate employees into the company with absolute care for their feelings and forethought to the way they would fit into the company itself. Today, The Walt Disney Company has perfected its methods for synchronizing employees (or cast members) with the mission of their organization, to create a better cast member-guest experience. They also “create and nurture a work environment that reinforces engagement.” Their care and precision has been so successful, in fact, that they’ve created the Disney Institute–a collection of courses that seeks to help companies better reach success through an aligned sense of company culture. This, they believe, is essential for maintaining maximum buy-in and positive change.
If you’ve ever been to Disneyland or Disneyworld, you may already know what they’re talking about. Just this last winter, I went to Disneyland with my in-laws, and I remember being amazed at how in-tune the “cast members” were. People seemed genuinely happy to be there, and an air of efficiency followed us everywhere we went–from loading us on and off rides to checking for seat belts; from getting us our food in a timely manner to introducing us to the various events taking place around the park. Many of them were in-character, and I don’t just mean Princess Merida or Minnie Mouse. Speaking of those who were in-character, however, many of these actors really did impress me. There was a point when our little group was getting a picture with Mickey and my camera wasn’t working properly. I told him it was fine and not to worry about it, but he just kept the hug going until the camera finally kicked into gear and the picture was taken. His patience meant a lot to me because I got a really great picture with one of my favorite childhood characters, but it surprised me too. Everywhere else–whether it’s McDonald’s or Macy’s–it seems like customer service gets pushed aside to make way for efficiency. But not for that Mickey Mouse–that cast member was going to get me a picture if he had to wait all day. My guess is that his perseverance and care probably had something to do with his understanding of what Disney’s mission was all about: making people happy.
Growing up, all kids (all over the world) know that Disneyland is “The Happiest Place on Earth”–a place where dreams came true. But as kids, we knew that because we had a fun ride on the teacups and because the cotton candy was especially fluffy. We knew it because our parents were happy, and just around the corner, there was a new adventure waiting to be explored. But under all of that was something more–something greater than fried-to-perfection churros and kodak moments with our favorite characters. It was a feeling of positivity, conveyed by those who were working behind the scenes to provide such a great experience. Understanding the mission of Walt Disney and embodying that sense of joy and magic was at the heart of every employee, and that’s what made the difference.
In the end, you don’t need comfy sleeping pods or video game rooms to make your employees feel that their job has worth. Company culture, first off, is built from people who already have your company’s values instilled within them. After that, it’s about synchronizing your team to the company mission and embodying them to use their own gifts to create a job that is worth-while. Whether their talent is patience in the face of a stubborn camera, efficiency and care for each guest’s safety, or simply a way with kids, everyone has something to share. Recognizing these qualities and letting each of these gifts shine through is the best way to promote company culture, and the results will be evident to anyone who stops by for a visit–no matter what corner of the world they come from.