What Can We Learn About Happy Employees and Customers From the Magical World of Disney?

If you’ve ever been anywhere associated with Disney, whether it was a theme park, a hotel or a cruise ship, you’ve likely seen the impeccable level of customer service each and every one of their team members provide.


This level of service is likely one of the reasons this company is the global phenomena it is today and it’s why people across the world are willing to pay a premium to be part of the “magic” Disney is known for creating, in all its many forms.

While you may not be running a company like Walt Disney, there are a number of things any organization can learn about talent management from Disney and in turn, there are valuable customer service benefits that will be recognized as a result of following some of their principles.

The Disney Institute

The Walt Disney company is so widely recognized as a leader when it comes to both talent management and customer service that they have an entire online university dedicated to showing others how they can emulate their formula for success.

For Disney, the ultimate goal is about making customers happy, but they believe to do that you first have to focus on making employees happy.

Based on interviews from Disney leaders and also content from Disney University, there are a few overarching principles that can be attributed to much of their success:

  • Great companies have CEOs that are dedicated and focused on talent management strategy. Yes, a CEO has to concern his or herself with things like profit, that’s obviously the lifeblood of a business, but at the base of that pyramid is talent management according to the Disney way of thinking. Talent management isn’t something that’s best left to the human resources department at Disney—it starts from the top and then moves downward within the organization.
  • Be a listener. Disney is a company that prides itself on having managers and leaders that aren’t entirely focused on talking—they want to listen. They want to personally become involved in what’s going on in the lives of their employees and take the time to really hear what they’re saying, whether it’s voicing a concern or talking about their career. Disney provides a number of diverse channels that allow them to listen to their employees, whether it’s at open meetings or through something like internal surveys where employees can be honest and remain anonymous.
  • When you hire, think more about attitude and personality characteristics than actual skills. Disney puts a big focus on hiring people that have a good temperament and a friendly personality because these people tend to be the most naturally-inclined to provide great service. One way they gauge this is by frequently holding group interviews where they can see how potential candidates interact with one another.
  • Leaders set the example. At Disney everyone works together to create something great and leaders don’t sit back and let their employees do all the work. If a leader at Disney sees litter in the park, he or she is likely to pick it up even if it’s not necessarily their “job” and that leads to employees who see this and want to create the same standard of performance and service.
  • One final thing that sets the Disney talent management strategy apart from many others is the fact that they don’t define strict and rigid rules and procedures for their employees. Instead, they focus on setting standards they want to see their employees meet and then they give them leeway in making that happen. Often, particularly in a customer service environment, referring back to a rigid set of guidelines isn’t feasible and it can also be frustrating for demoralizing for employees.

These are just a few of the many ways Disney has remained one of the world’s top companies with customers who are not just satisfied but thrilled with their experience, and employees who are engaged, happy and loyal.

November 26, 2014   Updated :March 20, 2015      

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