By Kirby D. Payne, CHA
Several years ago the Disney Institute held a seminar in Minneapolis. Among the co-sponsors was the Minnesota Hotel & Lodging Association. Vicki Richman from our staff attended and I have adapted her notes for this article.
There is a lot of information provided in this seminar which we have
incorporated into our company culture. Our company has a culture
and a vision, but it has never been refined and promoted through all levels
of the company in a structured way. Every year we attempt to improve
our company’s culture and that of each of our hotels. If the Walt
Disney Company is any benchmark, it's clearly worth doing.
LEADERSHIP AND CREATIVITY
Disney believes that storytelling is an important part of the company's job for its guests, staff, and investors. When Frank Wells and Michael Eisner were brought on-board, they made a video for the stockholders to watch to learn about them and where they felt the company should go. Walt Disney had a short video about himself and his dreams. These videos are very effective in communicating their "story". Communication of history and vision is essential to developing a well-run company whose staff are supportive.
Traits of Disney leaders: risk taker; childlike (curiosity, creativity, wonder, etc.); iron fist in a velvet glove; visionary; motivator; and management by walking/wandering around. Apparently this was very important to Walt Disney who saw himself as a bee, going around from flower to flower pollinating other people and their efforts.
Whenever staff is overheard saying "I" or "they" to a guest that person is always immediately corrected. They must always say "we". As in a Guest Service Agent (desk clerk) saying, "I'm sorry we didn't get your room made up on time." As opposed to, "I'm sorry they (housekeeping) didn't..." If they say "we" enough, they will come to believe it.
Disney believes strongly that creativity can be enhanced with synergy, adding 1 + 1 and getting 3. Bringing diverse groups together with different perspectives to create "dynamic tension" such as in brainstorming sessions is used to develop creativity. Brainstorming sessions must always have the following: defined goal; structure; a facilitator who can control flow; diverse participants; and a scribe. It is important in brainstorming sessions that creativity be promoted.
Always say "yes, and" because it keeps discussion going while "yes, but" stops the flow of ideas. Disney's goal in planning is creating value for all of their stakeholders (guests, staff, stockholders, etc.). Both their financial objectives and strategic objectives focus on increasing value for everyone. The example given in the seminar was IllumiNations, a fireworks, light, laser and music show each evening in EPCOT. The restaurants in the pavilions were not doing well. By adding the IllumiNations show guests enjoy an additional event included in their admission and there were substantially increased food and merchandise revenue for Disney's lessees.
STAFF SELECTION, ORIENTATION, AND TRAINING
When it comes to staff selection, Disney believes they are not hiring, but are casting for a role in a show. Aren't we doing the same thing at our hotels? Each person hired needs to project the image of the company. Before they fill out an application they watch a nine minute video which projects, without being obvious, the company culture. Specifics covered are: pay availability; transportation; and appearance. This is in effect a pre-orientation and serves to screen out potential applicants who don't want to or cannot fit it for what ever reason. Men who watch and know they won't adhere to the hair length standards (above the ears) simply tend not to apply.
We have adapted this idea into a brochure which is given out to job applicants. The brochure, titled “What you can expect when you join our team and what we expect from you”, has eight panels. Three give information about the company, the hotel (about types of guests and what various departments do) and its culture. Three panels give details of our expectations of employees and our promises to the employees.
Disney uses personality profiling to determine where there is a fit.
Even if the person is not selected, the process makes them feel good about
the company. After all, their friends and relatives are both potential
guests and cast members! Orientation is done through videos and other
consistent visual aids and the central element is communicating the following
in order to begin the process of getting them wrapped up in the company
culture: the company's past (its traditions), the company's present (how
operations work), and the company's future (the vision). New cast members
get a name tag day one, and are told if the name tag is not on at all times,
even backstage (back-of-the-house), they are sent home because they need
to maintain the feeling and standards among employees as well.
Disney gives many quizzes throughout orientation and training as to Disney facts (name the seven dwarfs) and facility facts (extensive tours of the entire property are essential). All orientation is done by line staff from different areas of the company (like the guy who loads the Space Mountain cars) who are picked to be "Tradition Assistants" for two to three days a month. This builds self-esteem, loyalty, sense of importance, and the applicants can really ask questions about working on the line.
Training is either 1-on-1 or 2-on-1. They teach job skills and people skills with equal emphasis - more on this in the service section of this article.
When it comes to caring for staff, they feel you must ensure that the physical environment is supportive. Disney's Golden Rule: treat staff as they expect staff to treat guests - this is essential to set an example.
If any supervisor notes a crabby staff member they will talk to that person and send them home, if necessary, so that negativity is not spread. Upbeat attitudes must be engendered back-of-the-house to carry to the front-of-the-house.
No Disney visuals are in break rooms or cafeteria because the staff told management they overload on it and need a real break. Many personal services are provided because staff cannot get anywhere easily once at work, such as vehicle registration, voter registration, dry cleaning, etc. In addition, Disney provides a private lake with recreational area for staff and families only.
Longevity and performance recognition through pins, awards, parties, etc. are also important aspects of caring for employees at Disney.
Since nothing is unique (people can alternatively go to Universal Studios), then what Disney is selling is only 10% product and 90% service. This is obviously very true of hotels, too. 65% of Disney’s guests are repeat. But more important to them than their repeat guest, is the guest who becomes their advocate. The one who goes home and says, "We won't be going back to Disney in the next few years or maybe never but it was great, you should go".
Disney recommends taking a magnifying glass to what you are doing RIGHT (rather than what you are doing WRONG), examine it, map it out so you understand and can translate those elements to what you are doing wrong.
The guest (or employee) might not always be right, but always allow them to be wrong with dignity. In order to give good service you must have these four elements:
1. Know who your guests are, what they want, and when:
Everyone's job description whether they be in accounting or line staff on a ride has the Same first two items:
Two Disney Tidbits: It takes 37 magic moments to recover from 1 tragic moment. A good coach has a staff that has confidence in him/her while a great coach has a staff that has confidence in themselves!
3. Set the stage:
The setting must be consistent with what you want people to feel and must always communicate your essence. The setting supports both the service theme and the service standards.
The setting includes:
The environment: They have "smelletzers" which spew specific smells throughout the park. When you first walk into the Magic Kingdom onto Main Street, they have the smell of just-baked chocolate chip cookies.4. Deliver a quality show (service delivery):
In order to deliver service, you must have well-trained people and they must have systems that support them and enable them to provide good service. At Disney, a quality show is made up of three components: people; systems; and service recovery.
People: Staff are taught that the front line is the bottom line. Orientation of all staff includes behavior skill training such as: importance of first impressions; posture; gestures (their staff is taught not to gesticulate when talking to guests); facial expressions; vocal image; and use of humor (everyone's view of what is funny is different so humor is to be avoided).
Oh yes, so, what time IS the 3 PM parade? First, cast members know never to laugh at the person asking this question. Apparently, it is the most frequently asked question in the Magic Kingdom. Next, they are taught to understand that what they really need to know is what time does the 3 PM parade pass by where the guest plans to be during the time of the parade. In other words, the answer is, "Where will you be?" And then, answer the question, "The 3 PM parade passes the fire house on Main Street at 3:12 PM."
Think about the orientation and training that street sweepers receive from Disney in order to ensure that everyone can provide quality service to their guests. Can you match it? We all need to try!
HVS / American Hospitality Management Company