By User12601034-Oracle on Jun 07, 2016
Is Disneyland really the happiest place on Earth? My (unscientific) research would indicate that, yes, it is. My family spent this past week at Disneyland and another well-known theme park, and I have to say that there was a marked difference between the two. My research consisted of talking to park employees to determine what makes their park, their job, and their company special.
At Disneyland, we came across employees who shared their four keys of safety, courtesy, show and efficiency. We saw employees smiling all the time and asking how they could make your day perfect. I talked with employees who said they loved working for Disney – one worked there through college and then returned after getting her Masters degree; one employee was in his 47th year at Disney. And I talked with employees who said they never get tired of working at Disney because any daily assignment is a 30 minute rotation, and longer term employees have the opportunity to move throughout the park.
In contrast, at our second theme park, we saw a lot fewer smiles from employees, and I didn’t see anyone who looked like they had been there 47 years. When I asked about training, I was told that “they have certain things we can and can’t say.” When I asked for directions, the employee pointed and said “I think it’s that way.” The best observation was from my 11-year old when we walked past an attraction late in the day, and she said “He doesn’t look as fresh as he did this morning.”
Overall, our experience made me think about the leadership of each park and how their actions can be a lesson to all leaders. The four leadership lessons that I learned from Disneyland include:
- Set clear expectations. Employees at Disneyland said their job was to make every park guest’s visit memorable and perfect. This expectation was set from the top level down, through all of the training that employees received. At our second park, nobody talked about the expectations of their job, and you could see the difference in performance.
- Keep jobs fresh. At Disneyland, one employee said he never got tired of what he did because they had 30 minute rotations in their area. By contrast, at our second park, the employee who didn’t look “fresh” at 5:30pm was at the same location when we started our day at 9:00am. If you keep jobs fresh – rotate assignments, provide new projects, and give new opportunities – your employees are more likely to stay engaged with their work
- Have fun. Nobody wants to work in dreariness. Find ways to make work fun for you employees – create contests out of certain activities, celebrate birthdays, host online holiday parties. When people are having fun, others can see that…including your customers. My kids easily saw that the Disneyland employees had fun at their jobs – that’s why they’ve been there for 40-plus years!
- Provide excellent training. Disney employees had one job – to make every guest’s day perfect. To accomplish this, they had training in all aspects of the park that contributed to that. If you expect certain behaviors or actions from your employees, it is your responsibility to ensure they have the right training to meet those expectations.
One of my final questions at Disneyland was “Do you ever have really bad employees?” The cast member chuckled and told me that employees who don’t meet Disney ideals don’t last long and typically choose to leave before they’re even in front of park guests. As another point for leaders, it’s crucial to remember that not everyone is fit for the goals of your team. You can fight that, or you can accept it and help them find the right roles.
Overall, I saw many employees at Disneyland meeting corporate expectations and making park guests happy. I’m not sure that Disneyland would be everyone’s idea of the Happiest Place on Earth, but if you employ some of the same ideas as Disney leaders, you might have the Happiest Teams at Your Company!