From an organizational standpoint, the first best lesson I learned while working at Walt Disney World was to HIRE NICE PEOPLE. Disney believed that people could more easily learn the technical aspects of a job than to learn to be friendly and nice. The interview and selection process at Disney is designed to identify those job seekers who are inherently comfortable with people and like being around people.
The second best lesson I learned from an organization perspective is that Disney values the importance of the first day on the job. No one, not no one, begins their job position without attending the day and a half of orientation called Disney Traditions. Unlike other company orientations, this one is very different.
Most of my former job orientations involved sitting down with someone from Human Resources who would go over the benefits package, insurance papers, and other important, but mundane topics. Then, I would be given a stack of collateral material about company values and beliefs that I was told to read while my designated work area was being cleaned out from the last person who held the job. If I was lucky, there was sometimes a person who was asked to take me around and introduce me to people in my area that I would be sharing office space. From that point on, it was a matter of sink or swim.
The Disney orientation breaks from the traditional company orientations by saving all the paperwork till the end. They know you are excited about your job so they want to build on that excitement from day one. A warm welcome upon entering the orientation training room, your name tag with your name spelled correctly, historical photos lining the walls, and round tables set up to promote getting to know other cast members. Job titles are not on the name tags or tent cards. The message being sent is that every person is important no matter what job you will have.
Stories of Disney’s past are told to let you know its rich history. Former successes and challenges are shared with values woven into the stories as to what’s important. Frontline cast members conduct parts of the orientation so new cast members can hear what it is really like to work at Disney. A focus on the higher purpose of each and every job is reinforced over and over: your job is to create “happiness”. A tour of the Magic Kingdom both back stage and on-stage highlights the importance of working together to delight the guests.
Yes, by the end of the day and a half, you do feel like you have been sprinkled with the pixie dust. Now you are ready to go to your assigned work area and begin to uphold the values and higher purpose because you know your place in the big picture and how important your role plays as a strong link in the chain. Too many organizations waste this opportunity of reinforcing and building their culture. Never will you have a person’s attention more than in the beginning of their new job. Take a look at your orientation, do you need to make some changes?