Three Things You Can Learn About Employee Retention from the Disney Company

As one of the most successful and enduring brands in the world, the Walt Disney Company gets a lot of attention for its attention to detail and customer experience. While the brand’s focus on customer service is important, its dedication to employees makes the brand one of the best companies to work for. Disney consistently appears on top employer lists, including the 4th place spot on Forbes “Best Employers to Work For in 2018—and has an enviable turnover rate, too.

Since employee satisfaction can impact not only morale and productivity, but impact your organization’s retention rate and business growth as well, attention to this critical metric can improve all aspects of your business. How does Disney get consistently high ratings from employees—and how do they inspire such loyalty? A look at how they regard employees, their dedication to culture and commitment to training showcases some of the brand’s industry leading initiatives.

Recognize the Power of Culture

The overall culture of the Disney Company inspires loyalty and ensures that employees feel valued and needed. This is no mistake; the brand actually maintains an entire department vertical dedicated to culture and leadership.

According to the Disney Institute, creating an official department or defined role that covers company culture can provide lasting benefits and improve morale and retention rates. Even if you do not have the budget for an employee satisfaction team or a cultural C-Suite executive, even a small company has the ability to create a welcoming culture that makes it easy to retain talent.

Your company culture encompasses the overall employee experience, the way your team feels about your brand and the way they interact with one another. A healthy company culture will retain employees and promote a healthy, harmonious work environment. A poor company culture results in strife, discomfort and a high turnover rate, according to the Society for Human Resources Management.

Offer Opportunities

Lack of opportunity was one of the most common reasons employees voluntarily left jobs in 2017, according to the SHRM. At 21 percent, “lack of career development” topped the list of reasons employees sought out new opportunities, so offering educational perks, chances to advance and room to grow can help your brand stand out.

The Disney Company commits to education and advancement in a variety of ways. By offering educational and leadership programs to high school and college students through the Dreamer’s Academy, the brand identifies and connects with potential talent early.

Internships for college students are available in virtually every department at the Disney Company, from hospitality to theme park management and even art and design. These coveted roles are in high demand and those who intern with Disney often return as professional team members later in their careers. By supporting students, Disney forges early loyalty and lasting connections.

For existing team members, the Disney Company offers both benefits that support learning, from flexible schedules to paid opportunities and on the job educational training. The company has long been known for promoting from within.

One hospitality manager relayed his 30-year experience with the brand, citing his start as a popcorn vendor, stint as a performer in a theatrical show and ride operator experience. From there, he was promoted to ride manager, then supported with a flexible schedule and some paid training in hospitality management; after training, he was offered a position in hotel management.  Today, he is responsible for one of the most popular resorts the company operates and plans to work with the brand until he retires (with their industry-leading retirement program)*.

Beyond Salary: Perks and Benefits Contribute to Job Satisfaction

In an increasingly complex and expensive healthcare environment, a robust insurance plan is a must for anyone hoping to retain talented employees. While the Walt Disney Company does have an outstanding healthcare plan, they offer other perks that inspire long-term loyalty. From free park entrance to 401K plans (with matching) and even discounts on merchandise and airline tickets, employees can access a wide range of benefits that are tough to give up.

Most smaller brands don’t have the budget to fund truly spectacular perks, but even small things matter. Finding ways to offer incentives to employees can help build loyalty and make your brand difficult to leave. The things you offer will vary, but offering items that have true value and that are difficult to come by otherwise can make your brand stand out and boost your retention rates.

Making lifelong connections, supporting employees with outstanding perks and benefits and forming a culture that motivates and encourages loyalty are some of the fundamental ways that the Disney Company retains talented employees. Incorporating these approaches into your own organization can help you get the results you want and significantly reduce your own turnover rates and costs.  Constantly having to replace and retrain employees can distract you from your brand’s core purpose and impact your overall business growth and success, so investing in retention can improve all aspects of your organization.

*Name withheld by source request, personal interview 8/2019

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