The following is the answer I gave to a common question. I always tell everyone in every organization to first think about what you do have vs. what you don’t have. Have a good weekend everyone.
Question: I work in a backstage area and have for all 13 years that I have been at the Walt Disney World® Resort. In the early 1990s we often had involvement with parks and were invited to Cast events in the parks, such as new attraction openings and other celebrations that are no longer affordable.
We also used to have the ability to show our Cast appreciation by having a departmental lunch once in a while at one of the restaurants in a park or resort. In recent years, this has stopped happening due to budgetary reasons; and even if I would be willing to pay for the meal out of my own pocket, we cannot use the Company discount. When we now have a new Cast Member or the team has gone through a difficult time, we go to an off-property restaurant to celebrate out of our own pocket. We have become so isolated that our most recent hire has remarked that he does not feel like he works for Disney at all.
I understand that budgets have to be controlled and the Cast celebrations of the past may never return because we have grown so much. My question is, “What can we as Leaders do to reconnect the backstage Cast to the wonder of working for Disney?”
I don’t see it the way you do. I have been around and worked for different very good companies, and I can tell you, we have it very good here at the Walt Disney World® Resort.
We have a Cast Holiday Celebration every year. All Cast Members get extra admission tickets, including coupons for a snack and drink. Everyone gets a 50% off coupon for a meal in selected table-service restaurants in both a park and a Disney restaurant outside of the Walt Disney World® theme parks—and we have a year to use it. We all get a 40% merchandise discount during the holidays, and that was extended through January each year so everyone would have a chance to use it. We get a photo. All of us get a holiday gift from our Company.
We get complimentary theme park tickets twice a year, in addition to our Main Gate/Silver Passes to enjoy the parks . . . and we can enter the parks individually with our ID without using a Main Gate click.
We have Mickey’s Retreat at Little Lake Bryan, and they have many events there that are free for Cast Members and their families. We have all sorts of clubs and activities that Cast Members can join, from softball to drama.
We have private events for Cast Members to come and try out new attractions before they are open to the public—Cast Previews. We have good cafeterias. We have a very good health-care plan, child-care plan, and retirement plan. We have discounts on food and on merchandise. And, we recognize our outstanding Cast Members formally and informally.
There are opportunities to change jobs at the Walt Disney World® Resort . . . there is unlimited opportunity for those who want to take advantage of it . . . and classes, seminars, and development opportunities are available for Cast Members to develop themselves. We have educational reimbursement, and we have a great business which helps us all get more hours and the security of having a job—because our Company is managed properly to control costs and to keep the Company healthy with good business results, unlike many companies that are laying off employees by the thousands.
It is true that as we have grown to 57,000 Cast Members some things have changed. I think that you should not be isolated, and I will look at making sure that we are not forgetting some areas when we have celebrations or open new operations.
We do have limits sometimes on the number that can be invited to something, and there is a need to get Front-Line and backstage Cast Members exposed so they will be knowledgeable for our Guests.
Your question was, “What can we as Leaders do to reconnect the backstage Cast to the wonder of working for Disney?”
I would make sure that they are reading The Main Street Diary to see all of the great letters from our Guests. I would maybe from time to time take some of your Cast Members as a group over to one of the parks for an hour or two to see the wonder in the Guests’ eyes. Maybe just go see the parade one day or gather one evening to watch IllumiNations, WISHES™, or Fantasmic! together. Go over and take a Safari together. Go walk the Epcot® International Flower and Garden Festival for an hour, or go together after work for an hour or two. Ask our onstage Leaders to help you with special things from time to time. Try to arrange to have Mickey come over and say hello to everyone. There is money in the budget for some things. We just need to be creative and prudent on how we spend the money we have.
I don’t want anyone to feel isolated and not part of the team, and we need to stay tuned to this issue . . . and I thank you for bringing this issue to my attention. . . . Lee