Dream Bigger—Communicating to Inform and Inspire

October 15, 2013

The heart of ALTA’s Best Practices is about providing the highest quality service to customers. But how do you get your employees to follow the implemented policies and procedures?

During the Saturday general session at ALTA’s 2013 Annual Convention, Jeff Noel of the Disney Institute offered strategies on how messages should be crafted so employees will not only listen but hear what you are saying. Attendees learned how Disney’s comprehensive training process keeps it positioned to maintain a competitive edge and how its effective organizational communication reinforces the company’s culture.

Noel began his Disney career in 1982 as a skipper on the Jungle Cruise attraction at Magic Kingdom in the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. After leaving to pursue his dream of bicycling across the United States, he returned to the Walt Disney World Resort in 1984 and held various front-line roles in theme parks and resorts.

Noel’s talent for teaching was quickly recognized and in 1988 he was selected to teach Traditions, Disney’s employee orientation program. He progressed to a leadership role as manager for resort special activities. From 1990-1999 he worked as a front office manager for Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Disney's Grand Floridian Hotel and Spa, and the former Disney's Village Resort. In 1999, Noel accepted an invitation to join the Disney Institute facilitation team. For 11 years, he has worked hard to excite, inspire and motivate others. “To teach is to learn twice,” you’ll hear him say.

Noel discussed the elements that go into Disney’s employee selection, training and engagement program, and shared the “O4E” concept followed at Disney. The “O” stands for over managing, while the “E” stands for engagement.

“We over manage for engagement. It’s a very simple proposition. It’s the way we work that makes magic. The cumulative effort of all of this creates our culture.”

The first step in Disney’s approach to selection, training and engagement, is that a successful culture must be developed by design, it must be well-defined, clear to all and be goal oriented.

“Disney’s consistent business results are driven by our over managing certain things that most companies under manage or ignore,” he said. “This is a key source of what differentiates us. We have learned to be intentional where others are unintentional. By over managing certain critical human resource processes, you will create highly engaged employees who will consistently exhibit desired behaviors.”

Because culture is defined by how people behave, the best employee is the one who most perfectly aligns with your desired behavior,” Noel said.

“Leaders must set the tone,” Noel said. “Are you the thermostat or the thermometer?”

During the selection process for employees, Disney ensures it communicates its culture continuously, states non-negotiables up front, treat applicants as guests and hires based on attitude not aptitude.

“Modifying or adjusting certain key aspects of your selection process will yield people with a far greater propensity to be excellent,” Noel said.

After hiring an employee, Noel said training is critical to achieve desired behaviors and outcomes than most companies imagine. Often in the busy world, companies forget the messages they send to employees.

“All employees at Disney are custodial workers,” Noel said. “Their first job is to make our customers happy, their second role is to pick up trash and their third job is to do what we hired them for.

“Everyone trains for skill. You need to move past training for compliance and train for commitment. You want to train people to want to go the extra inch whether they get paid for it or not.”

According to Noel, effective organizational communication involved soliciting information from everyone, showing individuals how they contribute and meeting the diverse needs of employees.

“High-quality communication can actively reinforce culture, while low-quality communication can undermine culture,” he added.

Finally, Noel addressed the importance demonstrating care for employees by treating them like customers, promoting a supportive environment, and recognizing and celebrating employee achievements.

“To the extent to which you genuinely care for the people is the extent to which they will care for your customers—and each other,” Noel said. “Think about ripple effect of kindness and generosity. It is possible to create a workforce that consistently demonstrates desired behaviors.”

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or [email protected].