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Disneyland shows an HR veteran how employee engagement increases customer loyalty


Best friends from work take me to a meet and greet with Mickey

Last week, I blogged about my very first visit to Disneyland

Yes, you read that right. I have never been to Disneyland or any Disney theme park. As an HR guy, I felt flattered that co-workers put together a trip for me to meet Mickey. This experience reinforced to me that having best friends at work can make a difference in how we all feel about our work and our employer. 

This weeks post is part two of the series. Today, I explore a number of HR concepts that I feel Disneyland does really well. I had heard the Disneyland hype as an employer of choice, the exceptional customer experience and have worked with colleagues who worked at Disneyland. As much as I was looking forward to spending a day with great friends, there was a second aspect to the day trip.

The HR geek in me was looking forward to experiencing the culture of Disneyland as felt through its very visible employees and grounds. My experience would be a direct correlation to how Disneyland employees feel about its culture and values.

Even newbs like me who have NOT been to Disneyland have heard the hype

  • The place is impeccably clean
  • The employees are incredibly engaged with the customers
  • The landscaping will be Mr. Miyagi level

Disneyland lived up to all the hype, pomp and circumstance.

What does Disneyland have to do with HR?

Being involved with recruiting, there are a few accomplishments on a resume that will catch any recruiter’s eye. Second languages, leadership positions in a sorority/fraternity and work experience at Disney are at the top of the list. Disney makes the list because they have such a strong customer experience culture. Candidates with this experience understand what customer service is all about and every company wants a piece of this. Our HR Specialist held a leadership position with a sorority and worked at Disney so of course, she was in on this trip. She brings the benefit of both past experiences to her HR role.   

As an HR guy, I believe that the culture of the company is not just good for employees, but the company’s customers. Engaged employees can make a big difference in the customer’s perception of the company and Disney employees delivered. They call it the Happiest Place on Earth because the employees are purposeful about this company value. I get it now. 

A few examples of the customer experience translated from Walt to the Disneyland “guests”

  • The place was “IMMACULATELY, white glove” clean. There are more bits of garbage in our 10,000 sq foot office than there were noticed in all of Disneylands 85 acres. With trees everywhere, I rarely saw any dead leaves on the grounds. Disneyland rocked a Mr. Miyage level landscape.
  • I wore white pants and white shoes and was a little worried about the outdoor seating getting my shit dirty. I shouldn’t have and didn’t. 
  • When our pictures were taken, they didn’t just take a single picture of us. All the photographers made our session a photo shoot. The photographer had us in multiple poses and if one of our group wanted her OWN picture by herself, they accommodated. The photographers didn’t emit any heavy sighs or look at the long lines with impatience. Just big smiles and the click of the camera. CRA CRA! Our first photo shoot was in a Teacup. In my he-man mind, I wasn’t super excited about hopping in a pink Teacup but my crew acted as if this was SOP so I went with the flow. The photographer made this particular experience one of the best and set the tone for the rest of the day.

I had doubts, but our photographer made the Teacup photo session a great experience. 

Those that have been to Disneyland understand this is commonplace, but for this neophyte, “MIND BLOWN!. When was the last time you experienced this level of service across such a large organization? Below are just a few of the HR lessons learned.

Disneyland proves managers can be friends with individual contributors?

I believe that managers and individual contributors can hang out together after hours and blogged about it here. I am suspicious of managers who say: “I don’t hang out with people on my team, I can’t be their friend”. Trust comes hard with anyone that won’t break bread with me. The No Friend Zone is a short-sighted approach. I would like to believe that as friends, we will work harder and look out for each other at a deeper level.

As most readers know, Mrs. HRNasty passed away a few years ago, and this crew looks out for me. They treat as a friend and not a victim. These are great friends and Mrs. HRNasty would be happy for me.   


Breaking bread together. OK, it’s a Mickey Mouse Beignet, but you get the idea. Outdoor seating: Immaculate.

Disneyland proves Corporate Culture extends to and enhances the customer/guests experience

I am constantly thinking about building employee engagement and building a culture of support. As an employer, I don’t want the teams to just get shit done. I want to have fun and believe in each other. HR can be a catalyst that builds teams of employees who will not only get along but go the extra mile for each other. I blogged about a team I worked with here in 2010 and we were able to get shit done in the most stressful of times.  I can picture this happening at Disneyland. 

Based on my experience, I believe that Disneyland employees get along. I find it hard to believe that everyone can be so nice without liking each other or their employer. Yes, I realize that if you are caught arguing with a guest, there will be dire results, but the customer experience was more than that. The employees delivered a sincere experience.  

Conscious of Employee Costs

I am always counting how many employees are working in a place, especially when the establishment is empty. I always wonder how the owner makes payroll when they have what looks like TOO many employees and very few customers. In 2012 I blogged about how Jimmy Johns had 17 visible employees making sandwiches and why it was obviously working.

At Disneyland, I saw a marching band perform. I couldn’t help but wonder “How much does this crew cost Disneyland?” This was unbelievable to my HR mind. The marching band consisted of 20 musicians and 2 handlers to make sure guests gave them room. But that isn’t it. These guys are wearing what I have to imagine are some of the more expensive costumes in the park. Did we mention the instruments? Instruments are a HUGE EXPENSE! Rides weren’t enough for Walt. This MoFo said I am going to give them the full experience and it will include a marching band.

Walt has big balls

Let’s face it. No one is saying “I WOUUUULD go to Disneyland but they don’t have a marching band so we are going to go to Seaworld!”. No one is saying, “Disneyland used to be fun, but it isn’t the same without the Marching band.” Walt has big balls and I applaud him. Yes, I saw guests engaged with the band’s performance.



Walt giving us the full experience with 1076 instruments on opening day. WTF Mr. Disney? I am glad I wasn’t the HR guy recruiting 1000 marching band members!

I also read about an early Mickey Mouse movie with sound and sure enough, there was a brass band. My bad Walt, I see the connection now. 

Trying to get by with the fewest employees possible is not always the best way.  Think outside the box!

A member of the our  #MouseClub gave me this hat for Christmas and that is our club pin. They know my style.  

Thank you

Mr. Disney, my hat is off to you for creating a great customer experience at Disneyland via your employees. I have an idea of what it takes to for employees to embrace company values. You blew my mind.

MouseClub, thank you for sharing a personal experience and inspiring my HR world. Taking the HR guy on an adventure of this scale was the ultimate compliment and I will remember your gesture of kindness for the rest of my life. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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