Why People Work at Disney: The Disney Difference

Why People Work at Disney: The Disney Difference
What is the Disney Difference?

Why would you want to work at Disney if Universal or SeaWorld was paying you more per hour to work there? Why would you travel all the way out to the Magic Kingdom, get on a bus, walk through a utilidor, before punching your time card and going to work, when you could go a few blocks down the street and be there in no time?

The answer is the Disney Difference. More than a slogan, over the years this expression has come to represent Disney’s effort to brand the benefits behind working at Disney. As Walt Disney World grew in terms of the number of parks, resorts, and other recreational offerings, it has become increasingly difficult to hire and retain employees. Furthermore, competition has grown over the years, bringing efforts to lure Disney employees away to work elsewhere in the community. Some competitors, like hotel chains, have outstanding benefits already in place. Other competitors simply make it easier to work for.

So the answer to all of this was to create the Disney Difference. Essentially, this is a packaging of all the discounts, services, and offerings available to Cast Members and their families. First of these is the ability to enjoy the parks for themselves, their family, and friends of guests for free. But beyond this, the Disney Difference is much more:

  • scores of local organizations offering discounts in food, merchandise, housing and more
  • an employee-exclusive recreation area with a beach, pools, and sports field
  • a Disney VoluntEARS group with a wide array of creative community service projects
  • a number of diversity resource groups that support its diverse employee population
  • your work costume provided to you, with options to have it cleaned and ironed for you
  • several onsite daycare facilities
  • apartments dedicated to international and college program employees
  • onsite health care facilities and a range of programs that encourage health and fitness
  • reward and recognition programs that are distinctly Disney and particularly performance based
  • one-of-a-kind Cast Member activities like the annual canoe races or Goofy’s Mystery Tour competition
  • most importantly, it’s about the privilege of being part of something very special and bringing that to Disney’s guests

Beyond this, Disney spends a lot of effort not only communicating these benefits to existing and prospective employees, but also branding them like a Disney movie. The packaging bundled together keeps current Cast Members focused on the size and scope of the benefit package, constantly communicating all the benefits that are available. The goal is to encourage employees to use their benefits as much as possible, so they feel they are getting as much extra value as possible from being a Disney Cast Member.

Under the banner of the Disney Difference and with Tinker Bell serving as sort of a mascot, they provide a pocket guide that lets you access all the resources Disney offers you as a Cast Member.

The cumulative effect is that the Disney Difference attracts and retains the kind of employees Disney wants to retain. In every one of their 3,000 job categories, retention levels are much higher than the national average. Moreover, they’ve retained people who largely love the heritage and offerings Disney provides its guests, and find joy in being part of such a unique experience. Indeed, many Cast Members are passionate about working in such a magical place–even though they are the people who make the place magical. As its publication states:

You make the Disney Difference

The services and programs represented…also distinguish the Walt Disney World Resort from other area employers. Simply put, it’s the Disney Difference–the basis for everything we do.

Starting with our Cast Members, the Disney Difference is an environment in which Cast Members feel comfortable and welcome. Where people care about their jobs and about each other. Where our guiding principles are to respect, appreciate, and value everyone. Where all are inspired and challenged to grow to their fullest potential.

The Disney Difference is that feeling of being part of something very special. It’s the sense of contributing to a growing and profitable enterprise. It’s the advantage of size that provides us with an array of opportunities and a variety of roles to which we can aspire.

The Disney Difference is the pride you feel because you’re part of the Disney Family…Together we create those feelings for ourselves. We deliver the results. And we create the Disney Difference. The Disney Difference is the way we do things at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Rather than thinking about how to cut back on benefits, Disney is at its best when it focuses on improving the mental benefits of working at Disney. We call this Psychic Income. Though, clearly, there are benefits from the status of working for a world-class organization, there’s an even more influential consideration. People don’t work because of the brick, mortar, or logo, but because of the culture of the organization. The benefit of working for an organization must be as real and tangible as the ones customers receive from doing business with you. As such, every company must be unique. And at Disney, they call that the Disney Difference.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the psychic income for working at your place?
  • What is the “difference” that sets your organization apart from others?
  • How do you brand that “difference?”
  • How does that “difference” help you to attain and retain the best employees possible?

J. Jeff Kober