Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

Want Greater Employee Engagement...Be, “of the people.”

April 29, 2014 by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute

It’s a sad truth about the workplace. According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report, just 30% of employees are actively committed to doing a good job; 50% of employees merely put their time in; while the remaining 20% act out their discontent in counterproductive ways, negatively influencing their coworkers, missing days on the job, and driving customers away through poor service. Gallup estimates that the 20% group alone costs the U.S. economy around half a trillion dollars each year.

So, what’s the reason for the widespread employee disengagement? According to Gallup, poor leadership is a key cause. 

This opportunity is expressed in a recent article in Harvard Business Review. We agree with the authors; it is important to focus on acts and activities. We have found that it is often easier to act oneself into new ways of thinking than to think oneself into new ways of acting. So, we will focus on one key action that we see deliver high levels of engagement at Disney.

Disney Executive Chef Robert Gilbert regularly walks his work locations at Walt Disney World, spending a significant amount of time with his managers and front line Cast Members. Why? Because he cares about his people and wants to hear directly from them about what he can do to help them be successful in their roles and in their careers. He also cares about them as people, so conversations can easily turn to activities with family and friends or personal needs.

Why does Chef Robert spend so much time with his team? Because he understands the principle that great leaders simply do not allow themselves to become separated from occurrences on the front line. He builds comfortable relationships with his people that lead to high levels of trust and two-way communication. He is visible and accessible at all times and everyone on his team knows and understands that he will be there for them when they need him. These relationships create a culture of shared ownership and commitment to delivering an excellent experience for our Guests, and for each other, on a daily basis.

How does Chef Robert know that this is the right thing to do? Well, he sees his leader, Rilous Carter, VP-Catering & Convention Services & Park Event Operations, do the very same thing. In fact, Chef Robert refers to Rilous as, “a man of the people,” who is known to get in costume and work side by side with the dishwashing team because he had heard that they needed new dishwashing equipment. He wanted to understand the team’s needs and be able to support them with the best solution possible. Rilous sets the tone in his operations and leads by example, not allowing himself to become separated from occurrences on the front line.

At Disney Institute, we have worked with thousands of individuals and organizations over the years and we tend to agree with the author’s assessment that, “Traditional leadership development programs tend to be quite generic and are often detached from what firms stand for in the eyes of customers and from the market results people are expected to achieve. And when people are engaged in defining the leadership practices that will enable them to thrive, and those practices are connected to the market realities against which they need to perform, they are highly motivated to create the best possible profile for leaders and to make the new solutions work.Their willing cooperation maximizes the acceptance of new profiles for leadership while minimizing implementation costs.”

That is why our solutions for Leadership Excellence start with the premise that, Leaders establish, operationalize, and sustain the values and vision by which their organizations thrive. Rilous and Robert have learned from a long line of Disney leaders that being present and engaging their team is first and foremost an organizational value. It is important for organizational health and constitutes our best opportunity for sustained results.

How will leaders in your organization demonstrate the importance of being, “of the people?”

Disney Institute is ready to help you apply strategic rigor to your customer experience efforts - call us at 321.939.4600 or complete our Contact Form

Posted in Employee Engagement | Tagged Employee Engagement, Employee Engagement Ideas, Employee Retention, Leadership, Leadership Excellence, Corporate Culture, Organizational Values, Bruce Jones

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