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Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

Employee Recognition 101: Celebrating Things That Really Matter

May 24, 2016 by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute

A key insight that we explore in our Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement training course, is that recognizing for important cultural values is just as important as recognizing all other business criteria or outcomes—such as meeting sales goals or completing a project on time.

We are not saying don’t recognize business outcomes. What we are saying is that, while it’s absolutely appropriate to reward employees based on business outcomes, it’s essential that you balance your approach by also recognizing employees for displaying correct behaviors, i.e., those behaviors that represent your desired organizational culture.

Allow me to illustrate. Recently, the Disney Parks Blog shared a story about two Disney Cast Members, Louise Stewart and Cyndi Vallerga-Brown, who have been happily working the main entrance together at the Disneyland Park since 1966. And now, a half-century later, these two ladies recently celebrated their 50-year service anniversaries together as well.

“We’ve been through so much together,” said Louise, who on March 5, 2016, became the first female Cast Member to mark 50 years at Disneyland Resort. That same month, the two women were honored at a celebration in the Main Street Opera House, just days before Cindy also marked her 50-year anniversary.

Working 50 years with the same company is something that is virtually unheard of in today’s workforce, and this rare type of longevity alone can be cause for celebration! Yet, these two ladies also continue to influence others with the passion and positive nature they bring to work everyday.

In fact, in 2011, both Louise and Cyndi were presented with the Walt Disney Legacy Award—the company’s highest honor. Nominated by their colleagues, each was recognized for consistently inspiring others, going out of their way to create happiness for Guests and Cast Members, and finding new ways to deliver Disney magic. These behaviors not only support a healthy work environment, for us they can also be key drivers of great Guest experiences and business results.

(Fun Fact: If you’ve ever met or seen a Cast Member wearing a special blue nametag, it means they’re a distinguished Walt Disney Legacy Award winner!)


So, how can an organization achieve such sustained excellence in its workforce? Remember, as we’ve shared here in previous Talking Point posts, employee recognition is a powerful tool for employee engagement.

Something we’ve clearly seen in our many years spent training individuals and organizations, is that effective recognition can promote cultural values and desired behaviors. In other words, “If I do something well, and I am recognized for it, then I will likely feel good about that behavior and tend to repeat it  … and I can also be reasonably sure that it was the correct behavior because it was reinforced.”

The payoff is that, when used generously and strategically, recognition can be one of your most powerful levers for reinforcing organizational culture and values, as well as helping to drive great customer experiences and sustained business outcomes.

Think about it: What behaviors can you start to recognize consistently to help reinforce your organization’s cultural values?


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 Recognition, Recognition, Engagement, Professional Development, Organizational Culture, Organizational Values, Values, Company Culture, Workplace Culture, Disney Parks Blog, Walt Disney, Walt Disney Legacy Award, Legacy Award, Disneyland, Cyndi Vallerga-Brown, Louise Stewart, Bruce Jones


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