Invest in You: Employee Engagement & Designing Culture

In 2019, we had the opportunity to attend the ACC Excellence Summit featuring Disney Institute. A three day leadership training course, the sessions were informative and really helped clarify the next steps for the company and for me as a leader and a company owner. Over the course of the summit, we covered leadership, employee engagement, and quality service – all topics we “think we know lots about”. However, when you learn first-hand from Disney’s perspective, it teaches you an entirely new approach.

Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement

Following the first two days on leadership excellence and quality service, we began our final course with Disney Institute: Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement. The truth is, any business – whether it’s huge like The Walt Disney Company or boutique like The Agency – is a function of its people. If your people aren’t engaged and performing, your clients and customers aren’t happy. Often, neither is your team. There are a variety of ‘levers’ you can use to create more engaged employees though, and this is how Disney does it.

1. Culture
“Culture” has become such a buzzword. You can design culture by beginning with a strong foundation of heritage and traditions, shared values, language and symbols of meaning, and a desired set of traits and behaviors that you want your team to bring to life. It’s important that senior leadership also actively practices the elements of your foundation. If you don’t walk the talk, employees won’t either and then the company won’t live the desired culture you want – nor will they realize the ensuing benefits.

2. Selection
This lever boils down to this: don’t fall prey to the “just fill the seat” mentality. Wait and hire the right person. You want them to be a good fit culturally and have the right skills. Be intentional in testing for both and take your time to find the best person for the job. 

3. Training 
In the participant guide for the employee engagement training, Disney Institute states that the problem with some companies is that they “select and hire people, but then underinvest in the required development that leads to desired behaviors on the job.” Reconsider how you deliver training to your employees, as it is often an underused opportunity to reinforce your culture. It can help set the tone for new employees, and for ongoing training it can communicate how important culture is to the company. Training can also bring organizational goals to life, as well as increase employee productivity and efficiency. Don’t underestimate its significance!

4. Communication
“High-quality communication can actively reinforce culture; low-quality communication can undermine culture.” While selection and training are singular events, communication is continuous and happening all the time – it’s one of the loudest signals a company can send. By being intentional and reinforcing your culture in your communications practices, you can more actively engage your team. 

One statement that really stuck out to us was the following:

“Be as intentional about employee communication as you are about customer communication.”

Value your employees just as much as you would your customers. They are your company’s biggest assets and advocates. Also, listen intentionally to your team to help build lasting relationships and collaborations.

5. Care
The fifth topic that Disney places emphasis on is care. We are not just talking about the regular compensation and benefits – care is about creating an intentional concern for the well being of your employees and as a result, creating a culture of commitment versus compliance. 

This can be something simple like working to proactively remove a hassle for employees. For example, at The Agency we have heating issues in our workspace as we work in a vintage brick building. As a result, our Managing Director, Arleigh, went to Canadian Tire and bought a space heater for our team. It was very welcome and easy gesture to ensure our team is comfortable even on our coldest winter days. 

Another example of showing care is recognition. The main thing to remember with recognition is that it is a “tangible expression of appreciation for an employee’s demonstration of desired behaviors” – the adult version of a gold star!

Note: recognition is different than compensation, but a bonus can be an example of recognition.

Your Turn to “Earn Your Ears”!
We applied some great learnings from this Disney Institute program to our business, and we want to share this opportunity with our network. Registration for the 2020 ACC Excellence Summit featuring Disney Institute is open, and the last 3 years have sold out! As “Marketing Superstars” of the 2020 Summit, we hope we’ll see you on March 3-5, 2020 in Calgary.

This is your chance to discover, as Disney Institute says, “the method behind the magic”!

Header Image Credit:  © Disney Images 

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