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Disney training aims for stars

Published on Tuesday, 10 Sep 2013
Volunteer programmes are among the ways Disney aims to provide a fun workplace for motivated staff.
Photo: Felix Wong
Christine Wong

At the Employer Branding Conference, Christine Wong, vice-president for HR at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, will be sharing how her organisation strives to be the employer of choice for young talent through comprehensive training programmes, transparent career paths and opportunities, recognition and engagement, and by providing a fun environment.

“In a hot talent market, there’s a tendency for organisations to focus on salary as the key means to attract top talent and maintain employee morale,” says Wong, who was one of the first people to be hired at the resort when she joined as director of learning and development in 2001.

“Though important, compensation fulfils only a short-term requirement for some groups of employees, but might not be able to address the value proposition of young generations,” she adds.

The resort has a workforce of more than 8,000 full-time and part-time employees at the theme park and its two hotels during the most popular summer period. Most of the resort’s staff are under 25 years old.

Wong says the resort’s workplace culture is made up of several key components, including staff excellence, career opportunities, recognition and engagement, and a fun workplace.

Staff can avail themselves of learning opportunities at the Disney University, where they can learn about Disney’s heritage and traditions, receive on-the-job training, and take part in personal and professional development programmes. On average, employees spend at least 45 hours a year in training.

The resort also conducts employee surveys to better understand its staff. Wong says the results show that many of its young employees have high expectations of career growth. The resort subsequently created an online communications system for accessing career-development information.

This “Career Lattice” online communications system enables employees to easily access career-development information and pursue their work aspirations. All job opportunities and related career paths are made fully transparent, and employees are able to apply for any role through this online system.

To ensure applicants’ privacy, all applications go directly to the HR department. A candidate’s supervisor will only be informed if the application is successful.

Apart from career growth, Wong says that having a fun workplace is important in motivating a young workforce. “We believe that happy cast members [the resort’s way of referring to its staff] bring happy guests,” Wong says. “To provide a fun workplace, we organise a lot of cast activities, as well as recognition and volunteer programmes, to engage them throughout the year.”

The resort organises a number of internal and external programmes to encourage its staff to support initiatives spanning education, health, social and other outreach services. These include an Earth Day celebration, Cast Fun Run, various other sports competitions, previews of new resort areas for staff, their families and friends, and a Disney VoluntEARS programme to promote conscientious environmental stewardship. Such programmes help to instil a sense of pride in working for the resort, Wong says.

Beyond the workplace, the resort encourages its staff to have fun with their guests. “Despite the wide range of job duties, our cast members have only one unique role to play – to create and have fun with our guests. This is the mission we have for our cast members,” Wong says.

In building its employer brand, the resort seeks to foster a safe, respectful, inclusive and fun workplace. “Disney has a big passion for its cast members and guests,” Wong says. “We want to attract talents who share our beliefs to uphold and foster our values.”

These deep-rooted values include respecting every employee as an individual, developing and supporting a diverse workforce through leadership behaviour, and supporting employees’ continuous learning, career development and personal growth.

“Our cast members take pride in their roles,” Wong says. “They are motivated to perform their best to boost their appeal to future potential talents.”

To create the right workplace culture, Wong believes in the importance of helping employees become knowledgeable cast members, fostering open communication and having fun. Cast members are motivated and empowered in order to excel in their roles, she adds.

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