Making “Magic” is Hard Work: “Being” the Guest

Steve Milovich
Senior Vice President of Corporate Human Resources, Organization and Leadership Development
The Walt Disney Company

At The Walt Disney Company, we’re in the business of creating entertaining, magical experiences for millions of guests, viewers, and consumers around the world. We’ve found that there is no better way to help our people understand the Disney experience than to “be” the guest. Our legacy depends on our ability to continually craft products and services that remain inherently and unmistakably Disney. One component in securing this legacy is ensuring that our employees and executives are in touch with our products and have the opportunity to experience them as consumers and guests.

From the day that employees join Disney, they receive a steady stream of opportunities to immerse themselves in our products and guest/consumer experiences. We screen releases of our movies, provide behind-the-scenes glimpses of new rides and attractions, offer discounts on our products, and provide complimentary tickets and annual passes to our theme parks, just to name a few.

To keep the Disney legacy alive, we provide heritage classes, guest speakers, and tours to give employees a chance to understand key milestones and decisions in our history that shaped our company. During lunch, our Disney Archives team regularly screens early Disney films and animated shorts.

For our executives, it’s no different. In fact, we go to great lengths to ensure that our senior leaders not only understand our products, but experience them as well. For our most senior level leadership team, we provide a weeklong experience called Disney Dimensions that takes our executives deep into every major business unit across the company.

This year, Dimensions participants read actual scripts under consideration at the studios, then shared their thoughts about which one they would “greenlight.” While at the Walt Disney Internet Group, participants test-drove games and gave feedback to the actual game designers. While at Disney Consumer Products, they participated in a fashion show of Disney’s newest clothing lines. Up at Pixar, they listened to story pitches. And at ABC, they literally danced with the stars from ABC’s hit reality show. Later, across the country, at ESPN’s Connecticut headquarters, they produced their own “on-air” SportsCenter segments.

While at Walt Disney World, executives zipped themselves into costume and worked side-by-side with our front-line “cast members” – trading pins, cooking hot dogs, sweeping the streets, or any number of other guest-facing roles. Then, to cap it all off, participants trained as a Disney character, donned a character costume, and interacted with guests in the park.

I had the opportunity to participate in Dimensions, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done professionally. I can attest to the fact that nothing brings the magic of Disney to life like seeing a young guest smile at you, hug you, touch your character’s nose, and ask for your autograph!

At Disney, we create magical experiences and products for our guests and consumers. Keeping our employees and executives close to this product helps us ensure that we continue to do so because, for the more than 130,000 employees across our theme parks, studios, media, and consumer products divisions, it’s more than a job… it’s a passion.

Steve Milovich has worldwide responsibility for learning, leadership development, organization development, succession planning, diversity, employee communications, talent acquisition, and The Disney University.