Lizz Pellet, the Culture Vulture

In our quest to uncover the good, the bad and the ugly of company culture and employment brands from A to Z, I’ve picked my “D” company…and this time, it’s one of the most recognizable brands on the planet. Unfortunately it’s also one that doesn’t leverage their great consumer brand in their employment brand. I’m talking about Disney.

Let me give you some context here. I live in Orange, California – just a stone’s throw away from Anaheim or about 5 miles as Tinkerbell flies from the Happiest Place on Earth. I enjoy the Fireworks Spectacular every night from my back yard. For the third Christmas in a row, my family received season passes to Disneyland. Honestly, I’m a Mickey fan. My friends warned me, “Don’t dis the Mouse! It’s practically un-American!” But hey, I just can’t help it! Mickey and friends are just not living up to the Disney standard when it comes to their recruitment efforts.

The landing page for the Disney career site is flat. You can’t click on another page of their website without videos and music. So naturally you’d think with all the splash, boom, bang, technology and magic that they’d have a page that would be so memorable you’d get lost in the wonderment. (I mean for crying out loud - Fortune Named Disney the World's Most Admired Entertainment Company – you’d think there would be some excitement!) Not here. There are four - count them, four - still pictures that rotate on the screen. The pictures are:


  1. The Disney plaque being polished
  2. An artist sculpting characters
  3. The ESPN bullpen (nice diversity touch here)
  4. A shot of Main Street in Disneyland with more people than Times Square on New Year’s Eve (maybe this is so prospective applicants can understand the absolute mayhem and madness of a summer day in the park!)

Their welcome is promising. They talk about imagination, childhood dreams, magic, wonder, culture, laughter, astonishment, joy, thrills. There’s room for talented people. It’s a dream job. Magic - REALLY?! How would I know that? Maybe from the picture of the plaque polisher or mental Main Street? It sure doesn’t look that way so far. But let’s dig deeper.

They mention their culture in their welcome but try and find out anything about it in the career section and you’re lost. They list six values (innovation, quality, community, storytelling, optimism and decency) that “make our brands stand out”. I guess those can loosely correlate to the employee experience. There’s not a lot of depth here. I really expected more from the “Life at Disney” section.

Disney is doing some things right. The search jobs function passes my “three clicks and you’re out” rule. This is a huge plus because it makes the process easy for the applicants. I was able to search all jobs in Anaheim in two clicks. Once there, you notice a lot of intern positions. What does this tell me? A couple things. One - the Mouse is cheap, looking for cheap labor from college grads so they can have a big name company on the top of their resume. The second thing it tells me is that Disney has smart approach to filling vacancies and filling the talent pool of the future – get ‘em when they’re young and train them well. The job descriptions are simple, nothing too exciting or memorable with the exception of a lot of corporate acronyms that meant nothing to me.

Disney’s best and most well hidden section of the career site is the link to Disney Auditions. For all you character wannabes, this is the place to look for open casting calls so you can don a Goofy suit and walk around the park in 100 degree weather in August (remember the Main Street picture from the career landing page?) Sounds like a dream job, don’t it?

The word for the audition site is again – flat. But it does give some good tips on what to expect and how to prepare for an audition. The real gem about this page? Videos - finally! Well thank my Fairy Godmother! There are videos from actual employees, like Jamie, who invites you to click her video and watch what she has to say about her Disney experience. Well that’s great – if you’ve already got Quicktime player downloaded on your computer. If not, you’ll feel like Alice going down the rabbit hole while you wait for the installing and restarting (that’s if you decide that watching the video is even worth it at this point). There are lots of employee videos – and that’s great if you want to play Goofy or parade down Main Street. These videos are exclusively for preparing to audition. Unless you’re an actor, you don’t get to see or hear what it’s really like.

The functionality of the videos are not just a Disney flaw; it’s one we see time and time again on corporate career sites. Companies pay a lot of money to have video shot of real employees only to have the video fail to play on the site. This brings up the question of who monitors your career site? There are many schools of thought here:

· Marketing should own it. Why? It’s a PR /communication tool and that falls under Marketing.

· IT should own it. Why? IT owns everything that has to do with the website so it should be monitored and quality control checked by them.

· HR should own it. Why? It’s the career site and they’re in charge of recruiting.

Not an easy question to answer or responsibility to assign, but someone, a human person (not Cinderella’s animal friends) should own the functionality of the career site. They should visit the site daily, apply for a job, play the videos and ensure all the working parts are indeed working! This same thought process also applies to the sites that invite you to “send us an email with your questions”. Whos answering these questions? How often, how quickly and in whose voice is the answer in?

Back to the site…the audition page does a good job of pointing out that not everyone can be a character, singer or actor at Disney, so they list off all the other opportunities for you to become an entertainment cast member. Two thumbs up for the cult-like approach to calling all employees cast members and making it sound like one big, happy family in one huge global conglomerate. The truth is, Disney has all types of positions – they even need experts in pyrotechnics. Disney is a recognized pyrotechnic industry leader and the world's largest producer of fireworks shows. It takes a large team of highly trained and certified pyro-technicians to execute our many unique shows around the world. Trust me, Disney’s fireworks are cool. Disneyland is cool. Even dressing up like Goofy is cool. But Disney’s career site is not cool. I have to give the Disney and the Mouse a D on their career site – “D” for disappointing.

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Lizz, great analysis. I had the opportunity to get a tour of Disney World's "back-stage" a few years ago and while it is an amazing operation I think that the park employees at such a place had more in common with cattle than Cinderella. I am sure there is a lot on the site that they don't talk about because it is very internal and all about "keeping the magic real". But there was very little magical about the warehouse of uniforms...I mean "costumes" and the posters about how you have to keep your hair, how much you can have on your face, how your fingernails have to be, where you can pierce yourself or get tatooed and where you can't. I love that you used the work cult in the post and I keep combing their site for the words, "We invite you to drink the koolaid".

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