Lessons from Disney University: The Four Essentials of Successful Training

Despite the resources at their disposal, too many training departments struggle to provide an educational experience that survives beyond the walls of those very classrooms or the pages of their training manuals. And too many training departments fail to get employees’ support of concepts, strategies, guidelines, rules, regulations, ideas and procedures presented during training. To overcome these problems, the heads of organizations and training departments might first address these questions:

  • “Why aren’t the standard operating procedures of our company followed?”
  • “Why is it so hard to sustain the momentum we had during training?”
  • “Does the training team have a seat at the corporate table?”

Even the lowest-tech, bare-boned and budget-challenged training program will get the job done as long as hearts and minds are captured. Training programs reflect organizational values and health. The content of training programs, the individuals who teach, the employees who attend, and the way employees are supported outside the classroom reveal much about organizational culture. Many organizations would benefit by simply looking at what their training activities (or lack of training activities) are telling them.

1)      Is innovation encouraged? To what extent is creative, out-of-the-box thinking fostered, both in the training environment and on the job?

2)      Is organizational support found at every level? Are leaders, from C-level executives to front-line supervisors, aligned with the training team? Is their support overt and enthusiastic? Do Operations and Training staff collaborate to ensure effectiveness of content and delivery methods?

3)      Is employee education valued and non-negotiable? Or, is training the first thing cut when budgets are tight?

4)      Is entertainment incorporated into training and education initiatives? Is training engaging and practical? Are experiential training techniques that have enough “shock value” (simulations, role-plays, exercises) employed to get maximum involvement from all trainees … even the introverts? Entertainment, effectively used, has a place in virtually any training environment; it helps transform theory into action and boring into memorable.

Yes, the Disney University benefits from having iconic mascots such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. More important, the Disney University enjoys the Four Essentials outlined above. How many of these Essentials does your training team enjoy?