Disney Traditions Day One

Disney University and Disney Traditions facilitators
1988 Disney Traditions Instructors.

Does your organization have Day One new-hire orientation to share your Company’s origin story and Customer Service architecture?

Pictured here is the 1988 Disney Traditions Team…i’m the one standing far left, eyes closed. Eleven front-line employees (Cast Members) selected from hundreds of applicants for one-year to “Cross-U” (cross-utilization). They trained every new employee on Day One at Walt Disney World in 1988. Once or twice a month, each of them was pulled from their normal front-line role to teach “Disney Traditions”.

Have you ever thought about the power (and credibility) of having your Day One trainers be people who were on the front line yesterday and after your class, they go back to the front line tomorrow? No theory here. Real life stories from people living it every day.

The intent is to select a new team every year to meet the forecasted hiring numbers. The program has matured and flexed as the years challenge in predictable and unpredictable ways.

It dawned on me after all these years… my signature Disney Customer Service Keynote contains the “Disney Traditions” Day One DNA for Disney’s World-Class, time-tested Customer Service architecture.

What felt like content built from a lifetime of learning, doing, and teaching (in operations and at Disney Institute) is actually the simple yet powerful Disney DNA from Day One…operationalized from a lifetime of serving Guests and Cast Members.

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How important is new employee orientation?

Disney University exterior view
Yesterday, lunch meeting at Disney University.


Q. How important is it to conduct new employee orientation as the very first day (no exceptions) of work for newly hired employees?

A. If an organization doesn’t immediately set context for everything else that will happen in an employee’s career, what is at risk?

Seriously, let that sink in for a minute…

  • New people filling in the blanks by guessing
  • Making assumptions about priorities and focus
  • Questioning why their questions aren’t anticipated, and answered without having to ask
  • Feeling like the slick marketing doesn’t live up to the real thing
  • Setting the tone that winging it is acceptable
  • And on and on

Disney over-focuses on this question and insists that every new employee (Cast Member) attends Disney Traditions, every new employee’s first day of work.

The day is spent building an emotional connection to the Disney company culture that by the end of that first day, it’s something everyone wants to defend.

When done with excellence, that feeling should last a lifetime.




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Company orientation programs labeled Bore-ientation?

Chalk art at Epcot's United Kingdom pavilion
Orientation should trigger front line desire for discretionary effort


The first day of a new employee’s work is typically orientation. Often called bore-ientation.

Why make orientation unforgettable, over-the-top amazing?

Because if we can’t deliver it to them on day one, when will we?

We are setting the standard for all the rest of their days with our organization.


And most of us are clueless.

Which is why most employees won’t do any more than you pay them to.

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One big goal of great company orientation programs is…

Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom
Culture is an organization’s greatest asset


The goal of great company orientation programs is to have the instructor tell emotional stories about how cool the culture is. Know why?

Given the choice between working in a cool, exciting culture, and one that isn’t, which would you pick?

Personal, emotional, real stories from someone who was in the operation yesterday and is going back tomorrow, well, it’s as authentic as it gets. 

At the end of the day, we want new employees to have an emotional attachment and a pride – one that they will defend throughout their entire career. 

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