Walt Disney’s Dirty Laundry

This week a large group of us had the opportunity to experience “Behind the Business” at Walt Disney World. Essentially, they took us on a tour of three areas in the park where leadership worked hard to continue improving the magical experience.

The first stop was at one of the three laundry facilities that handle all of the laundry for the entire resort, including all of the hotels. The plant has seven washing machines the size of a bus. Inside each are more than 20 compartments that move the laundry through in 27 minutes. At the end, they press the laundry to get 60% of the water out. When done, it comes out like a massively large aspirin.

It is an incredible process that starts with the “Cast Members” separating all of the laundry by type.  Then it ends up on miles of track throughout the ceiling that carries the laundry around on a timer, dropping the clothes in the machines, There are about 100 happy people at the facility who make it all happen.

However, there was a time when they weren’t all happy. In fact, they used to have a 70% turnover rate. That’s outrageous! I’ve never heard of a rate that high! When new leadership came in, they decided something had to be done…because something had to be done. So instead of just instituting the ideas leadership came up with, they went to the cast members and asked them what they thought.

They listened to their team and immediately rolled out a ton of improvements like air that blows on them to keep them cool, rubber mats for them to stand on all day long, the choice to wear regular clothes instead of uniforms, etc. Their turnover dropped from 70% to 7%. SEVEN! Just because they spent time talking and, more importantly, listening to their front lines. Pretty smart.

Are you spending time getting feedback from your front lines? If not, why? Give it a try and see what they come up with. You just might be surprised.

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