Employee Motivation Strategy at Disney

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With over one hundred and fifty employees under its wing and approximately eight point five billion dollars’ worth of revenue in 2010, Disney Corporation has solidified its position as the biggest conglomerate in media and / or entertainment. Its reputation as the leading animation company further testifies to this firm’s superior products and services. Although a combination of strategies ranging from diversification, carefully planned acquisitions, continual innovation, and commitment to the community have been at the heart of this strong brand, one cannot ignore the contribution made by employees in achieving this. The firm’s administration has also recognized these efforts and embraced a series of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to make their employees more productive. Nonetheless, it is the continuous commitment and dedication of the company’s staff that makes the firm such a hallmark. In other words, intrinsic motivation has been the root cause of Disney’s business accomplishments because it addresses innate psychological needs in employees (Reeve, 2009).

Background of the industry

A brief history of the business

Disney corporation started humbly in 1923 when its founder Walt Disney contracted the distribution of a cartoon film in New York – created by him. In three years, the company had grown substantially to the point of owning its own studio. This relatively high level of growth may be understood through the dynamics action theory developed by White who stated that people will be motivated based on a need to enforce their effectiveness in the world. This is why skill development and exploration are done. In the case of the young Disney Corp., Walt Disney started with his cartoon and eventually changed to studio ownership because he was motivated by the need to become effective at this trade. However, the real revolution occurred in 1928 when Walt created the Mickey Mouse character. This came at a time when Hollywood was transitioning from silent films into sound so Mickey Mouse was warmly welcomed. In fact, throughout the nineteen-thirties, several awards went to Disney-based characters. (Gabler, 2007) In the late 1920s, the company embraced licensing as a strategic income source by allowing Mickey Mouse placement on pencils. This was the start of Mickey Mouse books, radios, dishes, and others. Animated feature films began in 1940 and they became the first of many successes. The 1950s witnessed the introduction of prime-time Disney-owned TV series that would then run for three decades on end. This decade was also when the Mickey Mouse Club was created and the Disneyland theme park initiated in 1955; the latter innovation became a prime attraction even to date. The corporation’s founder died in 1966 but his works were completed by his sibling; examples here included “Love-bug” and “Jungle Book” in 1969 and 1967 respectively. The Disneyland idea was later expanded to include a range of destination resorts such as hotels, a golf course, shopping villages, and camps that made the firm quite reputable in the leisure industry – the latter took place in ’82. It should be noted that the motivational theory of goal setting also came into play in this scenario. The company knew that it wanted to expand and it needed to do so in relation to its core mission. Furthermore, it dedicated physical and mental resources required to achieve the contents of the goals hence causing high motivation and improved performance (Locke & Latham, 2002) The 1980s were a tumultuous time for Disney because its audience was narrowing and a takeover was looming from competitors. However, Wells and Eisner – company presidents- prevented this from occurring in 1984. They eventually upgraded the firm by venturing into cable networking and also created beach resorts from 1988 to 1991. In the Drive theory of motivation as propagated by Bolles (1975), it is often assumed that organisms or entities will respond to their environments only up to a certain extent because they possess response biases. In other words, learning is highly influenced by the natural state of things. If there is a conflict between the stimulus or the situation at hand and the expectations of an organism, then minimal motivation will result. The 1980s were a difficult time for Walt Disney as its audience started narrowing and external entities wanted to take over the business. However, this organization was naturally conditioned to respond to such difficulties. It had gone through intense and difficult periods from its inception and this was the reason why negative changes to its environment were easily taken into its stride. It immediately changed administration and introduced new product packages to respond to these new stimuli. In other words, if members of the organization were not used to such trying situations, they would have been demotivated by all the challenges that came about in this tumultuous decade and would have failed.

This organization later opened up Disney stores that contributed to its high success rates. In 1994 it released the Lion King and many other successful animated films. It created Hollywood records and music and released books as well for new audiences. In the 2000s, the company tapped into the benefits of mergers as was the case with the Pixar animations merger that occurred in 2006 (Gabler, 2007). Others included the Fox family in 2001. Saban entertainment in 2002, New Horizon in 2007, and most recently Marvel entertainment in 2009. It should be noted that these are all full acquisitions, partial acquisitions have also taken place in line with the firm’s strategic objectives. Examples here included Muppets and Henson production which remain partly owned by Sony Pictures and Sesame workshop respectively (Gabler, 2007).

Products and services offered

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest strengths of this company is its diversification. Products and services are not just randomly selected as every new innovation is associated with its core mission and strategic objectives. Consequently, most of the business units revolve around the family theme and are associated with entertainment/ media. The first and arguably the most prominent is its film studio called Walt Disney motion pictures. This organization also has a series of cable TV networks like ESPN, ABC Family and Disney channel. The cable networks were a result of motivational influences as well. The Effectance motivation theory by Harter (1981) states that a person goes through a lot of enjoyment upon mastering a certain skill and this in itself is intrinsic motivation. However, failure to succeed leads to the use of extrinsic motivations. The latter firm enjoyed the success of its film studio works and therefore opted to continue with this through cable television networks. Furthermore, the theatre and recording aspects of the business also fall under the latter department. Its merchandising business has also been a crucial revenue contributor owing to the use of its characters in marketing various products such as crockery, clothes and many others. The company publishes several children’s books and has a formidable publishing division within its operations. It also has a theme park division where eleven theme parks are either owned or franchised by the company. In this area, the company has a cruise line and also offers several traveling-based services. It has a wide range of internet operations that are covered in its Media networks division (Walt Disney corporation, 2010)

General financials for the last five years

In 2005, the stock price for Disney’s share was $29, it decreased to 25 in 2006 and went up in 2007 to 35. From 2008 to 2010, the stock prices were $30, $24, and $35 in that order. The most dramatic decrease, therefore, occurred in 2009 when its prices fell to 17 dollars per share. This was brought on by external factors i.e. the recession. However, the company appears to be back on its feet and it seems as though 2010 has been a year of retort since stock prices have improved dramatically. The following is a summary of revenue streams for the company between 2005-2010: 5,137,000,000dollars, 6491,000,000dollars, 7,827,000,000dollars, 8445,000,000 dollars, 9, 867,000,000dollars and 8,580,000,000 dollars respectively. As can be seen, there was a pattern of increased revenue streams from the company within the past five years with steady increases reported each year except between 2009 and 2010. A decrease of 16 million dollars’ worth of company revenue was reported owing to the external conditions in the country. However, the company quickly reacted to these changes in 2010 by trying to reduce its non-recurring expenses to keep net incomes at a steady price. (Walt Disney corporation, 2010). This financial resilience by the company can best be explained by the self-efficacy motivation theory. In the latter theory, Bandura (1997) asserts that people are often motivated when they exercise persistence in self-threatening times. Also, if this persistence is combined with safe procedures, then enhancement of self-efficacy occurs and mastery emanates. Disney Corporation rose back on its feet in trying economic times because their employees had positive expectations of self-efficacy.

In terms of performance for each respective division, the Disney media network is the department with the largest revenue generation. It has contributed over five billion worth of revenues in the past 3 yrs and this has also been on a steady increase with time. Walt Disney resorts and parks are the second most productive segment for this company. This department has contributed revenues of between 1.17 billion dollars in 2005 to 2.53 billion dollars in 2010. The Disney studio entertainment division is the third-highest revenue-generating department in the company. Subsequent operations have seen revenue growth changes from 205 million dollars in 2005 to 1.4 billion dollars in 2010. Disney products have brought the company an average of 700 million dollars in 5 years. However, the worst-performing sector was the interactive and internet group which was launched in 1996. This has reported negative revenue streams from its inception and much is yet to be done to turn it into a profitable venture. The differences between performances of the various Disney divisions can best be described through the flow motivational theory. Csikszentmihalyi (1988) claims that individuals will enjoy work and be completely immersed in it when there is a match between the challenges of the job and the skills needed to meet those challenges. Indifference results when skills along with challenges in the job are too low. In the case of the worst-performing division, these conditions contributed to their continual low performances. All in all, the company is doing well financially and has played a critical role in the entertainment industry owing to its increased innovations and its adaptive nature in an ever-changing environment.


  1. Walt Disney company (2010). Corporate information.
  2. Gabler, N. (2007). Triumph of American imagination: Walt Disney. NY: Random house
  3. Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion. (5th ed.). New York: Wiley.
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  8. White, R. W. (1959). Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence. Psychological Review, 66(21), 297-333.
  9. Bolles, R. (1975). Theory of motivation. NY: Harper and Row

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BusinessEssay. "Employee Motivation Strategy at Disney." November 5, 2022. https://business-essay.com/employee-motivation-strategy-at-disney/.