How can you make dreams come true? Or transform a fantasy into a colorful, exciting world that visitors can move through, touch, and enjoy? Such fabulous work is the daily business of Walt Disney Imagineering, a core group of creative and highly skilled professional wizards who combine imagination with engineering to create reality for Disney Parks.
Progressive HR leaders are using the concept of “story” to build culture and engage talent. Imagineering is, first and foremost across the globe, masterful in their form of storytelling. We all have favorite memories that are so vivid from our Disney visits. It is an experience for all the senses.
John Carrozza is a friend, former client and admired Talent Leader who learns from the best Imagineers in the business and then gets to apply it to Talent Acquisition in a way that he says, “supports his own growth and reflects his own creativity.” It is true that John has incredible creative sides beyond work (love of indie filmmaking to name one) but he has transformed his recruiting team from facilitators of a process to talent advisors and strategists in a highly competitive and unique space.
John celebrated his 8th year with Disney this past month. I remember meeting him just before joining the organization and was so impressed with his passion for all things related to talent and recruitment of the very best. Early on he was responsible for many areas of corporate and enterprise recruitment except for Disney’s Parks and Resorts segment. Two years prior to joining Imagineering, he began to express interest in the creative aspect of the business and with leadership support, he navigated into Imagineering as Professional Recruitment Practice Leader under a newly created “Professional Recruitment Agency” model. This group is made up of approximately 40 recruiters, sourcers, leaders and coordinators, with 7 of those folks on John’s team who identify the unique highly skilled creative talent for new park offerings or other leading edge experiential entertainment projects and research.
Sherry Benjamins: What are you most proud of when reflecting on challenges in your business?
John Carrozza: Changing Mindsets-Leaders in this business have hired through personal networks that have served them well for a long time. I have had to bring new strategies without diminishing their own success in the past. We have worked as thought partners with an aim to “evolve” manager thinking around how to identify and develop talent today To stay on the forefront, social media has been critical, from Facebook and LinkedIn to personal networking at industry events and schools. The game changer however, has been how we learned enough about our business to consult with and “talent advise” so that the hiring managers previously reliant heavily on their own networks now recognize the need for building future pipelines, and open up to our ability to enhance those networks with new pipelines of talent and expanding strategies on finding and engaging tomorrow’s Imagineers.
SB: What makes this recruitment so different than anything you have done before?
JC: Hiring Imagineers is dependent upon finding talent with a blend of state of the art technology merged with the creating “storytelling” sensibility and competency. It is one thing to design a ride experience and then another to build one so that our guest experience includes adventure and landscape supported by amazing technology. Identifying this blend makes the work very challenging and what I have learned is that a resume or certification is only the beginning of the recruitment conversation – it takes peeling of the layers to learn what a person is really all about to determine if they are our true storytellers.
SB: Was there a method to your plan?
JC: Our team is an integral part of support aligned to the business. In order to build credibility we needed to have knowledge of future plans and the talent needed. We are savvy on market supply and technology trends. By the time a project is conceptualized and then planned for build, knowledge of technologies may have already shifted so our pipelines need to be dynamic as well as robust.
In order to be the talent advisor to our managers we implemented three key strategies. One was to build trust and earn the respect of thought partnership with the line managers. We modeled these new behaviors by playing the advising vs. “order taking” role. There was a conscious effort to build pipelines of talent in advance, using web 2.0 and new sourcing channels rather than react to requisitions. This required doing our homework well before the open position launch discussion.
Our approach to recruitment leveraged a strategy of “huddles” as part of our own learning experience. The team “huddles” to play out scenarios with each other, with other HR partners and sometimes other Imagineers to exchange ideas and strategies prior to meeting with clients.
Lastly, we are not shy in setting the expectation that hiring managers need to contribute and be open to a new process of engaging talent. As thought partner, we intentionally “ask” for their involvement and clearly articulate what we need from them as well as what we intend to deliver. One example was, “may we pre-book appointments for you” in order to ensure candidates accelerate in the process.
I know that John tackles his work with great energy and when he is not there at Disney Imagineering, he expresses his passion in other ways. He raises rescued mutts, loves indie filmmaking, classic sci-fi and horror films, Hollywood history, 70’s rock music, good “bad” movies and stays balanced through yoga and veganism.
In summary, John believes that smart companies will invest in teaching recruiters talent advising skills. He also pointed out the critical importance to “do the right thing for those you don’t hire today.” This is wise advice for all of us in the people business