Most hourly and salary employees at The Walt Disney Company will find a little extra cheese in their paychecks this year. The company is making two $500 bonus payments to its 125,000 employees. Additionally, Disney will launch a new higher education tuition assistance program for hourly employees, starting with a $50 million fund. The two new initiatives, totaling a $175 million investment in Disney’s workers, come ahead of expected larger profits in 2018.
“I am proud we are directing approximately $125 million to our cast members and employees across the country and making higher education more accessible with the launch of this new program,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger. “I have always believed that education is the key to opportunity; it opens doors and creates new possibilities. Matched with the $1,000 cash bonus, these initiatives will have both an immediate and long-term positive impact.”
Following in the footsteps of companies like Starbucks, the Mouse House wants to support the higher education goals of its hourly workforce in the United States. Nearly 88,000 hourly employees will be eligible and can utilize the program to make an investment in their future. After the initial investment of $50 million, Disney will provide up to $25 million in annual funding going forward.
With this new plan, participants can pursue qualifying higher education or vocational training, including courses unrelated to their current responsibilities at Disney. By creating new opportunities for those who wish to continue their education, employees can advance in their current roles or support their long-term career aspirations.
The end result of both the $1000 bonus and education tuition program is really an investment in the future of the Walt Disney Company itself. Programs like these make for more loyal employees and help generate internal promotion paths for employees who will contribute to the bottom line in the future.
This should particularly help at the parks, where Disney employees over 95,000 full- and part-time hourly employees. Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World are located in communities with essentially full-employment rates (The unemployment rate is 3.6% in Orange County, CA and 3.0% in Orlando, FL). That means Disney will have to do more than just offer a bonus to attract new cast members capable of offering Disney’s famous brand of customer service excellence, they’ll have to offer other benefits and increased wages. With a major union negotiation on-going at Walt Disney World, we’re curious to see how this move plays out.