Walt Disney

HK Disney top park for keeping staff

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 August, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong Disneyland has topped other Disney parks with its record for staff retention during the first year of operation, although it has lost nearly 20 per cent of workers.

The park's director of learning and development, Christine Wong Siu-ping, said: 'A lot of our workforce joined us as fresh graduates, so after a while some of them go back to their studies, while some found other jobs closer to their homes ... it may also be due to the hot weather in the summer.'

Disney's latest figures, ending July 31, show that the retention rate of the 5,000 staff who joined the park since its opening last September stood at slightly more than 80 per cent, down from 90 per cent in February. The park, however, would not reveal its turnover rate, which differs from the retention rate as the former reflects the number of staff movements over a certain period of time, instead of the number remaining from a certain batch of workers. Unionists claim many cast members have left after suffering occupational diseases caused by the heavy costumes they have to wear. Disney's public relations team has also undergone a major reshuffle recently.

The city has seen more people changing jobs as the economy continues to improve. The latest quarterly manpower survey by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management shows the overall turnover rate for the first three months jumped to 2.97 per cent, up from 2.33 per cent in the previous quarter.

Ms Wong said another reason for the departures could stem from a clash between Disney and traditional Chinese culture.

'Disney promotes excellent service concept, but traditional Chinese concept may think a job that serving others is a bit humbling,' she said.

In a Disney character quiz the theme park imposed on job seekers before its opening, the average respondent answered only three questions correctly out of 10 - far behind the 8.5-point average recorded in the United States.

'Unlike the Americans, who grow up with Disney characters, Hong Kong people may be more familiar with Japanese animation and comics,' Ms Wong said.

Hong Kong Disneyland's visitors, most of whom are mainlanders, has also posed a challenge.

'Before opening, we prepared our staff to handle challenging situations like spitting and smoking, but it turned out the challenges did not quite meet our expectations,' Ms Wong said.

These included queue-jumping incidents that had required crowd-control measures. Some mainland visitors climbed over the gate during the Lunar New Year holiday in February when the park was full.

In an effort to retain talented employees, Disney said it had raised pay just a few months after a general pay rise of 2 to 5 per cent in February.