Christmas Wish: More CM's
The Christmas season is well underway, and Disneyland has already had to close its entry turnstiles to arriving day visitors a few times in the last few weeks due to overcrowding (even with a 5,000 bump up in attendance capacity limits thanks to more open attractions and the elimination of a few FastPass queues). While the record holiday crowds descend on a park that is setting a new standard of sheer frenzy for the 50th anniversary Christmas season, there are some very troubling signs now that the ongoing shortage of hourly Cast Members is about to reach crisis level and will be directly impacting the customer experience in the busy month ahead.
The problems behind the growing shortage of hourly Cast Members (CM's) have been discussed here before, and none of the underlying issues have changed since we began reporting on it. If anything, all of those contributing factors have only worsened in the last thirty days. The crackdown on poor attendance, ridiculously christened "Presenteeism" by Team Disney Anaheim's (TDA's) notoriously out of touch Human Resources department, has continued and Cast Members who are tardy or missing too often keep getting shown the door in record numbers.
The Human Resources folks expected a big chunk of CM's to quickly lose their jobs in the first sixty days of Presenteeism when it was rolled out last June.
The conventional wisdom in TDA was that by the Fall they would "change the culture" and the rapid rate of terminations would stabilize and decrease by the end of the year. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as CM's continue to lose their jobs for being chronically late or absent, often within the first forty-five to ninety days of their employment with Disneyland.
In response, and partly after prodding by some of the Union leaders representing most of the hourly CM's, the Human Resources department has steadily been shifting the rules around and backtracking on their hard core policy they originally implemented in June. While the few extra grace periods and safety nets they've installed back into the attendance policy has helped slow the rate of terminations just a bit, it's still reducing the numbers of hourly CM's faster than the Casting Department can hire in the replacements.
And out at the Casting Center in TDA, the supply of job applicants coming through the doors in the last month has been far below projections, and the overall caliber of those applicants is rarely anything to be happy about. While there are certainly a few top notch kids coming in to fulfill their dream of working at Disneyland, all of the advertising and desperate pleas for applicants has brought in a huge increase in people who simply want to work a second or third job for the Holidays. These types of folks don't care about pixie dust or some dead guy named Walt, and they roll their eyes at all of the little rules and regulations Disney still tries to hold their CM's to that most other employers gave up on years ago. Some who are hired aren't even bothering to show up for their on the job training after they spend their first day in the eight hour long "Traditions" orientation class, where Disney sets all of the high expectations of their front line CM's. The combination of Presenteeism and the utter failure of Casting to fill the growing deficit of open positions, now estimated to be in the 3,000+ range, means that the service being offered to the paying customers out in the Parks is beginning to slip noticeably.
This past week, historically one of the biggest shopping weeks of the year and a time when Disneyland was expecting huge crowds and was open until Midnight for nine straight days, the Stores department had to come up with a contingency plan to shut down many of the smaller stores around the Resort.
The simple fact is that the Stores department is so short staffed that they simply no longer have the manpower to staff a single cash register in many of the smaller locations. The response was to create a contingency plan where over a dozen smaller stores would be closed for the day, in order to shift CM's to the larger locations. Stores like the Briar Patch in Critter Country and the Fantasy Faire Gifts souvenir stand in Fantasyland, locations that usually just use two or three CM's at a time, were planned to be shut down as staffing ebbed and waned. Luckily, with the use of salaried help from TDA to help stock shelves and work in backrooms, almost all of those locations were able to open for at least a few hours each day. However, by late afternoon many of the locations on the contingency plan were closed four to six hours earlier than planned.
But the real trouble started when the Foods department, who has been short staffed for so long now some CM's don't even remember what it was like to have adequate staffing, also started closing some of their locations early. The managers in Foods and the managers in Stores weren't coordinating their closures, and there were instances where a Disneyland visitor could walk along in the early evening and encounter a closed shop, followed by a closed restaurant, followed by another closed shop. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving some sections of the park were running the risk of looking barely open
, while upwards of 50,000 people showed up each day during a very busy week. After a few days senior management got wind of the spotty service and quickly instituted a communication strategy to try and prevent two adjacent park facilities from closing early at the same time.
You know it's bad when Disneyland has to give up on sales during one of the busiest weekends of the year right in the middle of the Company's massive 50th marketing campaign. And since most of the 50th merchandise has been moving off the shelves in record numbers and sales targets have been blown out of the water since early May, this was a bitter pill to swallow.
And all of these staffing headaches are hitting in late November! There are still some extremely busy weekends ahead, plenty of weekdays that are running up to forty-percent higher attendance than years past, plus the two peak weeks of Christmas and New Year's when Disneyland historically sees its busiest days of the year and often has to close the turnstiles day after day. Stores and Foods have fine tuned their contingency plans for closing stores and restaurants if staffing stays tight.
While the Attractions department was able to avoid closing any rides this past week through the use of massive amounts of overtime, the Attractions managers have also quietly created their own contingency plan
and a short list of rides and attractions that would be shut down in order to keep the bigger and more popular rides running this December. Some rides like the Canoes, the Main Street vehicles or the less popular Fantasyland dark rides would be shut down for the day entirely, while other rides like Autopia, Storybookland or Jungle Cruise would start cutting back on their capacity and run fewer vehicles to move labor around and keep the E Tickets fully staffed. It really is that serious dear readers.