Troubled businessman finding way out . Mixed media


Are you having a hard time finding great funeral directors? If so, you are not alone. As the average age of a funeral home owner rises and more and more funeral directors enter retirement, our industry is experiencing a labor crunch because the number of mortuary students won’t be able to keep pace with the increased demand from a rising death rate due to the Baby Boom generation. Therefore, it’s becoming harder and harder to find and keep top quality talent in the funeral profession. According to the American Board of Funeral Service Education’s website, “On a national basis there are generally more jobs available than there are licensed funeral directors to fill them.”

Recently, I was visiting with a funeral director whose father owned the funeral home where he worked. He was telling me how hard it was to find staff, even though they had a mortuary school within 2 hours of the funeral home. I asked him, “So, what are you doing to attract new, young talent?”

The question stumped him because they really were not set up to attract young funeral directors fresh out of mortuary school. Their processes were antiquated (his own words) –they were using the same technology they used 30 to 40 years ago, relying on typewriters to fill out paperwork. As a millennial myself, I can attest to the fact that using a typewriter every day would be way out of my comfort zone and totally off my grid!

To compound the issue of finding new, young talent, the desire of families has shifted and will continue to change in dramatic ways. Families today are demanding more than ever before. Boomers desire services that are as unique as their loved one. They are craving more control, transparency, and speed. In order to serve families at the highest level, we need to have the best staff possible and in order to recruit the best staff possible, we need to have the best tools available to our staff so they can work efficiently and serve effectively.

I’ve also been working with a client whose funeral home is about an hour and a half away from my funeral director friend. This client has already upgraded his systems so that he is using today’s technology to connect with both families and his staff…and guess what? He has no trouble recruiting great funeral directors because his staff is attracted to the way he does business. As funeral directors, they are able to stay connected with what is going on in the funeral home and with their families at any time, using any device. The system saves them time and helps them stay connected 24/7.
It should not come as a surprise that more funeral directors are gravitating to the more modern business model than the antiquated model. A recent article from Entrepreneur stated that one of the top 3 strategies for retaining the best talent was to enhance employees’ opportunities for collaboration through technology: “What is the daily experience of your typical employee when it comes to collaboration? Whether in the office or working remotely, communication delays, malfunctioning software and less-than-intuitive systems, leave employees feeling frustrated. Companies should focus on upgrading and streamlining communication processes to make collaboration fun, not frustrating.”

So, if you have up-to-date technology to help your staff operate more efficiently and enhance their service to families, you will have an increased opportunity to successfully attract and retain the top talent in your area.

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, funeral service has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, just as technology has. The problem is this: unlike other professions that have kept up with the advances in technology, funeral service has not.

Let’s think about these two scenarios. You have an apprentice fresh out of mortuary school who has two job offers.

Option 1 – Funeral Home A runs the office with a typewriter and hand written forms, prefers using a fax machine over email, and serves families the same way they have for the past 30 years.

Option 2 – Funeral Home B runs the office with the latest technology to manage their day-to-day operations, has a TV screen in the conference room or visitation room, and provides 24-hour cloud-based access to files so that the funeral director doesn’t have to leave his kid’s little league game to answer a family’s question about a service.

This is not just a hypothetical question. This is the question faced by funeral directors every day, and specifically funeral directors who are graduating from the mortuary school that is near my two friends.

Assuming benefits and salary are similar, of the two options, which option do you feel this apprentice would choose?

Today, it takes a team to serve a family, and effective teamwork requires effective collaboration. In a recent small-group study in Ohio, 46% of funeral homes stated that they do nothing with technology to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Is this you? Here are a few quick ways you can rate your funeral home as attractive to potential candidates:

• Do you have computers available to your staff that are less than five years old?

• Are you actively posting on Facebook or other social media platforms at least twice a week?

• Are you actively looking for ways to make your arrangement processes more efficient?

• Do you have the ability to allow your staff to access case information from any device, at any time, from any location?

• Is your funeral home website up-to-date and mobile friendly?

• Are you using an automated reporting tool to track your monthly and annual data as opposed to Microsoft Excel or a spreadsheet to manually track data?

• Is your staff entering data into your system one time and then generating all forms as needed from a database as opposed to handwriting or entering the same data on forms multiple times?

• Are your forms updated and on standard sized paper as opposed to forms that have not been changed in over ten years that are copies of copies using non-standard paper sizes?

If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, it may be time to examine how you can make your business more attractive to potential staff members. If you answered no to all of these questions, it’s time for a change!

With new technology come new and better ways to accomplish tasks, remain organized, and stay mobile and agile as a business. Technology allows your funeral home to create better processes and procedures that are far more efficient for your entire staff, which could be just the ticket to attract the best, most talented staff in your area. FBA

kelly-gilgenbach-headshot-photoKelly Gilgenbach is the Director of Strategic Sales for Passare, Inc., an innovative software as a service (SaaS) company founded by a group of forward-thinking funeral home owners who desired to enhance their service to today’s tech-savvy families. The result was Passare, the funeral industry’s only collaboration software with integrated case management. As Director of Strategic Sales, Kelly has worked with hundreds funeral professionals to help them increase efficiencies and enhance their connection with today’s families through Passare. On average, his clients have been able to consistently save over two hours per arrangement while providing a better overall experience to families. Kelly can be contacted at [email protected]