The Staffing Dilemma

Foundation Partners why I partnered

There is no doubt that staffing at funeral homes across North America is an issue and up for much debate on how it is done.  I recently ran into an article from Great Britain that was published in Wales Online, and which you can read here.

The article is very interesting and concerns the company Co-operative Funeralcare.  The article touches on the need for less funeral directors by the company, but, according to the article, not to save money, but to help client families as stated here, “Our clients want more support throughout their bereavement, more information on what’s happening to their loved one, and more options on how to say goodbye.”  The company continued, “The changes we are making will help our colleagues to offer all of this.”

The crux of what they will be doing boil down to these operational changes:

  • The company will create jobs as part of a “Night Crew” team.
  • Wages of funeral service (daytime) operating staff will be reduced as they will no longer have to work call during the night.
  • The company will provide a stronger support network.
  • The company will provide a “Dedicated Individual” on hand right away from arrangements thru the funeral service.

Funeral Director Daily take:  Those of us who have been around for any length of time have seen staffing ideas come and go.  I would guess that the overall prevailing task to relieve great funeral directors of is night call.  We’ve seen everything from a dedicated night staff to removal services to help with this.

However, all of those situations which take the funeral director from the called funeral home out of the equation have a cost to them.  If a trade service does the removal the cost is evident in that there is an obvious financial cost.  What is not noticed so much is that the called funeral home loses its personal staff person in the very first encounter with the family.  I also liked having my own staff (and I did it too) go on night calls simply to be able to put the family at ease.

I think I have also witnessed the change from most employees preferring “more money” to today’s employees that I believe prefer “more time”.  Getting great employees and getting them “more time” can be a costly venture.  It generally means hiring staff to do the things that do not need a license to do — write obituaries, do death certificates, set up funeral or memorial folders and even having a separate crew to transport flowers and other items from the funeral home to the place of service.

The dilemma we have — and why I believe that Co-operative Funeralcare is searching for the solution — is that adding staff to allow for best employees to get “more time” and being able to keep them on staff, usually drives up payroll costs.  Doing so in an environment where we are seeing margins reduced is very difficult.  For that reason, I do predict that we have not seen the last of ideas that may  allow the best funeral directors to have “more time”.

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