How Good Marketing Can Help Solve the Employee Recruitment and Retention Crisis

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By Leader Contributor Alexandra Jo, Culture and Content Manager at Parting Stone

It’s no secret that recruiting and retaining quality employees is a struggle for many businesses.

Problems with recruitment and retention are being felt across all sectors today, but funeral service is feeling the blow especially hard, as recruiting new employees and keeping them on for longer than five years has been a challenge to this profession for a long time.

In fact, according to a survey for funeral professionals last year, “Employee Recruitment and Retention” was identified as the top challenge faced by funeral businesses. Couple that with the worker shortage that every profession in America is facing today, and funeral service has a real problem on our hands. 

Funeral businesses can be proactive in how they go about attracting new talent and keeping those employees around for the long haul. It’s clear that old methods aren’t working, and with millennials firmly established in the workforce and Gen Z entering close behind them, it’s time to re-think strategies and company policies around how to set employees up for success. It turns out that having a strong marketing strategy could be a key to solving the employee recruitment and retention crisis in funeral care.

How You Market Yourself Matters

In times like these in which worker shortages are occurring across sectors, it might seem like hiring anyone to fill seats is better than nothing, but it turns out that hiring just any warm body to fill a role isn’t productive, especially when it comes to keeping employees around long term.

According to this article from the Morris Bixby Group, “Hiring the right people today can reduce the number of people you’ll need to hire in the future as your company grows. Candidates who are interested and invested in your business will be open to growing their role as your business matures. Employees who are capable of taking ownership of their work and their place within your company will not only help your business prosper, but they’ll work to stabilize and improve your company at all levels of growth.”

In fact, the article elaborates on how hiring the right people can actually save your company money, as according to their research, “businesses could lose upwards of 25 percent of the annual salary for the role that needs to be re-hired from wasted payroll and lost sales alone.”

So how do funeral businesses find the right fit? It turns out, accurately marketing your business helps to attract the right employees, which means that they are more likely to stick around for longer. On the Deathcare Decoded podcast, Courtney Gould Miller, Chief Strategy Officer at MKJ Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer at Tribute Technology, explains how your outward marketing strategy affects the employees that you bring in:

“When you are marketing, you are not only marketing to potential families but to your entire community. That involves and includes employees and people who decide to join your team. I’ve heard from many of our staff members that as they were choosing places to work they looked at how those businesses were marketed and that influenced their decision. Employees want to be a part of a business that they are proud of. They want to be able to say, ‘Yes, we are the best in the market, we are cutting edge and doing things differently.’ Your website is the first place potential employees are going to go to see what your business is doing … Do you have pixelated photos and outdated information? Or do you show that you are doing new and exciting things like having a funeral home therapy dog or offering solidified remains? And it’s not just potential employees … Those things matter to families as well.”

Set Employees Up for Success

In a changing world and a changing profession, doing things the way they’ve always been done doesn’t set newly hired (or seasoned) employees up for success anymore. In a modern society that relies on technology — and in times of pandemic, work-from-home dynamics — and commonly evolving family and home life structures your employees’ needs are different now than they have ever been before.

Furthermore, at a time in which the U.S. is experiencing a severe worker shortage, being on the cutting edge of what you offer your employees is an important way to stay competitive in the hiring market.

An article from the Society for Human Resource Management (or SHRM) explains, “A tighter job market requires that an organization present itself as an employer of choice, a situation that is leading HR to offer benefit options that appeal to a wide range of employee demographics, the ‘2016 Strategic Benefits—Leveraging Benefits to Retain and Recruit Employees’ report found. […] About three-fifths of respondents indicated that benefits for professional and career development, flexible work, health care, and retirement savings and planning will increase in importance to retain employees in the next three to five years. More than one-half expect that wellness and preventive health benefits will increase in importance to retain employees over the same period.”

On a similar note, in her interview with Deathcare Decoded, Courtney Gould Miller points out that the funeral profession isn’t currently attracting enough new people into the workforce. This becomes a real problem in a world with worker shortages across sectors.

Courtney explains, “We need more people coming into this profession, to begin with, but that is also on the professionals who are portraying the market to potential employees, whether that is to a local high school, community college, or university. Going into these places and explaining what makes funeral services a desirable career to have is on us. We have to create the pipeline. There aren’t enough kids in mortuary school today to be able to support the funeral homes that already exist, and so we need to create a pipeline, and we need to automate and simplify things that we can.

To attract better employees to the profession, funeral businesses should offer competitive living wage salaries and modern benefits packages that offer things like ample PTO, mental health leave, paid parental leave for all genders, health care, and retirement savings. These important benefits support employee well-being and mental health and promote and encourage a healthy work-life-family balance. In the funeral profession, it can be easy to focus on sacrificing our professional boundaries and personal well-being for the sake of the families that we serve.

However, when death care professionals don’t take care of themselves (or aren’t allowed or encouraged to take care of themselves), they cannot perform at their maximum professional capacity, and they often burn out. This leads to the large number of people we often see leaving the profession before the five-year mark.

When hiring new people, make sure that you properly advertise and market your competitive salary levels and benefits package to prospective employees. Younger employees especially care about what a job can offer them, so make sure they know exactly what they will get when they choose to work with you.

According to this article from Time, “​​when [young employees] don’t feel supported by their jobs, many leave. Half of millennials — and 75% of Gen Z-ers, who in 2020 are ages 23 and under — said they had voluntarily or involuntarily left a job in part because of mental health reasons, according to a 2019 survey of 1,500 U.S. workers.”

It’s clear that allowing time off for mental health, comprehensive insurance packages, and PTO days will be a key to setting your new employees up for success in their future at your company. And don’t forget, when updating your existing benefits package to be more market competitive, make sure that you help your current employees understand how to use those benefits, as well as new employees.

If you are curious about how your business can help support the mental health of your employees more, click below to download a free mental health resource for funeral professionals that you can share with your staff.

Make Continuing Education Easy

One way to help your current employees thrive — and will also help attract new employees — is by making continuing education easy.

Funeral homes face a unique challenge in gathering employees for staff-wide training due to the unpredictable nature of our business schedules. Since each funeral director is required to obtain CEUs every year, finding the time and energy to do this on one’s own can be difficult, and many employees struggle to prioritize their education and the day-to-day tasks of their job. However, continuing education is vital in keeping funeral professionals current and up to date with technology, trends in the profession, and understanding how today’s families are different from the families we served 30 years ago. Going the extra mile to make CEUs easily accessible and available online for your staff will position your business at the cutting edge of the profession.

On the Deathcare Decoded podcast, Courtney Gould Miller explains why having convenient access to quality continuing education is a vital step in retaining the employees you already have, as well as an asset when hiring new ones.

“Without question, recruitment and retention is the biggest issue right now in the funeral profession. It’s always been a challenge, but as all businesses are having difficulty recruiting right now, we are feeling it more than ever before. We watch these things in collaboration with our clients so that we can be a step ahead and innovate for them, and MKJ has been known for our training programs for our entire history.

With Advance U, our online training program, our clients’ staff members can take courses for a few minutes at a time — or even at different times. What historically has happened with in-house training was that each firm had to get everyone together for two whole days, and inevitably someone gets sick, or the firm hires someone the very next week, and those people can’t have access to the training.

So, the online, on-demand, access anytime training that Advance U provides gives people the flexibility to take 30 minutes or an hour at a time and do the substantial training that they need and then come back to it when they are ready. Most of our courses are about five to six hours long in total. It’s very interactive and can be used on a mobile phone or computer.

We have 11 courses currently available, everything from cremation arrangement training to how to increase your cremation averages, phone skills, advanced arranger training, and more. These courses are all approved nationally.

Offering online training is another way that your business can set both current and future employees up for success. This seemingly small innovation can have a huge impact on both the day-to-day stresses of your employees, as well as how successfully they are able to perform at their jobs. When coupled with competitive benefits, support for mental health, and a solid marketing strategy, your business will be on the way to overcoming today’s employee recruitment and retention challenges.

To hear more from Courtney Gould Miller about how marketing can help solve today’s employee recruitment and retention challenges, listen to the full episode of Deathcare Decoded“ Episode 55: The Role of Marketing in Deathcare Employee Recruitment and Retention.”


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