Bridging the divide
How funeral homes can leverage the diverse experiences of five generations.
By Stephanie Ramsey
How can the information we know about the various generations help funeral service owners and
managers? Let’s consider various scenarios for attracting employees for certain positions in which a specific generation might be a good fit.
Baby boomers. Latchkey kids. Millennials. The Silent Generation. These terms referring to the
different generations have been bandied about for years. Let’s look at their impact on the funeral
It’s not news that funeral business owners have complained about not being able to find the kind of quality employee they did years ago, which points to the fact that generational issues are indeed impacting the industry. Perhaps gaining insight on these different generations will provide funeral service employers a clearer path to identifying and retaining the employees they seek.
Currently, there are five generational descriptions: traditionalist, baby boomer, Generation X, millennial and Generation Z. Basically, these terms are used to reference demographic groups born in specific years. Researchers have named these segments and profiled them as well. Each demographic has key characteristics that are driven by the attitudes and influences experienced during the environment in which they grew up. These characteristics impact what attracts them to a job and whether they stay at one business
or move on to another company. Let’s take a closer look at these categories and their work philosophies.
A multi-location funeral business is looking for several part-time funeral attendants. Because they are part-time/as-needed positions, it’s a challenge to find interested candidates. After a few brainstorming sessions with senior staff, it’s decided they’ll target two groups – retired seniors/traditionalists and high school or college students/Gen Z – but the firm is not sure how to attract them.
How so you reach them?
Retired seniors/traditionalists need the personal touch. Let them know they are needed. This is achieved by word of mouth or approaching them at the senior center one on one after speaking to their group. Explain the role, what is needed, to whom they will report and the hours required. They like facts and enjoy responsibility.
For students, contact the schools to find out if they have online job posting boards. Stress the flexibility of the job and that they can work only when they are available. Meet them on campus initially, as many have never been to a funeral home.
How do you retain them?
Treat the seniors with respect and acknowledge their contributions. Saying “thank you” goes a long way with this group. Pay them fairly.
Pay the students fairly, allow for a flexible schedule, provide training and discuss career opportunities. Use technology to communicate with them.
An expanding regional funeral service business that has been growing quickly is looking to add several licensed funeral directors. The funeral homes being acquired are owned by individuals who are ready to retire and do not have anyone interested in taking over the business. The regional business is looking for a wide range of full-time, experienced, licensed staff in several states. Because of the scope of their needs, they are likely to find qualified staff from among baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials. However, approaching them and retraining them are completely different things.
How do you find them?
For the baby boomers, use word of mouth and post in industry publications, at local churches and with community organizations or clubs.
Gen Xers can be attracted by word of mouth; they also follow the money, so post in publications outside your immediate market area and offer a moving allowance and attractive pay. Use the online job board within your state.
Millennials are tech savvy, so online job websites and other job resources are your friends. This generation tends to be willing to change employers for an attractive promotion with further career opportunities. Create a career package to illustrate to them.
How do you keep these employees?
Baby boomers: Give them responsibility and show them appreciation. These employees are dedicated to their employers. Their self-worth is tied to the level of responsibility and authority they have. Pay them fairly and they will stay.
Gen Xers: They want to have quality family life and their job helps them achieve a standard of family life they want. Help them achieve that balance. Offer a work environment that encourages teamwork.
Millennials: They are ambitious and driven. Give them projects to accomplish. Flexibility in their work schedules will also go a long way. Have a work environment that incorporates technology as much as possible.
Clearly, a funeral business owner cannot create a custom work environment for a single employee of a specific generation. However, a blending of key situational elements in which the different generational segments enjoy working is possible and can be beneficial in retaining staff that in today’s market seem to find it so much easier to look down the street for the next job opportunity.
The table on the facing page provides a short key to the various generational segments.
Understanding how the different generations not only perceive the world but how each specifically works will provide owners and managers ideas on how to structure business environments and positions to make them more attractive. With the increasing challenges in finding quality employees in the funeral industry, it’s at least worth considering.
Stephanie Ramsey, a senior business analyst and human resources specialist for The Foresight Companies, has managed small staffs and large. She has run an 800-call regional combination business and has a unique perspective on the challenges funeral and cemetery owners/managers face when dealing with employee issues. Ramsey combines hands-on employee management experience with knowledge of various industries to develop workable HR structures within any business. She has written employee handbooks and other job-specific documents for clients nationwide. In addition to speaking at national conferences, Ramsey writes a quarterly blog that can be viewed at theforesightcompanies.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Born between 1900 and 1945
May have experienced World War II or the Korean War
Either lived through the Great Depression or were raised by parents who did
Experienced the wonder of the Space Age
Understand how to survive desperate times through hard work
Many experienced both poverty and prosperity
Raised with the philosophy that everyone has to “pay their dues” and “earn their way”
Disciplined, focused and prefer a clear line of authority at work
Training is done on the job
Missing a day of work is unheard of
Loyalty to employer is expected;
frequently worked for same company their entire life
Baby Boomer 1946-1965
Born between 1946 and 1965
May have fought in Vietnam or for civil rights
Listened to the music at Woodstock
Space travel was a reality, as was the possibility of war with Russia.
Believed the American Dream could be achieved through diligent work
Invented the word “workaholic”
Personal success only achieved through good work ethic
Well educated and dedicated to employers
Process-oriented with a strong “do whatever it takes to get the job done” attitude
Many re-entering the job market;
cannot afford to live on the funds set aside for retirement
Generation X 1966-1979
Born between 1966 and 1979
Typically dual-income or single-parent families
Considered the first true daycare generation
Experienced Watergate, the energy crisis and Y2K
Developed a disdain for politicians as nothing but deceivers
Grew up having to take care of themselves
Skeptical of authority figures
Independent and self-reliant
Like to have a say in work environment
Do not mind moving from one employer to the next
Task-focused and results-oriented
Prefer to balance work and family life
Smart and willing to be educated
A job is just a job.
Born between 1980 and 1994
More likely to have been children of divorce
Heard or saw school terror attacks and the 9/11 attacks
More sheltered as parents sought to protect them
First to be barraged by digital media
Very sociable and like to be connected to everyone
Overindulged but ambitious
Effective multitaskers; enjoy working on teams
Anticipate the ability to influence the terms and conditions of work environment and their role
A job seems to be a way to spend time between weekend activities
Motto is “work smarter, not harder”
Generation Z 1995-2016
Born between 1995 and 2016
Have seen crisis period with terrorism throughout the world
Global recession likely made them aware they may be inheriting significant financial problems.
Do not remember a time when technology not completely integrated into daily lives
Most will have cellphones by the time they are in junior high or sooner.
Used to having information at theirfingertips
Communication style dictated by technology rather than personal relationships