CANA was proud to welcome the Millennial Directors, Zach Carnley and Matthew Morian, to the CANA stage at the 2019 Cremation Symposium. With Glenda Stansbury representing the Baby Boomers, this panel talked about our changing workforce and generations working together. They discussed navigating culture clashes, learning new ways of communicating (both language and mode), and the kinds of experiences one should have to earn their spot on the team.
After leaving Las Vegas, the Millennial Directors weren’t done. In the past few years, they’ve spoken about their experience on many associations’ stages. We asked them to write a definitive millennials-in-the-workplace post, putting the topic to bed. After all, they're here, they're in their thirties, —and what are employers’ other options, really? As we examine the millennial experience in the workplace—their search for a suitable work environment and their growth and leadership goals—we hope this post can both inform older generations of readers, and also encourage the younger generations to keep working to find their place in funeral service.
I have been fortunate enough in my career as a funeral professional to be involved in many different wonderful organizations. Credit goes to each of my employers who gave me the opportunity to have a voice and to speak on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. We all know that millennials are the bulk of our profession and steadily becoming the bulk of the families we serve. With that said, I have spoken in front of a few organizations on the best way to work together and blend generations to make the business more productive. During many of these presentations, I have asked for audience participation—and participate they did!
Most everyone—millennials included—has quite a few thoughts on how they should work and the tasks they are given. I have heard everything from, “Millennials are extremely lazy, spending all day on their phone,” to “They are the most goal-oriented, outside-of-the-box thinking and solution-solving generation out there.” Most people I talked to would rather have a dedicated, creative millennial than a traditionalist because, for the most part, they are thinking of ways to better themselves and your business. True, some are there to put in only the bare minimum of what is requested, but you will find that all across the board.
In my presentations, I focus on the expectations millennials have of their employers: a fair schedule, decent pay, typical perks such as insurance and retirement, and room to introduce new ideas. I also speak on how we must focus our efforts as leaders to hone in on what they bring to the table and simply not make them “pay their dues.”
As I said, I have been given almost carte blanche with most of my employers to focus on finding ways to better serve families. That is the attitude leaders need to have towards their millennial employees. Obviously, it’s the leader’s job to make sure these ideas are carried out efficiently with respect to the business. I have always considered it a blessing to get to travel around and be involved in numerous organizations and to socialize and learn from people who have been out there doing it. I hope to keep this up, because I always want to be up to speed on the latest our profession has to offer, both for the business I serve and, of course, the families I serve.
I wish many more employers would jump on board with this thought process. You must give your employees the opportunity to spread their wings and attend conventions, conferences, and educational seminars. They will learn so much more from other funeral professionals, things that they can bring back and put directly into action. The reality of it is there are so many scholarships out there that most people can attend these events at little cost. It’s is our job as leaders to send our people to these events and help them grow as professionals, which in turn will help you to grow your business.
- Zach Carnley
If you are wondering how to attract millennials to your business, then you have to ask yourself, “What do they really want?” I believe what millennials yearn for most in our profession is a healthy work environment. They desire a workplace that has strong leadership, a flexible schedule, and a solid company culture.
Company culture should be a top priority for any funeral home. Whether you are a family owned firm or part of a large corporation, it is important for your coworkers to know why you do what you do. A company’s culture is often made up of three key components: their values, their mission, and their vision.
A company’s vision is essentially their long term goal as a business. It will not typically change overtime as it should be something you continuously strive to achieve. Your mission is what you do every day to help attain your company vision. It is what defines your enterprise to the world. Your values are then an outline of the intended character of your coworkers. If an employee lives by the values you set forth then they are carrying out your mission and will ultimately fulfill your vision. A funeral home with a solid company culture is one with a future in which millennials can see themselves being an integral part of.
Having a flexible schedule is another trait of a healthy work environment. A flexible schedule in our industry is a difficult task to tackle. To attempt to detail it would require an additional blog post. Simply stated: a flexible schedule allows for a work-life balance that decreases the likelihood of employee burnout over time.
For millennials, it may mean the ability to go their child’s tee-ball game or to go to a concert during their normal shift. Without tipping the scales too far for any one person, a leader should do their best to accommodate their colleagues instead of making it more difficult for them to find that balance. The results will be better morale and a willingness to go the extra mile for the company because the company went the extra mile for them.
In order to maintain a flexible schedule and support a company culture, you have to have strong leaders. Leaders do not have to be managers or supervisors. Those titles can be bestowed and stripped away without any discernible change occurring. A leader is one who cares for and supports those around them. They help others succeed and become the best they can be for the sake of the company, not for themselves.
Luckily, leadership can be learned! It is a skill that can be honed with practice. If you have the heart to serve (you’d hope so, working at a funeral home) then you have what it takes to lead. Set a good example with your actions. Set an even better example through your interactions with your coworkers. Stay positive and motivate others to do the same and you’ll see a healthy work environment begin to flourish.
With that, you’ll have an inbox full of resumes from millennials in no time.
- Matthew Morian
You can listen to the full panel in "Professor B and the Y-Men: Mentoring the Next Generation of Heroes" with Glenda Stansbury & Zach Carnley, and Matt Morian from CANA's 2019 Cremation Symposium, and our other presenters, for just $100. Visit goCANA.org/CANAheroes to learn more.
Zach Carnley graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. While attending SFA he worked part-time in a funeral home and discovered his passion for working with families at one of their toughest times. He decided to pursue this passion and graduated as valedictorian from the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service in 2009. Zach is a board member of the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice, a board member of the Texas Funeral Service Association and North Texas Funeral Director Association. He is a member of the Burleson Rotary Club and the Burleson Lions Club and serves as an ambassador with the Burleson Chamber of Commerce. Zach has been honored as both the North Texas Funeral Director Association’s and Texas Funeral Director Association’s Young Funeral Professional of the Year..
Matthew Morian is a first-generation funeral director & embalmer. He is the managing funeral director of Lucas Funeral Homes in Keller and Grapevine, Texas. Matt has been in the funeral profession since 2010 and is a graduate of the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service. He is a member of the Pi Sigma Eta funeral director’s fraternity and helped charter the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service’s Lions Club. Matt has served as President of the Dallas Institute’s Lions Club and the Keller Lions Club and as a Zone-Chairperson for Lions Club District 2-E2. In 2017, he was awarded the Texas Funeral Director Association’s Young Funeral Professional of the Year and he currently serves on the board of the North Texas Funeral Director Association.