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A New Workforce. A New Tradition.

Posted By Jennifer Head, CANA Education Director, Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018
A New Workforce. A New Tradition.

 

A New Workforce

As of 2017, the Millennial generation filled the majority of positions in the US workforce (35%), more than both the Baby Boomer (25%) and Gen X-ers (33%). It is predicted that by 2030, Millennials will hold 75% of the roles in the death care industry, a very large increase in a very short period of time.

As baby boomers retire, they take decades of experience and honed knowledge, skills, and abilities with them. Young professionals, even with all their energy and excitement, cannot immediately replace the decades of experience of your senior staff. The upside is that these incoming employees won’t carry years of pre-conceptions and assumptions about their community, which will make their onboarding and training that much easier. The downside is that it takes time and well-thought out training programs to get new recruits up to speed.

A New Tradition

The US cremation rate passed 50% for the first time in 2016. We can officially say it – cremation is the new tradition. As consumer preferences have changed, the knowledge and skills required from funeral directors to work with consumers has changed as well. As an employer, it means you require specific sets of skills in your employees and expectations for their experience and training. It requires innovation.

Our hard-working schools provide the education, but they can’t make a professional – only experience and guidance can do that. This component is why so many states and provinces require apprenticeships before licensure as well as continued education to maintain licensure. A mid-career professional considering their advancement can’t return to school easily, so they must rely on CE providers to address the gaps. In a previous blog post we talked about how to assess the quality of a learning experience, but how do you assess the importance of the topic presented? In this cremation-focused world, how can you know you’re getting the latest in industry education to meet the current needs of your community?

Back to Basics

Cremation CompetenciesWhat makes someone successful at their job? How do we evaluate staff to assess their skills? How do you know you have a solid base of knowledge to build on as you move forward in your career? CANA is working to address the fundamentals of the profession as we know it today now that cremation is the new tradition.

Competencies are the foundation of every profession – these are sets of knowledge, abilities and skills that a person needs to be successful in their job. Competencies are used in many ways within each profession:

  • Talent development programs should be heavily based on competencies and structured to teach foundational skills and knowledge first and build employees up to their highest level of performance to prepare them for advancement.
  • Continuing education programs should always be tied to specific competencies, not developed by someone who teaches what THEY think needs to be taught. If a program isn’t teaching someone a knowledge, skill or ability needed for success then that program is a waste of time and money.
  • Competencies are used for writing job descriptions to identify traits and experience that are important when hiring a new person.
  • Succession planning, which is a huge topic right now as a significant portion of the profession prepares to retire, should include competencies. When evaluating which employees may be well suited to move into other positions, comparing their current competencies to those needed in the new positions will identify any gaps, which may need to be filled through education courses before promoting that person. Employees should never be promoted first and trained later. They should always be provided education and support to prepare them for the new role so they can step in and find success right away.
  • Many professions offer certifications to recognize achievement of individuals in certain areas. The best certifications are based on competencies. Individuals must identify their own skill gaps, take education courses, read papers or books, practice doing certain tasks and any number of activities to help fill that gap. At the end, they have to demonstrate achievement of those competencies through rigorous testing that validates not only knowledge, but implementation of skills.
    • A few examples include the Human Resource Professional (HPR) designation from SHRM, the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation from EIC and the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) designation from ATD.

The funeral profession is no stranger to competencies. For example, every seven years the Conference of International Funeral Service Examining Boards conducts a task analysis of the role of both funeral directors and embalmers in order to determine what content to test graduates on when they complete a funeral service or mortuary science program. Through this task analysis they ask practicing professionals about their daily jobs in order to determine what the common tasks are, and then they determine what you need to know in order to do those tasks.

After completing school, students generally complete an apprenticeship where they learn hands on skills to apply that knowledge learned in school. Once the apprenticeship is over, state and provincial agencies take over and monitor continued professional development through required continuing education. And that’s where CANA enters the lifelong learning continuum. As we look at competencies within our profession, CANA believes we could be doing more related to cremation.

We can’t set employees up for success if we aren’t teaching them the knowledge, skills and abilities that are specific to cremation, particularly the employees who graduated many years ago, and have seen the profession rapidly changing around them. This is what we refer to as a skills gap – when only a limited set of the population has the needed competencies to do the job. And we see a big skill gap when it comes to cremation.

What Can We Do?

Fear not, CANA friends. After all, we are All Things Cremation. We have been diligently working to identify those cremation competencies and will be developing education programs and other resources needed to support employees as they work to achieve them. We can’t wait to share them with you. Be sure to attend CANA’s 100th Annual Cremation Innovation Convention with your staff where I’ll preview these competencies and talk about how to use them to support your employees and improve your bottom line — and earn some professional and innovative continuing education while you're at it. And watch for future blog posts where I explain the process we go through to identify competencies.


Join CANA July 25–27, 2018 at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa where Jennifer will uncover the competencies that make a cremation professional as part of Session 4 • Cremation Fundamentals, topics related to foundational business practices.

Travel together at a discount! For over 100 years, CANA has drawn the best and brightest in the industry. Now, you can share the wealth of professional cremation education and network with innovators and save! Early birds get $100 off and any Additional Employee registration is $200 off that.

With a wide range of valuable networking and educational opportunities, the event will feature sessions that examine the last 100 years of CANA conventions and growth in cremation, evaluate where businesses are today, and focus on the next 100 years by providing strategic and practical information for long-term success. See our full program and learn more about how we'll mark more than 100 years of cremation success here: gocana.org/CANA18


Jennifer Head

A former high school science teacher, Jennifer Head began working for the American Foundry Society in 2005 after receiving her Master’s Degree in Education. She was responsible for the administration and operations of the AFS Institute’s programs and facilities, and initiated a complete redesign of Institute programming, including both classroom and online courses. A Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP), she brings to CANA a wealth of experience in best practices for workplace learning.

Tags:  education  hr  professional development  tips and tools 

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Three Resolutions to Benefit Your Business

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Three Resolutions to Benefit Your Business

 

Happy New Year from CANA!

As we lay 2017 to rest and get used to writing 2018 on our paperwork, we asked a few CANA members what resolutions they have for 2018 and each said the same thing: I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions.

Instead, they strive to improve the performance and service of their company throughout the year by supporting their staff's professional development, by protecting the safety and well-being of their operators and their image, and by caring for themselves and their colleagues the same way they care for our communities everyday. These goals aren't something we can do in one day, but something we can continue to strive for throughout the year.

So from our experts to you:

And there's a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we'll take a deep draught of good-will
For auld lang syne.

We look forward to seeing all that you accomplish in 2018 and continuing our support of our members and the industry throughout the year.


Ernie Heffner
Heffner Funeral Chapel & Crematory, Inc.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. When I’m motivated over a topic, I make a commitment and set timelines for accountability to follow through, timelines for myself included. These timelines may or may not coincide with January 1st.

As much as I’m flattered to be asked to contribute to CANA’s Cremation Logs and make recommendations for staff training in the new year, I’m not even sure I know what “improving staff training” means. I also flinch at the word “training” – I think we train dogs and we educate people.

Heck, for some employers, any training would be perceived as an improvement. My guiding principle, from the book Good to Great, is that you get “right people on the bus and wrong people off the bus.” If the wrong people snuck on the bus, either by acquisition of a firm, marriage to a relative or simply a wrong hire, then no amount of training will change the person. Instead, you need to do some top-grading and weed out the low performers.

Great people in end-of-life care sincerely want to do all they can for a family in grief. Every year they want to enhance their skills to serve. They want to be the very best informed and most knowledgeable caregiver they can possibly be. If those are not obvious traits, than the wrong person is on the bus!

Top-grading is probably an excellent resolution. The right staff will rise to the top and the opportunities for improvement will be natural. The problem is, it may start with the owner – it’s up to management to decide what talents they need and what skills they’ll teach or have others teach for them by sending staff to appropriate seminars and continuing education.

In the end, the words don’t matter if there is no downside to refusing to be enlightened – make sure the right people are on the bus and get the others off. Not just January 1st, make a point of doing this continuously.


Larry Stuart, Jr.
Cremation Strategies & Consulting

Generally, I think New Year's resolutions are ridiculous. We try to solve all of our perceived problems at the stroke of midnight only to fail miserably, usually before Valentine's Day. The key to true success is to declare broad-based, realistic resolutions and work on them all year long. Baby steps, if you will. For instance, a cremationist could resolve to focus on improving three important facets of cremation operations: safety, the environment, and the public’s perception of a crematory.

So, for 2018, repeat after me: "I resolve to be an even better cremationist by working to improve Operational Safety, Environmental Impact, and Public Perception regarding cremation.

Working on these three goals in progressive steps will be much easier to accomplish than resolving to “never leave the crematory during the cremation,” because we know that there will be times that, sooner or later, this will happen. Then, you will feel defeated and risk scrapping the whole thing. Instead, implement the following procedures throughout the new year. Here are a few examples of things that will help to succeed with your New Year’s resolution.

  1. Improve Operational Safety: Don’t bypass or short-cut the cool-down step of the process. If your equipment is meant to cool-down between cremations (and most are) you should never bypass this to rush the process. Typically, operating procedures call for a cool down period between cremations to approximately 600ºF before the chambers can be safely swept out. Waiting until the unit is cool to perform the next cremation also helps prevent premature ignition as you load the next case — which can be extremely dangerous. Waiting can also help to prevent a “run away” cremation; the cremation is better controlled with less heat at the start, and the likelihood of overheating is decreased. And remember, regardless of the unit, operators must always wear personal protective equipment to safeguard against harm from the heat.
  2. Reduce Environmental Impact: No matter how new and advanced your equipment is, failure to operate it properly can and will produce hazardous emissions and harm our environment.
    1. Scrutinize. Examining the materials included with the remains assures operator safety and reduces the volume of pollutants released into the atmosphere. Often friends and loved ones will place objects in the casket as a token of remembrance or as a personal gesture. Items like stuffed animals, picture frames, bullets, plastics, etc., are not meant to be cremated and could damage the unit, cause unnecessary toxic pollution, or even compromise the safety of the operator.
      NOTE: In some parts of North America, the operator is not legally allowed to open the casket prior to cremation due to regulatory laws. Confirm compliance with all relevant laws and take reasonable action to ensure the safety of yourself and your community.
    2. Any new policy implemented in effort to improve operator safety and improve environmental impact will help to paint cremation in a better light with the public. News stories that feature cremation fires or YouTube videos that show dark billowing smoke being emitted from a cremator stack do more harm than just to the environment and the safety of the operator. They tarnish our credibility and creates a negative perception with the public.
  3. Improve Public Perception: The easiest resolution is to assure that your facility is always clean and tidy. As cremation becomes even more popular, so will the public’s desire to visit crematories before deciding on which firm to use, which will increase your visitation and witnessed cremation services. Open and clean facilities with an engaged and knowledgeable staff are going to win every time. Clean your place daily. Wipe up any spills with a sanitary solution of 1:10 bleach and water as they happen. Sweep the floors and mop as appropriate. Dust off all surfaces on a regular basis. Treat your crematory like a funeral home is treated. It should be a showplace just as nice as any other room in your business.
  4. Resolve to get CANA Certified: Even if you are not an actual operator, the knowledge, information, and insight presented at a CANA Crematory Operations Certification class will not only improve the safety of your operation, our environment, and public perception, it will improve the service of funeral professionals toward their families.

As a fellow cremation professional and so-called expert, I will join you in the resolution to implement strategies and programs to help increase the safety of the crematory operator, lessen the environmental impact of cremation, and to continue to educate the public with facts, science, and emotional realities, all in the hopes of improving their perception of what goes on inside a crematory. Happy New Year!


Mike Sheedy
Market Director for Manitoba / Northern Ontario, Service Corporation International

Ours is a difficult job. We meet people at the worst moments of their lives and guide them through this period of initial hurt until their mother, child, grandfather, loved one is laid to rest. And then we say goodbye. They continue on their grief’s journey, we take the next call. Our journey stops, or never stops as the phone keeps ringing, without any satisfying conclusion.

So in 2018, I want us all to make a New Year’s Resolution to take better care of ourselves.

I need to take my own advice here. We are too often a profession in which we put others’ needs before our own. This work selects those who have so much to give and who are determined to carry on through terrible situations. We continually respond in a professional and dignified way to national tragedies, horrific accidents, or acts of violence and serve our communities while grieving ourselves while our own family awaits our return.

We must take care of our mental and spiritual health and watch for warning signs in ourselves and our colleagues. We must know when it’s enough and when to reach out and ask for help. That may mean reaching out to a colleague for help with a difficult case, or for professional help to avoid or cope with a breakdown. Yes, was as death care providers can hurt too.

Your network inside the profession, your social groups outside, your hobbies and passions, your family and friends all serve important functions to ground you in life when our career surrounds us is death. This year, let’s resolve to celebrate these groups, to take stock of our physical, mental and spiritual health, and to reach out to others when we need it or we feel they do.


The CANA network is one of the most powerful benefits of attending a CANA event and membership with the association. CANA provides the space where cremation professionals can share important conversations with people who get you and your business. Consider connecting with CANA and other industry experts at the 2018 Cremation Symposium for topics that inspire innovative thinking.

Not a member? Join your business to access this article and all archives of The Cremationist plus advice, tools, techniques, and statistics to help you understand how to increase your cremation success -- only $470.


Ernie Heffner shares 40+ years of professional funeral service. He has a diverse background in the operation of end-of-life care related enterprises including funeral homes, cemeteries, a monument company, 10 funeral business relocations and 5 new replacement facility constructions. Ernie has received national recognition and has been a featured speaker on numerous occasions for a variety of state and national industry organizations, related industry organizations as well as his local public speaking engagements for community education.

Larry Stuart is a graduate of Kent State University and is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) as Supplier Liaison. Through his experience Larry has seen first-hand the negative impact that poor crematory maintenance and improper operating procedures can bring about. Larry has spoken at numerous industry events and has conducted crematory operator training classes across North America with a mission to advance the safety of cremation facilities and their employees and to more positively impact our community and our environment.

Michael Sheedy has been a funeral director for over 20 years and currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) and is a member of the Ottawa District Funeral Association. In his tenure with Pinecrest Remembrance Services, he has been part of the creation of Ontario’s first full service facility with onsite visitation and receptions.

Tags:  education  hr  processes and procedures  safety  tips and tools 

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