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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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Investing in Your Employees Pays

Posted By Jennifer Head, CANA Education Director, Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Investing in Your Employees Pays

 

Do you have a budget for training and development? If you do, is it only for mandatory training required for maintaining licensure? If you answered no to the first question, or yes to the second question, read on.

Sadly, most people only pay for continuing education classes only because they have to. As long as they have the credits they need, that’s all that matters. In that case, they look for the bare minimum – something that offers the least amount of work for the most amount of credits at the cheapest rate. You all know what I’m talking about. Those $50 online classes that get you 4 hours of continuing education credit. Four hours and $50 later, you haven’t actually continued your education or developed professionally because few people learn anything from a “class” where you read endless pages of content, or “watch” boring narrated slides while you’re really catching up on CANA’s blog.

But what if the money spent on that required continuing education could actually help boost your bottom line? Successful companies know that training and development (T&D), as well as succession planning and anything related to workforce development, should be an integral part of your business strategy. Your people are your most important asset, so they should receive the time, energy and investment that shows it.

Workforce Development

What do successful companies do? They make a Competency Model – they outline all of the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) a person needs to be successful in a given job or job area. Training dollars are focused on filling the gap between the skills employees have and those they need; since the competencies are tied to business goals, you are spending money on personnel (read: professional) development that will directly impact the bottom line.

Cremation Competencies These competency models are also used in succession planning and career growth. When you have them available for all positions, employees know what is expected of them, especially if they want to be promoted or move to a different position in the company. When hiring new employees, the models help you identify what training you may or may not need to provide if you hire a particular person.

Return on Investment

If improving your bottom line isn’t enough motivation to focus on T&D, maybe keeping qualified employees will. Are your employees getting poached by other firms because of the industry’s talent shortage? Continued opportunities for development and advancement keeps employees engaged and reduces turnover.

What about the retirement of the Baby Boomers? It’s no secret that a skills gap exists between what employers need and the skills many of our future employees have. If you’re facing the looming retirement of experienced staff, getting new employees in and up to speed quickly is essential. That means starting now with comprehensive succession and T&D plans.

“But wait!” you say. “Paying for classes is one thing. But the travel expenses, lodging and food, in addition to the lost work time, it all adds up!” Yes, it does, and I have several responses. First, the long-term payoff of having well-trained staff more than covers the classes, the travel expenses and the lost work time (or it should, if you choose quality training programs). Plus, the commitment you demonstrate to your employees makes them feel valued and that you are invested in their future. Second, properly trained and qualified staff generally leads to lower legal risk, which is priceless – ask anyone who has been sued.

So how can you provide quality education in a more budget friendly way? Online programs are a great option since they eliminate the travel.

Quality Online Education

I earned my Master’s Degree in 2005 and the program was entirely online; it was cutting edge for its time. I remember having to watch video lectures every week for class, mailed to me on VHS tapes, and promptly falling asleep on the couch within 20 minutes. BORING! Don’t get me wrong, the program was tough, and I put the work in to prove I was worthy of the degree (just ask me about my work product sample!). But studies show, and my personal experience agrees, an interactive online learning experience is more effective. It wasn’t available back then, but we’re capable of this now, 13 years later, with all the technology advancements.

Unfortunately, if you want to take quality online education that actually increases the bottom line, you may struggle to find it. Remember that $50 class for four hours of credit? That’s not the quality I mean. Research shows that lectures aren’t effective for adults to learn, yet it continues to be the delivery mechanism of choice—especially for online courses—because it’s easy for those putting the presentation together.

Truly valuable online opportunities can be rare. Maybe that’s why there are still states, like Pennsylvania, that don’t accept continuing education credits obtained through online or distance learning methods. They know that there haven’t been many—if any—truly effective online programs available. CANA is changing that.

Criteria

Though it can be costly and time intensive and requires a unique skill set to develop, the use of online education that is designed following best practices is now an expectation within the most successful companies. Unfortunately, there are still many industries that lag behind in this area—ours being one of them. This is why it’s important for CANA to set the standard. Our association needs to show what quality online continuing education looks and feels like.

But how do you know if you are investing in quality education, especially when it’s offered online? There are three key criteria to consider before purchasing an online course.

  • Learners should be active participants in the learning experience. Notice I don’t use the word attendee or registrant. The word learner implies that participants are actually going to contribute something and not sit passively.
  • The course should include a combination of video, images, animations, and audio and should not simply be a narrated slide deck.
  • Most importantly, it should require the learner to think and to do. This helps them process the information and think about how they will apply it to their daily tasks. That’s where we see the return on investment.

Next time you think about using any education, but especially online education, think quality and return on investment. Let that be your guide to selecting courses that will work for you and your staff.

Ask for Help

Not sure how to get started developing a defined professional development plan for your employees? I’d love to talk to you. Call 312-245-1077 or email me Jennifer@cremationassociation.org and I'll work with you to achieve your goals.


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  professional development  tips and tools 

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