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Becoming a part of the deathcare industry is no walk in the park.  The staff working in funeral homes know that excellence in client care is paramount to their business and it isn’t something you can master on day one of the job.  In addition to honing one’s interpersonal skills in the role, there is also lots to learn about the technical side of the business so training is an essential requirement for all staff.  Within a funeral home, training can take on various different forms.  From formal qualifications such as diplomas in funeral arranging, to in-house training courses delivering updates on industry regulation changes, there is an awful lot to learn.  So how does a funeral director decide the best way to train their staff to further enhance their business and maintain excellence in their operations?  We examine the importance of training in the deathcare industry and the various ways to ensure that staff members continue to develop in their roles.

Getting into the deathcare industry - training new staff

There are a couple of different ways to enter the funeral industry.  Most new additions to the profession will join as an apprentice or junior team member with the intention of advancing their career and become a fully qualified funeral director.  After 12 months as an apprentice team member, employees can progress to do a funeral director advanced apprenticeship.  All new staff members without industry experience will be advised to take the funeral service awareness training certificate from the NAFD or the BIFD.  This course is conducted online with various learning materials provided by the education providers.  The onboarding of new staff to the business involves a significant investment of time and money from the funeral director - the basic awareness training course costs £150 alone.  The investment of a funeral director’s time to guide new starters is invaluable, both for the individual personally and there are subsequent benefits for the business as a whole.  A comprehensive induction plan should be in place to train new staff in the basics of the business, setting deadlines for more formal qualifications to be completed over a set period of time.  Employee engagement with their job role is paramount in the early stages of training.

In-house or external training?

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So how does a funeral director decide how best to train their new staff whilst also keeping their existing staff training up to date?  The larger funeral home conglomerates such as the Cooperative have their own in house training programmes laying out a clear career structure from apprentice to branch manager.  As part of this training programme, they allocate 20% of their apprentice’s weekly hours to focus on training and education.  To support the development of new staff they have their own training consultants to handle their training needs across multiple branches.  Private training consultancies such as Greenfuse Training are also available to provide in house training courses for funeral homes.  With courses on offer such as modern funeral arranging and mortuary management, an investment in external training services for your home can pay dividends when it comes to staff knowledge and output.

Training and mentoring in unison

Independent funeral homes are unlikely to be able to provide their own specialised training teams that the larger companies have in place.  They tend to train their apprentices in house, drawing on the wealth of knowledge that their long standing staff members possess.  On-the-job experience and the allocation of an experienced mentor is vital in the success of new staff development.  Some funeral homes utilise the knowledge of their most experienced funeral directors to progress the development of their colleagues whereas some may find this to be an untapped resource within their own business.  Whilst academic education and subsequent qualifications for the industry are important, learning how to be compassionate and professional from an experienced funeral director is an invaluable on-the-job lesson for a junior staff member.  

On the flip side to this, junior staff members may well be more tech savvy and be able to teach their experienced colleagues a thing or two in different ways.  Funeral directors are now upgrading their systems and implementing improved funeral arrangement technology such as Obit.  Despite the ease of use of these new apps, when it comes to the implementation of any new technology in the home some members of staff may struggle after years of using the same basic systems.  Newer staff within a company are normally more adaptable when it comes to implementing new softwares.  The younger staff may turn the tables and mentor their experienced counterparts to help them to sharpen up their digital skills if necessary.

Keeping all staff up to date with training

Woman in church wearing a face mask and praying with her hands outstretched
Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino / Unsplash

As mentioned earlier, whilst new staff have a lot to learn about the business existing staff still have ongoing training requirements to ensure that their standards don't slip.  Refresher courses should be conducted on a regular basis to keep all staff members up to date.  New regulations in the funeral industry are commonplace so it is essential that every funeral director distributes these changes to their staff members.  National associations such as SAIF assist their members with regular updates on regulatory changes, offering free webinars on the amendments such as the CMA’s recent changes on financial transparency within the industry.  2021/22 will see many regulatory changes within the deathcare industry that all employees need to be fully aware of.  The FCA introduces regulatory changes to funeral plans in 2022 which will change the face of pre-paid funerals in the UK.  Various informative webinars are being planned to educate funeral directors on the upcoming modifications laid out by the FCA, with funeral associations supporting their respective members with training in the changes too.

Importance of training for companies

Training is an essential part of every organisation to develop employees personally and increase their efficiency in the workplace.  Improving the skills and knowledge of staff members in the funeral home will have a positive knock on effect for the business as a whole.  Increasing the skill set of a staff member doesn’t need to begin in a physical classroom anymore, there are so many formal qualifications and different courses that can be undertaken online instead.  Furthering the personal development of your staff also demonstrates that they are valued in the business.  Knowing that they are a valued member of the team will lead to an increase in their overall productivity.  Boost your staff’s productivity levels by maximising their training potential and your business will reap the rewards in the long run.