The Funeral Director’s Guide to Embracing Change

Posted May 4, 2022

6 min read

Adaptation and change can be a great thing for any funeral home.

But the steps of implementing change are not always simple, since any transformation—whether big or small—involves people, processes, and systems.

Once you’ve made the decision to commit to a certain change, however, how can you help your team navigate that process successfully? After helping many funeral homes implement successful change in their firms, here are 6 key lessons funeral homes have shared with us about embracing change in their firms.

1. Get clear on the change itself

Don’t assume that others in your funeral home know all the research and that went into the change you’re implementing. Don’t be afraid to get vulnerable and be transparent on why the change is needed, and why it will benefit your firm in short- and long-term.

You’ll also want to be sure others with authority in your funeral home display the same level of commitment and excitement as you. Negativity and skepticism can do a lot of damage when it comes to implementing change, so be sure those in a position of leadership are showing how they are support the change fully.

2. Know your team’s starting point

It’s hard to know where you are going, and what’s expected of you, if you don’t know where you are starting. It will look different for every funeral home, but aim to capture current processes and systems as they stand today. This way, those current processes and systems are visible and clear.

If it’s challenging to describe the way work gets done currently, changing the way that work gets done will be more difficult than it needs to be! Taking this “systems view” of your operations doesn’t have to be overly technical; simply start by mapping out or visually displaying (in steps) how your work currently is accomplished.

So many times, issues or problems have a root cause in the system we’re using, not in the people on our team. In order to change the way individuals work, it helps to get very clear on your “starting point.”

3. Remember the time investment it will take

Any sort of change can and should be built into your business plan and your everyday work. Be prepared for some form of time investment up front—but also remind your team how that up-front investment of time will ultimately pay off.

Instead of fearing or avoiding the uncertainty around this time investment, make as much as you can certain about the process. You can do that through strategic planning, checklists, communication, proper accountability, and the right support. That will also give you a better idea of the time you need to be putting towards managing the change on a weekly and day-to-day basis.

4. Make sure you have milestones

Even with the smoothest transitions, people need to be able to evaluate and see progress towards their goals. They also need an actual support system to get to those goals, and that’s why milestones can be a powerful tool to gauge and demonstrate progress towards desired outcomes.

To put yourself in the best position to have ongoing momentum throughout a change management project, make sure you:

  • Clarify and document what outcomes are expected (for teams or individuals)
  • Clarify and document what will change for each role
  • Create and always follow-through with check-ins and/or progress updates
  • Take steps to show and measure progress, even if not at a pre-determined “milestone” or check-in
  • Constantly communicate and hold yourself and others accountable—no exceptions
  • Aim for an early milestone (such as after 21 days) to achieve and to celebrate as a team

People may have a mindset that the change is going to be more difficult than it really will be. By setting up “early wins” with milestones, you can start to shift this false mindset.

5. Have a plan for managing negative emotions

Many funeral directors are caught off guard when there is resistance to change that they didn’t anticipate.

To be ready to implement change in your firm, you can actually prepare for dealing with these frustrated team members. After all, if you anticipate a certain degree of resistance, you can be better equipped to respond to it. This doesn’t mean you tolerate the resistance, but be sure team members have the skill and confidence to deal with these behaviors when they inevitably show up.

For example, set clear, well-defined expectations early on about each team member’s responsibility as it relates to the change initiative. These expectations can be for individuals and for the team, and those expectations can be monitored throughout the process. Make sure you don’t make exceptions for certain expectations, as that can send mixed messages to the other team members who are meeting expectations.

From the start, aim to get their buy-in, continue to communicate with team members during the process, and identify what may be driving any resistance. Often times, it’s fear of the unknown that’s showing up as frustration or skepticism.

Also realize that no change management initiative is perfect. It’s not uncommon to have some early stress during times of change. That kind of duress can frustrate team members, but if you remain unwavering in your commitment to the change—and to supporting each other through the process—those obstacles will be overcome.

6. Get used to proactive communication—again and again

A common theme we’ve heard is about just how much communication is needed during times of change. Many people may feel like they are over-communicating, but that’s often exactly what is needed during times of change.

People learn and absorb information in many different ways, so while you may feel like you’re repeating yourself, offering direction and support in a variety of formats (or mediums) can be very helpful.

Also make sure you set up a way for staff to voice their concerns, opinions, and feelings throughout the process. It shouldn’t be about just expressing negative emotions, but it should be a productive conversation where lessons learned can be shared.

Sometimes people can get disgruntled during times of change because they feel like they are not being heard; consider giving people some sort of space—such as a dedicated monthly meeting—where they can continuously share how they are perceiving what’s going on with the transitions happening around them.

You Deserve a Customer Success Team that Helps You Embrace Change

If you’re working with a technology partner, it’s critical to have their support when it comes to adopting their platform. That’s why CRäKN provides you with a dedicated Customer Success team that helps you every step of the way in your journey with us.

Customer Success—as we define it—includes learning your processes, and once we know where your firm is at today, we help to provide you with the best business solutions for your funeral home.

Learn more about curbing chaos and saving time with CRäKN: request a personalized demo today.

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