Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The importance of sharing your vision

Jason Murphy,
Director of Family Services,
Sunset Memorial Park
As a manager, your responsibility as a leader is very important and is sometimes easy to overlook. That responsibility is to share your vision of the future of your company with your staff. We all get busy with our everyday routines and get caught up in the whirlwind. But, great leaders make the time to share their vision with their staff.

Why is this important? Because your staff needs direction. Your staff needs to know where you want them to go. If someone has no guidance and no goals to shoot for, then they may never know if their work is meeting or exceeding your expectations. How can we improve on this in our own organizations?
  • Set both short-term and long-term goals individually and as a group. It’s easy to throw out a long term goal, but it’s much more difficult to establish a plan to get there. That’s why it is so important to set smaller, short-term goals that lead to your ultimate goal or your long-term goal. These short-term goals are easier for your staff to refer back to, and will give them quicker feedback on whether or not they are on track to reach their long-term goal.  
  • Conduct mini employee reviews throughout the year. At times, managers may notice poor performance, but choose not to correct the issue at that point in time. Rather, they wait until an annual review to unload all of the employee’s mistakes. This leaves the employee feeling discouraged and worried about their performance. Touch base with your employee’s on a regular basis to review their progress and make any adjustments that are needed. This may ensure you to stay on track to your long-term goal. Plus, your employee will feel encouraged along the way because they feel supported. 
If you want the best results, then it is up to you to create an environment that can breed the results you desire. Communicate your vision with your staff and refer to it on a consistent basis. It is your job to make sure that everyone stays on track and keeps the organization's vision in sight.

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Do you believe in what you sell?

Drew Edwards,
General Manager,
Sunset Funeral Homes
At Sunset Funeral Homes, we often times meet with cremation families that want to host a gathering or memorial service without the help of the funeral home. Many times, they go this route in hopes of saving some money. Although their intentions are great, they almost always end up adding a lot of stress to an already stressful situation, and at the same time end up with a sub-par service of remembrance. But, since we provided the cremation services, our name gets tacked onto their memorial celebration anyway. 

How do we overcome situations like this? Simply put, we are the professionals and we have to make sure our families know that. After all, we do this every day. We know the logistics, seating and printed materials like the back of our hand. Can you imagine how good a mechanic would be if every time a vehicle broke down he asked the customer to do the diagnostics?

No matter if we are selling a bronze memorial, an upright granite memorial or a memorial service at a church, we have to remember to continue to educate the families we serve and provide them with options. We have to remember that we are the professionals and we know what they need to begin a journey to healthy healing. Believe in what you sell, and you will find that both you and the families you serve will benefit in the end. 

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Let technology help prevent a lost generation

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of American Cemetery & Cremation.
By Ethan Darby, Director of Business Development, Trigard

Do you remember life without cell phones? How about getting your first computer? Do you remember when we had to rewind VHS and cassette tapes? In the last twenty years, technology has changed the way we live. We carry pocket-sized computers (our smartphones) everywhere. Any information we need is just a Google search away. And, we can watch movies and listen to music without rewinding the tapes when we’re finished.

Technology has also advanced memorialization. Direct-to-metal technology and laser engraving can capture incredible detail on all kinds of materials. But the technology isn’t just advancing the products. One recent change, GIS mapping, has really caught the eye of cemeterians. If you’ve never heard of it, then you should Google it. (See what I did there?)

According to the National Geographic, GIS mapping, or Geographic Information System mapping, “is a computer system used for capturing, storing, checking and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface.” It helps cemeterians keep track of their cemeteries’ information in case of fires, floods, or deteriorating paperwork, and helps families locate their loved ones within the cemetery.

Become a genealogical resource
Cemeteries are a snapshot of our community’s historical timeline, a proud and permanent museum for those who came before us. Walking into a cemetery is like walking into your community’s history book and is a valuable resource when conducting genealogical research. While public records are handy, memorials in a cemetery are vital for anyone doing genealogical research, and GIS mapping has made that even easier.

With the help of GIS mapping, fifty years from now when a family’s descendants want to learn about their heritage, they will have easy access to their ancestor’s direct location. And, once they find their loved one, their permanent memorial can help tell their story to their descendants.

But, what happens if someone chooses not to be memorialized in a cemetery or memorial park? What if they just want to be “scattered over the hill” without any kind of permanent memorial? They run the risk of them becoming part of a lost and forgotten generation.

Preventing a lost generation
As memorialization professionals, it is our job to prevent generations from being forgotten. It is our job to educate the families we serve on the importance of memorializing their loved ones. It is just another component in the way we care for them. A permanent memorial not only helps the healing process, but it also provides families a place to visit and to share memories for years to come. When you let a family walk out the door without understanding the benefits of memorialization, you are robbing them of the experience of having a place to honor their loved one, share their legacy with future generations and ensure they are not forgotten.

This is also where technology can come into play. The next generation of consumers may not identify with a yellowing cemetery map on a wall, but I guarantee they’ll be enthusiastic about a smartphone app that uses GIS mapping to help them locate a special space for their loved one in your cemetery. Traditional bronze memorials with limited personalization may not be attractive to younger consumers, but they’ll quickly get involved designing a full-color memorial with family photographs.

I encourage you to be a resource for families. Educate yourself about not only the newest memorialization options but also the new advancements in technology within our industry. Go to conventions, read industry publications and ask your suppliers for more ideas. Be an asset to this industry and help every generation be remembered.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Do you have an effective employee handbook?

Sheryl Baumeister,
Human Resources
As the Human Resources Manager, I live and breathe the contents of the employee handbook. It's one of the most important documents you can create for your organization. It can say a lot about your culture and your brand, especially to new employees. It lays out how the employer wants employees to be treated and how they are expected to behave.

Employee handbooks can include a lot of information, which can be overwhelming at times. But, it does not need to include every detail of an employer's policies or every provision of the laws impacting the workplace. For instance, it's best to leave out the details of a severance policy (if you have one) and avoid speculating on future changes to overtime pay rules.

In order to give your employees an effective handbook, you need to:
  • Be Concise – If you want your employees to read the handbook, don’t fill it with legal jargon they can’t understand. 
  • Be Original – Use your own language and don’t borrow the wording for policies and procedures from other organizations. 
  • Be Careful – Before you distribute it to your employees, ask your legal counsel to review it. This protects your company and your employees. 
If you have multiple locations in different states, there are several options for you. You can publish a single handbook that includes all state and local variations in topical sections. You can tailor multiple versions to each company location. Or finally, you can take a back-end approach and have state-specific addenda in the back of the handbook.

Whatever option you choose, keep in mind the handbook is a living document that needs to be updated constantly. As new laws and work trends change, you need to make sure your handbook is current with the times.

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.