Finding quality talent today can be tough. The talent pool itself is changing as Millennials and Gen Z enter the workforce in droves. Add in shifting attitudes about both work and life, and it’s no wonder some hiring managers are struggling.
A few months ago, when I spoke about this topic at a conference of funeral professionals, many people approached me afterward with questions. They were most interested in learning that funeral homes actually have an advantage in attracting today’s job seekers. In this article, my hope is that by sharing what I’ve learned after 25 years in hiring and recruiting, even more people can learn why with just a few key improvements, you can turn an ordinary hiring process into a meaningful and engaging journey.
By 2030, Bloomberg reports that the number of Gen Z employees in the U.S. will triple.1 Combined with Millennials, they will make up 75 percent of the global workforce.
And, as many business owners have already found out, the priorities of these generations are changing. In a 2019 survey of over 13,000 Millennial and Gen Z employees across 42 countries, travel outranked wealth in terms of overall ambitions, with “make a positive impact on community/society” not too far behind.2
Yet 49 percent also said they would quit their jobs within two years. The reason why is a large-scale shift in attitudes about business, work, and life. Both Millennials—people born between 1981 and 1996—and Gen Z—people born between 1995 and 2012—report feeling disillusioned with traditional institutions, skeptical of business motives, and pessimistic about economic progress.3
Some companies have tried to solve this through perks that blur the line between work and leisure. Think table tennis, avocado toast, and remote workstations. But the answer isn’t on a piece of bread or at home wearing sweatpants.
The real problem is that today’s workers want meaning. And it’s up to today’s employers to help build that meaning.
The fact is the window to get things right is narrow. A new employee may take as little as four hours to judge whether they’ll stick with a job, and this can have a direct impact on your business.
The most obvious effect is that replacing workers is costly, with estimates at between half to double the employee’s annual salary.4 Then there’s the considerable time and effort it takes to attract, recruit, and train new candidates. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, this backend work alone costs an average of $4,129 per hire.5
But maybe even more insidious is when employees become disengaged over time.
A Gallup study estimates that this results in an annual loss of 34% of an employee’s salary.6 When disengagement spreads to a team or throughout the organization, it can create an absence of trust, lack of commitment, and avoidance of accountability.
Over a decade ago at Precoa, our sales meetings looked a lot like any other sales meetings.
There were your gigantic slide decks, detailed spreadsheets, and a surplus of bullet points. It was typical, and so were the results.
But then something completely unexpected happened. A sudden, powerful thunderstorm caused everyone’s flights to be canceled. Then the electricity went out, meaning dozens of slides would be left unseen. We still had important problems to solve, but instead of this being a disaster, it became an experience of shared connection that was so much more meaningful.
People played games, there was laughter, and conversations lasted well into the night. The end result was more powerful than a slide deck could ever dream of being. Why? Because we focused on connection. The only question was: How can this be replicated?
So we got to work finding the answer. Bringing talented people together to thoughtfully solve problems will always be important. But when you put connection first, the result is something even stronger and longer lasting. With intentional connection, communication is strengthened, processes are clarified, and for Precoa, this improved not only our sales meetings but our entire company culture. Since 2012, Precoa has earned more than 10 consecutive Top Workplace awards including awards for Best Values and Employee Appreciation.
It goes without saying that keeping this up takes constant work. Culture evolves, and you have to be willing to grow and revitalize it as you go. But at its core, the idea is pretty simple: as employers, we need to treat our future hires and employees with the same levels of service and empathy with which we treat our customers.
It all starts with the hiring process itself. On top of building a talent pool and a network for referrals, there are steps you can take to make things easier for you and your job candidates.
The first is to seriously evaluate the job description for your vacancy. How long since it was updated? The workforce has changed drastically, and now is a great time to clearly define the role and your expectations.
Another easy win is to screen candidates through video interviews. More than 115 people apply for a single job on average nationwide.7 Nothing can replace a face-to-face interview, but video interviews can help you reach the right people more quickly. This allows you to spend more time making the most of the in-person interview experience.
In the book "Good to Great", Jim Collins writes that companies become great only when they “get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus.”
It’s a simple and straightforward concept, but it’s not always easy to execute. One strategy is to start with an assessment of candidates. For example, the Wunderlic assessment helps identify a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in the categories of management, sales, and administration. Maybe even more useful, it identifies ‘how’ one needs to manage someone with specific characteristics.
Of course, this is assuming there’s already a sizable talent pool. If not, the first step is to start building one. This means keeping track of applicants who may not be qualified for certain positions but could be a great fit for other positions down the line.
It also helps to reach out to organizations or within fields that attract empathetic, service-minded people. The fact is, 80% of job offers come from internal referrals, and they’re 5x more effective than all other means of hiring.8 After all, technical skills can be learned. What can’t be learned is kindness, creativity, passion, and grit.
More than ever, people look to work as a source of greater purpose and meaning. A company’s culture can lead to increased employee engagement and better employee experiences, and the most vibrant company cultures have a clear purpose.
Fortunately, few things are more purpose-driven and meaningful than helping people during one of the vulnerable times in their lives. You can make this clear to candidates by weaving purpose into your interview questions.
The simplest way to do this is to start by focusing on your organization’s core values. For instance, if compassion is one of your funeral home’s values, make that the basis for one or more of your questions.
This gives you a more effective way to assess how well candidates will fit within your culture.
No matter how many interviews you’ve conducted, it’s never a good idea to just wing it. Being well-prepared usually includes reviewing applications or resumes, crafting personalized questions, and maybe even doing some preliminary research on your candidates.
A 2021 study by CareerArc found that 92% of employers use social media to research candidates.9 Most social media profiles are public, and under typical compliance standards, it is perfectly legal to view public information. It’s simply another tool to learn a little more about a candidate’s emotional and social makeup.
Then there’s the art of creating structured questions tailored to each candidate. The interview is an opportunity to get to know the candidate, and it’s important to know what to look for. Pay attention to how prepared the candidate appears to be, and whether they make an effort to engage or connect beyond small talk. One of the primary functions of the interview is to learn how well you can work together.
Also, the importance of crafting questions around your workplace culture cannot be overstated. Once again, skills can be taught. Culture cannot. A highly skilled candidate who does not share your purpose or values may have a negative impact in the long run.
The final piece of the puzzle is to make the onboarding experience as memorable and amazing as possible. What can you do to ‘wow’ your new hires?
Basic training and showing someone the ropes are only part of it. The best onboarding experiences are just that—experiences. Employees who feel welcomed and special on the first day will be eager to excel. They’ll see that they’re part of a team, part of something larger. More importantly, they’ll feel like they belong.
As you probably already know, these gestures do not have to be grand. Even a few thoughtful touches go a long way. For instance:
The job market is changing, and to continue attracting quality candidates, employers will need to change right along with it. Fortunately, today’s talent is increasingly looking for jobs with meaning and purpose.
For funeral homes, helping employees understand that purpose is essential. It starts by transforming an ordinary hiring process into an amazing hiring experience.
Pulling this off successfully takes time and effort, but the benefits are well-documented. An Energy Project survey found that employees who derive meaning from their work report 2x job satisfaction and are 3x more likely to stay with an organization and fuel business success.10
In other words, your new hires will be more satisfied, and they’ll want to continue growing and learning because they’ll believe in what you do, and they’ll want you to succeed.