The Challenges of Recruiting for Funeral Homes

November 30, 2022
1491663_NMS-FuneralHomesRecruiting-500x500-Opt-4_110822.jpg How Funeral Homes Can Attract and Retain Employees

It’s no secret that staffing is probably the highest concern for most funeral homes at this moment. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) reports that 34 percent of members plan to retire within the next five years, however 73 percent do not have a succession plan for their business. This is a staggering number considering that 89.2 percent of funeral homes in the United States are privately owned by families or individuals, according to current NFDA research.

Another industry expert predicts an annual loss of more than 1,700 directors with five or more years of experience. He notes the uniqueness—and difficulty—of the job, writing, “[Funeral home] directors go from being strangers to a family to their most noble servants in less than five days.”

This statement reflects the demands placed on funeral directors. The job requires every skill imaginable, from being a meticulous planner and communicator to a patient and compassionate supporter for families in grief. You must navigate complicated family dynamics and logistical challenges. These are skills that must be learned over time with significant mentorship and training. But as the demand for funeral workers increases, the workforce has continued to age and retire out of the industry. Funeral homes simply cannot get licensed workers fast enough to meet their need for new hires.

There is a bright light on the horizon: Colleges that specialize in funeral service education are growing their enrollment. The American Board of Funeral Service Education reports that national new student enrollment in accredited mortuary science programs rose 24 percent in 2021 compared to 2020. There is a 90 percent job placement rate for graduates of these programs.

Recruiting may seem like a daunting task, but we recommend taking a step back and evaluating everything you are doing—or not doing—currently to attract new workers and retain the qualified staff you already have. Here are a few things to consider:


Become an employer of choice for current mortuary students. It can be difficult for students to schedule all of their observations and volunteer hours necessary for graduation while taking classes. Make it as easy as possible for students to contact you and streamline communications when you can. They will appreciate it—and will value your organization as a potential workplace.


Make sure you have a positive workplace culture and environment. Many employees will choose whether or not to remain with their current employer based on company culture. While our industry is more formal than others, there are still steps you can take to foster an open and welcoming workplace. Recognize employees when they succeed and be vocal about the value they bring to your business. You do not want to lose a trained and skilled employee because they feel underappreciated.


Help each employee develop a sense of authority. Funeral directors tend to be pulled in a million different directions. Learning how to delegate and make each employee feel responsible for their own tasks is a skill. When your team feels a sense of authority, they will be more motivated to perform—and they will feel more invested in their work. This can be critical for strong retention within your funeral home.


Continue to invest in training for your staff. When you can, bring training in-house to make it as easy as possible for your team to expand their knowledge and stay up-to-date with current trends and practices. If it is possible, send team members to regional and national conferences where they can meet with peers in the industry and represent your funeral home—this demonstrates your confidence in them and can be a morale boost.

What else is your funeral home doing to navigate the current recruiting challenges? Remember that National Mortuary Shipping is here to help in any way we can, from helping you handle a complex international shipping situation to organizing graveside services. Reach out at any time to let us know how we can serve your funeral home.

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