We interviewed Tina Cook, a business consultant with an expertise in change management. Tina has managed change at Manchester Crematorium for the past 5 years.
The old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ lends itself well to the U.K.’s funeral industry and few businesses have as reliable an income stream as those operating within this sector, but some are now seeking help to review and adapt their processes to increase revenue and meet the changing needs of today’s customer, and they are doing this by employing the knowledge and skills of a Change Management professional.
The bereavement industry is often viewed as old fashioned and there can sometimes be a resistance to change, but this is not surprising when you consider the positive fiscal results many crematoriums and funeral directors experience year in, year out – why would they need to review and potentially change the way they operate?
A Change Manager’s role involves transitioning individuals, teams, and organisations using methods intended to re-direct the use of resources, business process, budget allocations, or other modes of operation that significantly reshape a company or organisation. In order to reshape a business that might be viewed as old fashioned, technology can play a crucial part. However, the first hurdle for a Change Manager might be convincing the business that technology is an enabler and not a necessary evil.
Tina Cook is a Change Manager who has worked with a number of businesses across various industries including the funeral service sector. One of her recent clients was a UK-based crematorium who employed her skills to help them understand how they could work more efficiently and capitalise on their resource.
“I took some time looking at their business to understand the biggest challenges and came to the conclusion that they involved teamwork in a small organisation, the level of people skills and working effectively with today’s technology.
“When it comes to team work in a small sized organisation, it’s very important to have the ability to cover for each other. You shouldn’t let your staff get too comfortable in their role; if they don’t like rotating roles you will have a distinct lack of cross skills in the workplace. Also the level of people skills is imperative in this industry – everyone from the owner to the gardener needs to be personable and staff shouldn’t just be recruited for their specialised skills. “Perhaps the biggest challenge I discovered was the underlying resistance to technology within this industry. Some will bypass the opportunity to explore new technological solutions, while others will introduce new IT systems and technology but won’t actually make use of it, almost as if it’s there to tick a box. “The Change Management process here involves working with the business to demonstrate the benefits of new technology and how change can be a good thing for them. In the case of the UK-based crematorium, they accepted and have now embraced the changes and see them as a positive. One method used by Change Managers to address the aforementioned challenges is by holding quality improvement groups. The idea of these is to get the staff to understand how they can work better together. It’s not a quick fix, though, with the groups held over a number of months after which the Change Manager will feedback their findings to the board. Employee engagement is the catalyst here with everyone feeling they have played a part in the change It’s clear that the Funeral Service industry is not a broken with thousands taking place in the U.K each week, many of which pass without any problems and those operating within the industry are turning a profit. However, there are opportunities to adopt new processes that could help business become more efficient and make use of technology. If you consider how much technology can be found in an average family home, it’s obvious that people are familiar with it and see it as an enabler in everyday life, so if it could help improve a funeral service, why not try it? In the bereavement industry it’s important to recruit for values and attitude rather than competencies – something that can be learnt. Those working in this industry will be some of the most skilled workers in emotional intelligence and customer service with their patient and calm approach to their customers. The end goal for business in the Funeral Services industry is to ensure the best service possible is offered to families in what can be their darkest hours, and this is done incredibly well in the U.K. However, there are new processes and ideas that can be introduced that will not devalue the service in any way, but instead can offer the customer an improved experience while helping Funeral Service businesses work more efficiently. So if the industry is not broke and it doesn’t need fixing, how about introducing a little bit of change instead?
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