Recruiting At Zaxby’s

Recruiting at Zaxby’s

The single greatest challenge facing funeral service is not cremation.  It is our inability to find and recruit and retain good quality funeral directors. Fully 2/3 of the current licensee labor pool is over 55. Our inability to replace this work force has very nasty consequences.  Not only will families be underserved but the pressure on the remaining workers will ultimately exceed the capacity.

What Should we do?

When faced with a dilemma no one is working on it is best to take matters into your own hands. I believe the answer is in our past.

If you know a first – generation funeral director who is in his or her 70’s, chances are they entered the profession through the ambulance service. Younger than that, many of them were engaged in their late teens to do mundane work around the funeral home like mowing lawns and washing cars but the owner bought them a suit and they started helping out on funerals. Many of these recruits grew to love the work and ended up getting licensed. In my opinion, the ones I have met who came in this way represent our best practitioners.

A few weeks ago I was working with a client and we took a break to go down the street and have lunch at Zaxby’s. I am confident that you, dear reader, have eaten in a “fast” food restaurants and the overall experience is…shall we say… underwhelming. This experience was remarkable. The young man who took our order was probably 17 or 18, well groomed and extraordinarily personable. He greeted us by looking us in the eye, he engaged with us, asked what we were doing for the holidays and sincerely thanked us for our order. WOW! He made an unmemorable experience memorable.

When my client and I sat down I asked him what he noticed about the young man and I was surprised to realize he hadn’t really noticed.  Sometimes we have our focus so intent on our own challenges we don’t see what’s around us. When I pointed out my observations he realized what I was talking about. When I told him I would have introduced myself and given him my card and asked him to stop by he got up and did it.

So, what should we do? We should do what our grandfathers did. We should be intentional about looking for solutions wherever we can find them.  We may not be able to solve the profession’s labor shortage but we can solve our own by recruiting locally. Yes, you will have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince or princess but you will be helping yourself along the way.

By |2018-12-07T08:23:51-05:00December 11th, 2018|General Topics, The Creedy Commentary|3 Comments


  1. Herb Ayres December 12, 2018 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I was one of those who was headed to engineering school and then was diverted to funeral service through summer employment. Menial tasks that turned to funeral work mentored by a funeral director who loved his work and showed up everyday. For years I used high school/college students for visitations and part time help in my own business. Trained correctly they can be great ambassadors for your business but it takes work and commitment retraining every 2 or 3 years when those employees move on. Although they moved on and only one expressed interest in funeral work as their profession, many ended up as life long friends and still speak to that first work experience and many still show up at the funeral home with their families as clients.
    Today the model is to outsource everything; cleaning, car washing, lawn care, accounting entry all outsourced in the effort to avoid having another employee and this all orchestrated by an owner/manager that is worrying about the next vacation or day off. In an effort to make funeral service efficient and turn key we eliminated the human factor in a profession that pleads for empathetic employees.
    My guess, Zaxbys has a culture of mentored training and engaged employees. At any rate everyday it is easier to excel in funeral service with the “right” employee and culture as competitors streamline their operations, cut out the human factor and talk about the woe is me funeral service climate.

  2. Barbara Newkirk July 16, 2019 at 11:49 am - Reply

    Let me second that notion, by saying that yes… Labor Shortage is the biggest factor looming in this industry. You know how the old saying goes….”Good Help, is Hard to Find”. I add to that my personal philosophy, “but easy to keep, if you pay them what they are worth”. I constantly scout for new talent, on the go, at a restaurant, on a service, via paid jobsites, at the mortuary schools, and even on craigslist. I have kissed many frogs, received many headaches – but zero warts, and in the end found a couple princes and princesses. My brief advice, make recruitment a CONSTANT.

    • Alan Creedy
      Alan Creedy July 16, 2019 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      Barbara, my former partner was constantly recruiting and if he found a “diamond” he would try to hire them even if we didn’t have an opening. Ultimately we had a world-class team.

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