Connecting Directors 2023 Deathcare Survey: The Results are In!
We’d like to offer our sincere thanks to the hundreds of Connecting Directors readers from 42 states who participated in our third annual Deathcare Survey! Your responses will inform and inspire the direction of our content going forward — and hopefully shed some light on how your experiences compare to those of your peers.
Before we share some of the insights gleaned from three years of surveys, though, we’re happy to announce the three randomly-selected winners of $100 Amazon gift cards:
- David C. Williams Jr.,
- Scott Burdette, and
- James Wachholz.
Congratulations David, Scott, and Jim! Watch for your digital gift cards via email. Now, let’s dig into the data.
About our readers
For the last three years, the majority of our survey respondents have served primarily as funeral directors, owners, or managers in the 40-to-55 age group, with males only slightly outnumbering females. However, your roles in deathcare are more and more varied. This year we heard from retired owners taking on new roles as adjunct mortuary school faculty members, celebrants, and even a funeral bagpiper!
The average number of calls managed annually dropped to 394 in 2023, from a most-likely COVID-related high of 475 in 2021. Your cremation rates, expectedly, increased incrementally, from 51% in 2021, to 52% in 2022, to 53% in 2023. This is only slightly lower than the latest (2021) cremation rate of 57.5% published by the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).
One of our goals with Connecting Directors is to provide relevant and helpful information that helps you address issues and overcome challenges. Your responses to several of our survey questions help us do that. For the third year in a row, your top challenge remains hiring and retaining great employees. In fact, exactly half of our respondents are struggling with hiring and retention; this is up from about one-third (33%) in 2021 and 45% in 2022.
Although there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel as mortuary school enrollment was up by 24% last year, getting those folks graduated, hired, and trained for your particular positions could keep this issue at the top of the list for a few more years.
That statistic could be one of the factors that contributes to the second highest-ranked challenge in our results: compassion fatigue and mental health issues. Like staffing, compassion fatigue is sitting in the same position for the third year in a row; this year, it was reported by 35% of our respondents. This is down by three percent from 2022, but still higher than the 32% reported in 2021.
Your emotional struggles haven’t gone unnoticed; in the second half of 2022 both CANA and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offered self-care workshops for deathcare professionals. Even so, the prevalence of the issue on our survey for three years straight means it’s a problem we simply can’t stop addressing.
As you can see from the chart below, respondents are dealing with a variety of additional challenges. This year, educating or communicating with families and time management were issues reported by more than a quarter of those who answered.
This ranking is a little different from our past two years. In 2021, rising cremation rates was ranked third at 24%; this year, it was also reported as a top challenge by 24% of respondents, but ranked fifth. This means that although it’s still an issue, you’re dealing with more pressing problems.
Even so, you love your job!
Since 2021 we’ve asked the question, “Which SINGLE activity do you wish you could spend LESS TIME DOING?” We asked this in the hopes that we could find products, vendors, experts, etc. — anyone or anything that could provide assistance with or perhaps completely eliminate these unwanted tasks. In 2021, so many people added “Nothing! I love my job!” in the “Other” field that we added that response as an option. Now, how many professions can make a claim like that?
Perhaps as expected, that answer topped the list with nearly 21% of respondents saying they love everything about what they do. It wasn’t so last year, though — or in 2021. In both those year’s surveys, the top time-consuming duty was dealing with problem employees and coworkers; it came in at second place this year.
This year we’re going to work hard to find resources to help you deal with problem employees and coworkers. We’ll also introduce you to as many products and services as we can to help you with paperwork and data entry; we even know a guy who can manage marketing and social media for you. If there’s a way to make your job easier so you can spend more time with the families you serve, we’ll let you know about it. In fact, in our next article on the 2023 Connecting Directors Deathcare Survey, we’ll share what you told us about your technology, products/services, infrastructure, and marketing preferences and needs. Stay tuned!