Co-op Funeralcare develops new ways of attracting and re-training talent during COVID-19

Co-op Funeralcare changed its job specification to focus on transferable skills allowing it to consider applications from all sectors, and attract a truly inclusive workforce.

COVID-19:  Our members taking responsible business action 

Just under two years ago Co-op Funeralcare rolled out a different approach to attracting and recruiting individuals to their business, as they were experiencing a high turnover rate. 

Co-op Funeralcare changed its job specification to focus on transferable skills. Doing this would allow it to consider applications from all sectors, and change the way it advertised to attract a truly inclusive workforce. This included increasing the numbers of younger and older applicants, and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and different faiths. 

Transferable skills were identified: strong communication skills; commitment; emotionally intelligent, ability to work under pressure; and ability to maintain ongoing relationships during very intense periods. Great team-working skills and co-operation were a requirement as a funeral requires people coming together to ensure the family can give the best goodbye to their loved one.  

The recruitment campaign started by using social media to target specific sectors, such as the forces and ex-police officers. It was felt these individuals would have the required skills, and would possess a vocational approach to work and not see it as a job.   

In addition, the Co-op targeted young people by advertising in Elle magazine. Candidates were then subjected to a rigorous selection process where they completed a role-fit online review to ensure they were aligned to the organisation’s vision and values. This was followed by a telephone interview. If successful, the candidate was invited for a face-to-face interview for assurance checks and validation of their skills and business fit. 

An investment for the future

Audrey Furness, Head of People Partnering, Co-op Funeralcare, Legal and Life Planning, says:  “Twenty months ago we ran a recruitment campaign using different attraction methods as an investment for our future. This is serving us well during this pandemic and will continue to do so in the future.” 

In the past couple of months, Co-op Funeralcare has run another highly successful recruitment campaign using social media attracting more than 8,000 responses from a diverse group of applicants.  Four-hundred-and-fifty new colleagues have joined the business.  Both the selection and induction processes were carried out online.   

Taking these actions has paid dividends as Co-op Funeralcare has succeeded in reducing its staff turnover rate from 22% to 1.4%. This has helped the business to build and sustain relationships and to be at the heart of the communities they serve – which is always critical, but is even more so at this time. 

It has now enrolled 3,000 colleagues into its funeral apprenticeships programme, providing people from all backgrounds the opportunity to develop a worthwhile career and better reflect the community that they serve. 

Co-op Funeralcare is a business proud of its history with 4,000 dedicated employees. 

Audrey says “it’s a privilege to be part of this industry. One that is taken seriously by all of our colleagues. The biggest thing I would like to take out of these current times is that our dedicated colleagues and the valuable work they do has led to them now being recognised as key workers.  My hope is that it’s not just for now but for always.” 

Co-op Funeralcare has been increasing its investment in wellbeing measures to help its staff during the COVID-19 pandemic because, as with all other institutions, it is encountering obstacles they have never been presented with before. It is also raising with Government the importance of putting in place better bereavement support and having open discussions, and have published a number of recent reports looking at this area