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12 Week Admin Onboarding Program - PACE

The Professional Administrative Coordinator Essentials (PACE) program is a 12-week onboarding program for our location's administrative coordinators. It's a guided learning plan that can easily be adapted to meet the individual needs of our locations.


The program utilizes PACE trainers assigned to newly hired admins and responsible for coordinating their onboarding program, providing virtual and on-site training and ongoing support during each onboarding phase.

PACE consists of four phases:

•    Phase 1: Basic Knowledge (week 1)

•    Phase 2: Guided Learning (weeks 2 – 4)

•    Phase 3a: Application Learning Pt 1 – Location Based (week 5)

•    Phase 3b: Application Learning Pt 2 (weeks 6 - 8)

•    Phase 4: Implementation (weeks 9-12)

The goal of the PACE Program is for new administrative coordinators to achieve Stage 4 Learning for all job responsibilities by the end of the 12-week program. Because the admin role varies from location to location, the location manager identifies the priority of critical tasks and the order the admin needs to achieve Stage 4 Learning.


Learning Stages:

  • STAGE 1 – Observation and taking notes

  • STAGE 2 – Side-by-side learning – Complete tasks with guidance/coaching

  • STAGE 3 – Complete the task independently with a review before submission or consider complete

  • STAGE 4 – Manager sign off – ready to complete independently


PACE Materials: 

  • Admin Handbook (organized notebook to capture notes and retrieve information)

  • Resource Site

  • Guided Onboarding Plan - defines roles and expectations for each Onboarding Phase

  • Manager Tracking Form

  • Weekly Onboarding Plan

  • Individual Training Tracker

The PACE Program needed to address three critical problems:

  1. Lack of on-site or reliable training and materials

  2. Ineffectiveness of a one-size-fits-all program and materials

  3. Unrealistic expectations from managers and funeral directors

The development of an effective onboarding program quickly became a critical business need. The program was developed in late spring of 2023 and is currently being piloted and iterated throughout the year. Feedback received from our new admins, PACE trainers, location managers, and other leadership will help us finalize the materials, train additional PACE trainers, and implement a seamless delivery of the program.

Here is how the pilot program addresses the critical problems identified above.

1. Lack of on-site or reliable training and materials

  • Train-the-trainer model - trained experienced and effective admins to facilitate the program

  • Utilizes virtual technology to provide timely and effective training from a distance​

  • The L&D team provides ongoing support, sets up all program materials, and conducts pre-program meetings to set up the initial training plan

2. Ineffectiveness of a one-size-fits-all program and materials

  • Intentional phased program that supports learning and is easily customizable to fit location needs

  • SharePoint site created for all materials for enhanced communication and sharing of resources

  • The L&D team is in the process of creating a new Performance Support system to replace the ineffective Document Library - which allows for easy access to training resources

3. Unrealistic expectations from managers and funeral directors

  • Program materials clearly define roles and expectations for each Phase of the program

  • Flexible materials that help managers track progress and focus on two to three skills at a time to achieve Stage 4 learning

  • Education meetings for managers to set expectations and highlight the importance of following a phased approach

  • Provide tips for managers on setting expectations for their team, daily check-ins, ongoing coaching, and clear communication

The administrative coordinator plays a critical role in the day-to-day management of our funeral homes. Unfortunately, it's also a unique and specialized role that our funeral directors and location managers don't understand. They recognize the value and need but don't realize what the admin does to take care of them, the families we serve, the building, the needs of the accounting team, etc.

Typically, associates in the admin role are new to funeral services. Most of our funeral directors have been in the industry for years, if not decades, and struggle to see how overwhelming it is to grasp the work a funeral home accomplishes behind the scenes. Our admins understand what a funeral home does from the perspective of a family who has lost a loved one, and many times, our funeral directors only understand from the professional viewpoint and have not planned a funeral for a loved one.

This disconnect and other factors have led to an extremely high turnover rate in the last three years. Many new admins leave within the first year, and typically within six months. Because it's a critical role, our funeral directors and managers quickly lose patience with the learning process and become frustrated with the quality of work after three to four weeks of onboarding.

Additional challenges include:

  • Lack of training due to previous low turnover in the role

  • Individual job duties across 40 locations

  • Typically, only one admin per location, with little or no on-site training

  • Managers don't know how to complete the admin job duties

  • No back-up trained to support when the role is vacant

  • Previous admin training was a 3-day in-person workshop that was discontinued due to being ineffective and lack of new admins to host training

  • The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted funeral service, and many non-funeral professionals decided to pursue other industries. New unexpected priorities delayed our training solution by three years.

Although the PACE Program is still in the Pilot, the feedback we've received has allowed us to iterate materials over the last several months. The feedback from managers is positive, and they are excited to have a plan to follow when training admins.

There has been less resistance than expected to take a slower, more intentional approach to onboarding and setting the stage for success.

PACE trainers have helped improve our materials and reach out for technical support and general guidance. Every three weeks, We have check-in meetings to discuss what's working, what's getting stuck, and what we can do differently.

We've identified the value of using the materials only in markets with more than one location and someone local to provide training. The Phased Onboarding plan helps the manager and training admin to develop a strategic plan for the new admin.

The leadership team, local managers, and PACE trainers are excited to see the program continue to evolve and have found value in the program and their ability to help new administrative coordinators. They learned by feast or famine and are excited that new administrative coordinators will have a better onboarding experience going forward.

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