2013-02-01

Interacting with InvoCare



    I would like to announce that InvoCare is willing to support this blog and will seek to support the honours research.  Which is a seriously big advantage for me!  In light of this I thought it appropriate to write about my interaction with InvoCare up to this point.  As it has significantly influenced how I see InvoCare.

    Hopefully this post will help others understand my perception of InvoCare!

        I have had three different types of interaction with InvoCare.  As an employee, as a mourner and as a 'researcher'.  My interactions with InvoCare in each of these roles has significantly shaped how I view the company.  It directed how and why I say the tings I do about InvoCare, and to an extend about the industry as a whole.


The early days as an employee
    My first interaction with InvoCare was through working at a well-known Sydney funeral home.  This was also my first direct interaction with the funeral industry in about a decade.  I had attended a couple of funerals, but as a child years ago.  So I really knew nothing about the industry at all, and had no idea InvoCare even existed.  I enjoyed getting to know InvoCare.

    Initially when I started InvoCare was no more than a name on paperwork I signed.  Over time the staff told me about InvoCare, explaining the company and what it was like from their perspective.  Many told me of the size of InvoCare, stating how they controlled a huge portion of the industry in Sydney.  This is the article I wrote about how many funeral InvoCare really does.

    The comments of InvoCare were mixed from staff.  With both good and bad things being said.  Some said InvoCare was very corporate, that a focus on profit.  Generally there was some resistance to InvoCare so my first insight into my employers was impacted by this.  Although others did comment on good parts of InvoCare, like its high OH&S standards.

    Interestingly my first direct encounter with InvoCare was due to OH&S.  A couple of people from InvoCare had come along to the funeral home to see about making safety improvements.  They did not interact with me at all, but the fact that InvoCare had sent specialists to improve working conditions was interesting.  Especially in light of some comments about how into OH&S InvoCare was.

    Over my year of employment I saw InvoCare make several minor and major changes to improve safety. From enforcing training to adding safety things, InvoCare was clearly spending a lot of time and money.  Not to mention the skill sets also involved, having specialists and trained people planning and implementing.  When it came to OH&S InvoCare was putting as much effort in as practically possible.

    But it was not just OH&S style improvements to working conditions.  InvoCare had training on how to do things, like manage a baby’s funeral.  There were computer based tests here and there about bullying and harassment.  So far I had heard mixed things of InvoCare, but seen them really trying to improve working conditions in many ways.

    Adding to this was the mindset at the funeral home and it really influenced how I would later go on to understand and treat InvoCare.   InvoCare’s changes were sometimes resisted.  Simple things such as training sessions were delayed and delayed.  It took almost a year for me to do the training course on manual handling.  A course on how to safely transfer a body, lower a coffin, etc.  All things I had been doing without any real training.  This is when I realised something, I had only participated in one training session at the funeral home in a whole year.  They had a total of two, but I was sent on a transfer for one (eve though I was new and could have benefited).

    I realised how much of a negative mentality there was against InvoCare.  That anything they did, however beneficial or unimportant, was opposed.  It was opposed for two main reasons, firstly that it was InvoCare and secondly it was not how things "should" be done.  I personally witnessed InvoCare trying to make an improvement, fighting hard to make my conditions better.

    The higher ups at InvoCare were also all quite nice and respectful to me.  Whenever someone high within InvoCare came by they would stop and greet each of the staff.  Sure, it is simple people management, but it is also polite and nice.  The funerals staff really appreciated it, such a simple yet respectful thing to do.  Even at the company Christmas party people high within the company chatted with me.  It would be nice of all managers in the industry were like this.

    Over my year InvoCare fought for me and treated me with respect the whole time.  It was a stark polarisation against some who did not treat me with the same level of respect, showed a total disinterest in working conditions and criticised InvoCare heavily.  This really set the way I look at InvoCare more than anything else.  The way it is unfairly and pointlessly attacked just for being InvoCare.  Yet really stood up for me (and others) several times.


As a mourner
    When my grandparents died I suggested InvoCare as the funeral home.  Specifically Guardian because I just personally prefer that brand over others.  The funeral was in Brisbane, which meant I had little involvement past this.  InvoCare offered everything we wanted, namely convenience, so we went with it.

    The funeral itself was not perfect, there were a few mistakes.  Overall we were happy and had gotten what we wanted (and would go there again).  InvoCare had offered and provided a convenient but nice funeral.  However, I found there was a lacking, a distance of a sort.  Perhaps because I was in Sydney, or perhaps because we had wanted a convent and simple funeral.  But it was not a very "personal" experience in a way.  It's hard to describe, let along think of why, and yet that is how I felt afterwards.

    Overall InvoCare had done exactly what we wanted, a convenient and simple funeral.  There was no complaints of the way we were treated, or of the price.  Everything had been quite reasonable, not perfect but certainly good enough.  


Studying & meeting InvoCare
    At the start of the blog I was unsure about InvoCare.  They might not like it and certainly had the ability to shut it down.  But I remained positive, hoping that they would contact me about working together.  I knew InvoCare would quickly be aware of the blog, the company was always watching and looking for things like that.  So as I wrote the blog I made sure to subtly 'encourage' InvoCare to contact me.  From writing about how many funerals they did to discussing the company extensively.

    In the mean time I continued to write my blog and do my research.  Part of which involved looking into how many funeral InvoCare did per year.  As part of understanding the size of InvoCare.  I also saw some InvoCare staff in action and talked with them at the 2012 Rookwood Open Day.  For the most part InvoCare became distant and indirect.  I knew they were reading the blog but not taking the bait and so I looked at them from the distance.

    By the end of the year I was tired of waiting, and needed to start the ball rolling with InvoCare.  So I sent off an email to the general company email.  People had given me names and details for specific people to contact within InvoCare.  But in the end I thought InvoCare could forward it to the right person.

    Within a surprisingly short time I received a simple but positive reply.  The reply sounded good, and asked for more details.  Such a good sign and all I wanted.  Not long after this I was invited for a chat and a coffee.  Again, another positive email with a casual tone, which was very encouraging.

    I arrived at the InvoCare head office, never having been there before.  And found it was everything I expected.  To me the reception area was incredibly InvoCare in every way.  The reception area was very professional corporate in tone and atmosphere.  To one side was a reception desk, staffed by a very friendly and efficient person.  She managed several phone calls, to greet me, let staff through and more in just the short time I was there.  And all without looking rushed or even busy.  Next to the reception desk were some comfy couches and a coffee table.  The coffee table had several funeral industry magazines, all up to date and in good condition.

    To me this little area was such a good representation of everything I knew about InvoCare.  The corporate professionalism, how well the company conducted itself on a corporate level.  Yet the reception room could belong to any corporation.  Apart from the InvoCare name here and there the place had no specific feel to it.  One could change the name and it could be a law firm reception area quite easily.

    The magazines to the side were also rather telling to me.  They were such a good representation of the importance Invocare puts into information.  Each magazine was not only current but also in perfect condition.  Clearly they are rotated regularly to keep up to date and to look good.  The variety was also rather impressive, as there was one from quite a few notable organisations.  From the AFDA to InvoCare's own one.

    Unfortunately I did not get long to poke about.  But in a short time this small space had conveyed everything InvoCare to me.  From the efficiency and politeness of the staff to the current industry magazines.

    The people I was set to meet came out and we went across the road for a coffee.  They were very friendly, and positive about working with InvoCare.  Emphasising that they could not make promises, but liked the idea of working with me on both the blog and honours.  Overall it was a very encouraging and promising chat.

    A few things did stand out to me though.  When we talked of criticism raised against InvoCare they took it almost personally.  The foreign thing was particularly personal for them.  The way they talked of InvoCare as an "Australian success story" was not just company rhetoric.  It was a personal pride in the company, a defence of it on an individual and personal level.  To criticise InvoCare (especially for being foreign) was an insult to them.

    They clearly had not on a passion, but a personal link to the company.  Which I found in many of the higher ups of InvoCare.  These people generally have a strong and personal link to InvoCare and a passion for the company and the job.  Which in turn accidentally gives InvoCare a sense of personal passion.  InvoCare is possibly the most passionate company within the industry to me.  The company itself has an identity and personality, reacting more like a person than a company to certain things.  Things I have seen and heard of how InvoCare has acted sound more like a person.  Like someone who was offended or upset and reacted out of emotion. The reason for this is not because InvoCare itself is alive, but because many of the people within it breath life into the company.

   I also noticed the use of rhetoric in our little chat.  Certain language used by the staff had a hint of company and funeral industry rhetoric.  An example was when one described InvoCare as "an Australian success story".  This statement is rather heavy with company speak in a way, the sort of thing that would make a nice sound bite.  The InvoCare people were not heavy with rhetoric and felt quite genuin.  Yet some of the things said would be well suited to a press release.  A good example of how the things we do regularly and the language we use can influence how we talk and think.

    One of the best parts of the meeting was a confirmation of my numbers.  The statistics I have worked out for InvoCare, specifically regarding how many funerals it does, were apparently quite close.  There was less than 10% difference between their numbers and mine.  And yes, I know these numbers can be found in InvoCare things publicly.  That InvoCare release a lot of that type of information openly.  But it was nice to hear it in person, from someone at InvoCare.


Overall
    In the end InvoCare has always treated me very well in all three roles I have had.  As a funeral employee they fought to improve my conditions.  And even though I was a number in a system they never treated me that way, even high people took time to talk with me.  As an employee I was treated better by InvoCare than any of the retail companies I previously worked at.  

    Then despite making a few mistakes InvoCare gave us everything we wanted.  Creating a decent experience that was well worth the money and time.  It was not a prefect funeral, but it was one everyone agreed we would do again.

    Finally as a 'researcher' InvoCare was respectful and supportive, taking time to chat with me and confirm a few things.  Not only helping with my research but being very polite at every step.  Most companies turn me down, a number are even rude.  Only very few have been both supportive and polite, and InvoCare is one of those.

    By now it should be no wonder why I have a certain perception of InvoCare.  I do hear many negative things about the company, some pointless, some untrue, others on topic and quite true.  Yet no matter what I will always remember how I was treated, and I have always been treated well in every way by InvoCare.

An~~



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