Schoedinger Funeral & Cremation Service CEO Randy Schoedinger is being recognized with a Special Award for Leadership as part of this year's Top Workplaces celebration.

At Schoedinger Funeral & Cremation Service, employees across the company for years have taken turns taking night call, a process that requires them to spend the night in an apartment atop the company’s downtown chapel to answer the phone from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. It’s a job that, while not loved equally among employees, has worked smoothly for the company that has to respond to deaths at all hours of the day. The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, however, made rotating multiple people in and out of one space untenable. 

Company leaders at first tried to come up with a way to set up a system so associates could handle the calls from their homes, but technology challenges made it more efficient to keep the current system in place. Not wanting to increase the odds of an employee contracting the disease from another person in the company, CEO Randy Schoedinger decided to take on the responsibility himself, indefinitely. 

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“That’s a perfect example of his leadership style,” said Carley Childress, the company’s human resources manager. “He genuinely cares about all of our employees.”

Staying accessible

Schoedinger got his start with the company working as a driver when he was in high school in the 1980s and then joined full time in 1994. He, along with his cousins Michael and Kevin Schoedinger, are sixth-generation stewards of a business that was founded in 1855, six years before Abraham Lincoln became president. Schoedinger, in fact, is one of the city’s oldest family-owned businesses. 

As CEO, Schoedinger says he spends at least 50 percent of his time focused on company culture, whether through ongoing improvements to its wellness program or finding ways to be more accessible to employees. 

“I’m a big believer that you can’t be an effective leader unless you truly care about people,” Schoedinger says. “I hope that comes across in the mutual caring and compassion we’ve established in our culture.”

The company has a mix of employees of different ages and levels of experience, which keeps him on the hunt for new ideas that will help attract and retain workers. In survey responses for the Top Workplaces program, an employee commented that Schoedinger “makes good decisions after weighing the pros and cons.” He’s “open to new ideas and is willing to try something as a test project knowing there may be things we need to change or update.”

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He’s worked with Childress to implement several initiatives to better connect with Schoedinger employees and make them feel appreciated, such as small group get-togethers to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and associate appreciation events that highlight their accomplishments. He also makes himself accessible to employees through routine visits to the company’s 10 locations where he speaks with them and the grieving families they are serving.

“The (associates) value that time where they get to talk with ownership or leadership,” he says. “It’s important to be out there and asking them how they’re doing and actually seeing what goes on in the facilities.”

As the coronavirus outbreak worsened in March, Schoedinger made several operational changes. Services and visitation were made strictly private with the option of complimentary on-site video streaming. Families who choose to hold a private service will have the option to hold a public memorial service at a later date. For those families, the company will waive the memorial service fee. Schoedinger also emphasized good hand hygiene and cough etiquette habits to its associates and heightened daily disinfection practices for high-touch surfaces.

Childress, who shares an office with Schoedinger, says he wouldn’t ask an employee to do anything at work that he wouldn’t do. She says it makes him relatable and approachable.

“When he’s around, he’s the first person to say, ‘Do you need help moving this?’ ” she says. “Or, ‘I’ll get the phone, you guys are busy.’ ” 

Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.