Building an Employee-Focused Onboarding Process in the Cannabis Industry: A Manager’s Checklist

With an employee turnover rate of 40 to 60 percent (in the first two months of employment), it’s no surprise that employee retention continues to be a significant challenge in the cannabis industry. While new hiring strategies help attract and find the right talent, there is always a gamble that new employees may not commit to the business long-term. That’s why it’s critical for human resources and hiring managers to develop an employee-focused onboarding process that acclimates, engages, and retains new employees. Of course, onboarding will still include completing new hire documentation and fulfilling requirements imposed by cannabis regulations, however, these should be incorporated into the process, instead of leading it. Start enhancing your onboarding process by focusing more on your employees. Use the checklist below for guidance.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to onboarding because every new hire has different needs and every business has a different structure. This checklist is to be used as a guide to enhancing the current onboarding process and apply the material as it pertains to your business. Please note: this checklist does not discount or replace the regulatory requirements needed for new hires in the cannabis industry.

A Manager’s Checklist for Employee Onboarding

Start onboarding prior to the start date.
With many onboarding tools and resources offered digitally, there’s no reason why an employee could not start training or filling out the appropriate documents prior to their start date. This can help get the required new hire activities out of the way and have more time for hands-on training and meeting the team the first week.

Contact the new hire prior to start date. Oftentimes, an employee is hired and is sent an offer letter with compensation, benefits, and the start date, but then the communication stops there. Plan on checking in prior to the start date and communicate the first day logistics, such as parking, where to check in, time of arrival, etc.

Plan a warm, exciting welcome on the first day. Employees always remember their first day of employment. The first day needs to make a positive impression on the employee, no matter his or her level in the organization. Send out an announcement regarding his or her first day and have a nice welcome kit ready that includes company swag and a greeting card from the team. If the employee has a workstation, make sure everything is in place prior to arrival.

Introduce the new hire to the entire team. If you work at a small dispensary, introduce the employee to the entire team, including the delivery driver and the dispensary owner. If you work in a grow room, give new employees a tour of the entire facility and have them meet every staff member. Senior management may not always be on site, but when they visit, make an effort to acknowledge and introduce new employees to them. If your business has remote employees that the new employee may be connecting with regularly, schedule a video call, if possible, to meet face-to-face.

Review the employee handbook, together. The human resources department should have an employee handbook developed that covers the company’s mission, policies, schedules, holidays, etc. Instead of just passing it along to a new employee and waiting for a signature, consider reviewing the contents together, and ask for questions and feedback.

Set employee goals using a 30/60/90-day plan. The best way to keep employees engaged during onboarding is to set them up with a 30/60/90-day plan. This will motivate and challenge them to achieve goals you develop together and also monitor and measure their training progress. For example, with a budtender, you both may develop a goal to work the sales floor alone by day 30. Have a one-on-one review after each milestone, discussing successes and opportunities, and reviewing the plan for the next 30 days.

Schedule a proper training plan. It’s important to have a training plan in place, regardless of the employee’s experience. Now of course, there are many types of training: corporate, compliance, product, and skills training. If possible, request that corporate and compliance training be completed prior to the start date of work to allow for immediate product and skills training. For example, at a dispensary, a budtender would need training on the cannabis products, the POS system and technical equipment, and effective sales techniques. Schedule appropriate shadow and one-on-one training as needed.

Offer mentorships as part of the onboarding process. A mentor can help an employee overcome the learning curve and, over time, set up the employee for success. If you have a trusted budtender with years of experience and a new budtender starting, it would make sense to pair them up so the mentor can provide training, coaching, and advice as needed.

Plan on frequent check-ins and feedback sessions. Just because you may have a great training plan and mentor in place doesn’t mean checking in and touching base with a new employee shouldn’t occur. Plan on checking in weekly to see how they are settling in and how you can support them in overcoming the learning curve that comes with any new job.

Develop a professional development plan. In an everchanging industry like cannabis, the sky’s the limit on education. Offer opportunities for ongoing education, skills development, and access to certifications. Educating an employee to be an expert in his or her role not only keeps them engaged and contributes to a positive culture, but it also gives your business credibility in the industry and security against compliance audits.

Get the Assistance You Need to Build a Better Onboarding Process

The chances that an employee will stay with your business long-term increases by 58 percent when you incorporate a structured onboarding process that focuses more on the employee’s success and less on the company’s requirements. We know, however, that hiring new employees comes with several layers of compliance regulations to uphold, especially if the employees have no prior cannabis experience. Working towards compliance is a feat in and of itself, and having time and resources to onboard the employee for success adds to the challenge.

That’s why cannabis businesses should partner with a professional employer organization (PEO) that focuses exclusively with cannabis businesses like OROleafhr to manage their onboarding process. We will distribute the proper employment documentation needed and set up the required compliance training, recommend training plans based on the employee’s role and experience, and work with hiring managers to create employee success plans that include goals development and performance reviews. Again, we work specifically with cannabis businesses and are knowledgeable in hiring laws and regulations to keep your business compliant at all times. Partner with OROleafhr for your hiring and onboarding needs and increase job satisfaction, work performance, and reduce turnover.

Learn deeper insights on employee retention. Download our ebook on How to Attract & Recruit Cannabis Employees and learn the best practices for for reducing employee turnover.

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