ebook: Leading a Budding Workforce: How to Manage and Retain Employees in the Cannabis Industry

On average 22% of new hires leave their job within the first 45 days of employment, which could cost up to 20% of their salary to replace..Forbes


High employee turnover continues to be prevalent in the cannabis industry, resulting in businesses constantly strategizing on how to improve retention. While the industry is doing exceptionally well and jobs are in demand, there continues to be limited or nonexistent employee benefits, and no structure for career advancement, which are often reasons for employees to resign after a short while.

Reducing turnover and retaining employees is typically left to human resources to solve. However, the business’ managers also play a vital role in building the workplace culture, and thus are heavy influencers in employee retention. They are responsible for equipping employees with the tools and training they need to perform their job, and contribute to an employee’s success and longevity with the business. Now, many managers may not realize they have the influence they do, and that’s why it’s important to discuss the power of the managerial role and its areas of influence.

In this ebook, we discuss the importance of transitioning from a transactional management approach, which ensures a job gets done, to one that prioritizes the employee experience by focusing on employee engagement and career development. Specifically, managers have an opportunity to improve the employee experience in the areas of onboarding, day-to-day performance management, and professional development. Learning how to effectively manage and develop a positive workplace culture can not only reduce employee turnover, but it can also help keep employees engaged, which has been shown to increase productivity—a major benefit to all cannabis businesses.

Improving the Onboarding Process

Onboarding often includes filing new hire paperwork, reviewing corporate policies, and watching training videos. This approach to onboarding is very impersonal. Instead, cannabis businesses should start transitioning to an onboarding process that truly immerses a new employee into the workplace culture and shows the employee that your company isn’t just another place of employment. Of course, onboarding will still need to include completing the proper documentation and setting the “house rules,” but these can be done in a fashion that makes a new hire feel welcomed, properly oriented with your business, and set up for success.

Here are a few considerations for improving the onboarding process:

Review the employee handbook. Your human resources department should have an employee handbook developed that covers policies, schedules, holidays, etc. Instead of just passing it along to a new employee, you should review the contents together, and ask for questions and feedback. Specifically, discuss the company’s mission, vision, and goals, and talk through how the employee’s role is essential in helping the business meet the goals.

Clarify job roles and set employee goals. Talk to new employees about expectations and what it takes to be successful in the job. But, most importantly, work with new employees to set goals for themselves. This will motivate and challenge them to achieve a set plan, keep them engaged, while also contributing to the business’ success. Implement a 30/60/90-day plan to keep both you as the manager and the new employee accountable along the way.

Introduce them to the entire team. Part of orientation involves introducing a new employee to your entire team. This helps foster a good team dynamic and helps puts names with faces. 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 introduce them to new employees. Or if an introduction to management is not possible during the onboarding process, try setting up a phone or video call so a meeting can occur.

Communicate and 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 training could cover policies from sexual harassment and Equal Opportunity Employment (EOE) to employee termination. Corporate training can also include current regulations that your staff must know, depending on if they work at a dispensary or grow site. There is also product and skills training needed. For example, at a dispensary, a budtender would need training on the cannabis products, the POS system, and effective sales techniques.

Offer mentorships as part of the process. Starting a new job can be very overwhelming for a new employee. There are new policies, new products, and new faces to learn. A mentorship can help an employee overcome the learning curve and over time set up the employee for success. If you have a trusted budtender for example, with years of experience (in their position and in the industry), and a new budtender coming on board, it’s a perfect opportunity for the veteran to mentor the new employee. The mentor can provide training, coaching, and advice as needed.

Elevating Day-to-day Employee Management

Employees don’t want to feel like another cog on the wheel. They instead want to feel set up for success and that they have the tools and training to do their jobs well. In addition, they want to feel valued and that they are contributing to the greater goal of the business. The days of transactional management are over.

A Forbes article calls the key to employee management as “tending,” where management cultivates employees and supports their growth, rather than just manage them. Tending increases the sense of community and wellbeing, and makes employees feel that they are a part of something bigger.

Here are seven best practices for elevating employee management:

1. Encourage open communication. Open communication is essential in fostering an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable expressing concerns or ideas for improving the culture and growing the business. Fostering open communication can also help catch problems that may impact operations early. For example, when if you’re managing multiple grow sites, it is imperative to have constant communication between the cultivation’s director, site managers, and section growers to ensure operations are going smoothly. Any lapse in communication could lead to a devastating result like a crop loss.

2. Be available. It’s easy for managers to get caught up in paperwork and operations, but to be an effective manager, you toned to be present and available. Hiding in an office or being overwhelmed with operations doesn’t help with getting to know your employees. Employees want to interact with their manager to know if they are doing a good job. Being available encourages employees to keep the communication lines open as previously mentioned.

3. Give constructive feedback. A good manager provides feedback to their employees, whether it’s on a job well done or an opportunity for improvement. Constructive feedback can bring awareness to an employee’s job performance and can often help them in their career. It’s critical to note, however, that constructive feedback is professional and not combative or reactive. If you want to continue to be a respected manger, do not provide feedback inappropriately as this can affect your reputation and could even impact staff retention.

4. Meet with your team. A good ole fashioned check-in or staff meeting never hurts. New employees typically want to know the progress of their job performance and are eager to help the business in any way they can. Staff meetings help update employees on company policies or news that may impact their jobs. If you work at a dispensary, a staff meeting can cover new operational procedures, customer experience best practices, new product specs, and new rules and regulations that may impact operations. In a grow room, productivity is always key, but so is health and safety. Staff meetings should include new safety best practices, operational procedures, and corporate training announcements. Regardless of the type of business, check-ins and staff meetings should always leave room for employee questions and feedback.

5. Leverage talent where it fits naturally. You may have hired employees based on their experience and skills, but as they start working, you may take notice of their skills that can be leveraged in other areas of the business. In a dispensary, for example, you want your most personable people up front as the budtenders. If your delivery driver or administrator are outgoing and have great customer service skills, you may want to consider them to work in the front of the house.

6. Provide ongoing training opportunities. Training doesn’t stop at onboarding. Knowledge can easily be lost after 90 days, so it is important to have a plan for ongoing training for employees. Plus, with everchanging regulations to the industry, your staff need to stay informed. Training can take on many forms, including coaching, site visits, and educational programs or conferences. If you’re a dispensary manager, you want to ensure your employees are applying what they have learned in their patient education course out on the floor, and then coach them if needed. Coaching behind the counter is imperative for a team’s success. For a company that owns multiple grow sites, cross-training can be provided in the form of site visits to sister facilities. Site visits offer growers a fresh perspective, where they can learn how to overcome issues like pest infestations, disease pressure, and nutrient problems just by talking to another grower from another site.

For dispensaries, patient education is the most important training to provide employees. Most patients will not know the different types of strains or doses they need and rely on dispensary staff for advice or guidance. Having staff knowledgeable in the products and also skilled in patient education can only boost customer loyalty.

7. Reward employee successes with recognition. Incentives and rewards are great, but do you know what shows you really care about your staff when they perform a job well done? Giving them thanks and praise. A card or a company kudos announcement lets employees know their hard work is not going unnoticed and that you truly care and appreciate their contributions to the business.


Retaining Employees Through Career Advancement Opportunities

Studies have shown a 10% increase in employee engagement results in a $1,800 lift in profits – Business.com

Increasing the level of retention is key to your company’s success in the cannabis industry. If you have onboarded and started providing the training necessary for an employee to excel at their job, then you have already increased the likelihood of retaining the employee.

To ensure you keep the employee for much longer, your business should offer opportunities for career advancement through professional development and continuing education. Businesses that offer development programs not only see an increase in retention, but they are also able to keep employees engaged, which increases productivity and fosters a healthy culture.

Here are some ideas to start building a career advancement program at your cannabis business.

  • Discuss a performance plan that includes developmental goals. This plan will include aspirational roles in the business and goals for getting there.
  • Seek opportunities for growth. Do you know of any jobs opening in your business that would be a perfect fit for your employee? Is there technology your business is adopting that would be an opportunity for your employee to learn a new skill?
  • Invest in training and education that develops professional goals. These could be courses that build or develop skills, conferences on cannabis products and regulations, or foundational workshops on customer service or managing teams.
  • Encourage a learning culture. When employees seek out learning opportunities that benefit their job performance, it shows drive and passion for their work. Make learning opportunities available but encourage input as well.
  • Hold performance reviews on a semi-annual basis. This allows for one-on-one time to catchup on how employees are performing and how they’re doing overall.. Additionally, it allows for adequate time to check-in on developmental goals and if the employee is on track for achieving them, or if there are obstacles impeding success.


Making it Possible to Manage

It All A majority of small business managers desire to be more effective and have a goal to grow and support a healthy, productive workforce. However, with so many hats to wear and the pressure to keep operations running, it can often be difficult to allocate time and resources to becoming a better manager. Hope isn’t lost. Many businesses are turning to a professional employer organization (PEO), as they can often make it possible for a good manager to be a great manager by working with HR departments and managerial teams to provide springboards for nurturing and retaining employees.

They help build the onboarding experience, providing the necessary components needed for employee orientation, including training tools and plans. PEOs are often a manager’s best asset because they offer essential managerial training, guide efforts that build employee engagement, and develop career advancement and professional development programs depending on the needs of the cannabis business.

Talk to your business owner or operator about partnering with a PEO like OROleafhr. OROleafhr not only handles day-to-day human resources administration like payroll and benefits, but they are also skilled in establishing a positive culture by developing effective onboarding, talent management, and employee retention programs. OROleafHR will help your business offload its HR workload, while keeping your business compliant and maintain a healthy, productive workforce.

Train, manage, and retain your best workforce. Contact OROleafhr today!

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