The cannabis industry is in a unique position as decades of prohibition give way to spreading legalization. Today, cannabis is far and away the world’s fastest-growing industry. Coupled with enormous competition in the marketplace, many cannabis companies have let more traditional corporate practices fall to the wayside, especially when it comes to human resources best practices to foster a successful workplace. Companies that continue to disregard these practices could see potentially devastating results in the form of both customer and talent loss.
The industry is suffering from a talent gap as more and more companies seek employees with experience, emphasizing the need for high-quality talent. Real estate and sales aren’t the only metrics that matter; successful cannabis companies looking toward the future will focus on creating positive company culture, retaining top talent, and developing professionalism the market currently lacks. Companies that can not only recruit but also retain the right employees will find the most success in a competitive marketplace.
1. Focus on building company culture
Consciously building a healthy company culture is critical to establishing and maintaining a competitive edge in the marketplace. Too many rapidly growing multistate operators lose top talent as a result of poor company culture, unclear career paths, and a lack of incentives to make employees feel valued and challenged.
Culture and values provide a company with the foundation upon which everything else is built. Effective leadership and a clear vision for the company help drive employee satisfaction by instilling ethos and practices that foster such an environment. Cohesive culture and values help align departments across the company, unifying the efforts of your entire team and, in turn, your brand. This likely will be conveyed through your product and its marketing, leading to positive sales numbers and satisfied investors.
Leaders can use a variety of methods to create positive workplace culture and drive results, including fostering open communication and empowering employees’ entrepreneurial spirit. Defining your culture stems from clearly defining why your business exists and its purpose. Getting the answer to this question right is increasingly important for attracting and retaining top talent.
2. Prioritize diversity, equality, and inclusion
Cannabis is a progressive industry and has continued to lead corporate America in social equity and social responsibility programs, but diversity is still lacking in the space, especially among executive and leadership teams. Inclusion is a measure of success in any industry, and true diversity will allow cannabis businesses to change communities, form partnerships for sustainable growth, and survive any obstacles they may encounter. Weaving diversity and inclusion into your company’s brand narrative will help create a connected team with a high potential for sustained success.
3. Create a thoughtful onboarding program
Data indicates nearly 70 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they have a positive onboarding experience. Onboarding is not just about the first day, week, or month. It’s an ongoing strategy that drives engagement and positions employees for growth within their position.
First impressions are important, so be sure to give new employees the information and equipment they need to be successful. Lay out a comprehensive road map with clear short-term and long-term goals for the position, and remember to check in frequently. Turnover often happens within the first one to two months of employment.
Consider pairing new hires with a mentor who can familiarize them with both the working environment and their specific role. This kind of relationship often proves to benefit both the new hire and the mentor, because the mentor will feel more involved and valuable to the company.
4. Embrace more flexible work models
We’ve all had to adjust to the post-pandemic new normal, which means working from home for many of us. A recent report showed three out of four employees agree a flexible work schedule increased their job satisfaction; an even higher percentage believed flexible work arrangements increased productivity. If offering fully remote work options isn’t realistic, try offering the opportunity to work remotely on some days, working a shorter day once per week, or letting employees set their own daily hours.
Transitioning to more flexible work models doesn’t come without obstacles. Clear communication is of the utmost importance, and you’ll need to find ways for the team to continue to collaborate. Keep tabs on your employees without micromanaging. Quick one-on-one check-ins or team meetings will allow you to take the team’s pulse without looking over anyone’s shoulder.
5. Celebrate success
Acknowledging hard work and recognizing both individual and group accomplishments is crucial to keeping employees motivated and performance high. Show your appreciation for employees who hit milestone anniversaries or are promoted to new roles within the company. Take the time to understand the unique challenges that different positions face so you can recognize achievements both big and small. Even something like handling a difficult client can deserve praise. Verbal recognition or a quick note can get you far, but rewards and incentives for major accomplishments will motivate employees and make them feel valued. You can use a variety of rewards here, from gift cards to free lunches to bonuses.
6. Invest in your team
Focus on quality instead of quantity when building your team, with the goal of longevity in mind. Benefits, perks, and incentives can play a big role in keeping employees happy and engaged. Invest in your team by offering competitive compensation packages, stock options, and other forms of equity. Financial awards for employees who meet performance goals or stay with the company for a predetermined amount of time can be a highly successful retainment strategy. Supporting ongoing education also can help retain talent and become an investment in intellectual property for your company.
Cannabis companies flourish when they hire and retain the right teams. Your employees are your organization’s most crucial asset. Make sure they know it. Successful onboarding and retention strategies will even save you money in the long run, as the average cost of replacing an employee is almost $4,000. A cohesive, motivated, and positive team is arguably the most important advantage a company can have.
Liesl Bernard is founder and chief executive officer at CannabizTeam, an executive search and staffing firm focused specifically on the cannabis industry. Her team has placed thousands of candidates at executive and management levels in all verticals of the cannabis industry across the world. She attributes her success in cannabis to her vast international recruitment experience and deep passion for the industry.