Cannabis retail operators are running a complicated business in a highly regulated and competitive environment, with constant pressure to get revenue and a return on investment to shareholders. One of the largest investments and cost centres in a store is labour. Retailers are motivated to protect the investment they make in hiring and training employees through effective retention strategies.
Make Hiring Great People a Priority
The key to retaining your employees is hiring great people from the start. It’s important to hire people with a skill set that can deliver a great customer experience and also follow procedures. A good budtender is passionate about the products and knows how to communicate with customers in a way that doesn’t cross the regulations.
Informative job postings, well-structured interviews, and effective employee onboarding are all important steps in this process. Having a cohesive team where employees feel welcome will create an engaging atmosphere and make them want to stay with the company.
Set Realistic Expectations about Culture
We’ve seen many new cannabis retailers with grand plans for the future, boasting visions of multiple stores, unique brands, differentiated customer service, and unparalleled team training. The reality facing many first-to-market retailers was that these aspirations were put aside to deal with ongoing operational and regulatory challenges, supply issues, and low revenue. This resulted in a situation where employees had unmet expectations and were disappointed with the reality of the corporate culture they found themselves in.
Set realistic expectations about the challenges faced in the cannabis retail environment.
It’s important for retailers to set realistic expectations about the challenges faced in the cannabis retail environment, alongside building a positive culture. This will allow employees to start a job with their eyes wide open to both the positives and negatives of working in the industry.
Communicate Changing Processes and Rules
The retail environment is new and evolving. This means that policies, procedures, and rules within a retail store are constantly changing—sometimes even from shift-to-shift for budtenders. This can result in a lot of frustration for employees if proper communication and training isn’t deployed.
Retail managers should prioritize proper communication and re-training for employees to ensure they are informed, supported, and empowered to succeed in their roles.
Conduct Product and Regulatory Training
In cannabis stores, products are changing on a regular basis. The change to inventory and product mix can be overwhelming for both management and frontline staff. It is important to coach budtenders on new products so they have the knowledge to engage with customers. If budtenders don’t feel confident in their knowledge about a product, they are unlikely to recommend it or upsell. This can reduce their satisfaction with their own performance, make them feel unsupported, and reduce their engagement with the role.
It is also important to ensure that budtenders are properly trained on regulations, so they are using appropriate and effective descriptors for the products, and not making medical claims. Hiring budtenders who are passionate about cannabis can be an effective strategy, but this must be matched with a strong understanding of how to communicate within the regulatory framework so that their passion doesn’t get them into trouble.
Not only do you want to avoid getting in hot water with the regulator, you want your budtenders to feel confident in delivering an exceptional customer experience.
Employees want feedback and recognition. Conducting performance reviews that have meaningful outcomes like promotions and raises will go a long way to making employees feel satisfied with their career. Informal rewards and verbal recognition can also go a long way to making employees feel appreciated and keeping their engagement levels up. Sometimes the most effective rewards are simple and low-cost. The key is making recognition consistent and authentic.
Informal rewards and verbal recognition can also go a long way to making employees feel appreciated.
Retaining employees is important to cannabis retailers who have made significant investments in their team, especially when payroll can represent upwards of 80% of operating costs. Hiring the right employees, setting realistic expectations about corporate culture, deploying effective training, and consistently rewarding employees are all strategies that will help retailers to protect the investment in their team.
Alison McMahon is Founder/CEO at Cannabis at Work.