Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is often seen when candidates receive job offers solely because they are “different” and can add the proverbial “diversity” to an organization’s quota. In reality, diversity and inclusion refer to hiring based on merit with a focus on ensuring hiring practices are free from discrimination based on age, gender, race, orientation, and other characteristics, unrelated to one’s ability to carry out the tasks of a job.
With the cannabis industry only being a couple of years young since legalization in Canada and various parts of the world, recruitment and people culture practices have jumped to the forefront, where a bunch of retail-level jobs need to be filled and management teams don’t know where to begin. The global focus on diversity and inclusion adds to ensuring the recruitment and human resources practices within the cannabis industry are built on best practices and with clarity on diversity and inclusion.
How should cannabis retailers hire for this budding industry while ensuring that diversity and inclusion are part of their recruitment and talent management practices? Best practices can be built with five key pillars.
1. Create a collaborative organizational culture.
Establishing a collaborative team-oriented company culture is arguably the best and most straightforward method of building an inclusive environment for employees. By encouraging teamwork, joint efforts on projects, and open communication, you provide a space for employees of all different backgrounds to learn to work together. Don’t forget the fun stuff either like holiday parties or other types of team-building activities. When employees are happy to come to work and spend time with their co-workers, it allows for diversity and inclusion to thrive.
When interviewing candidates, stay neutral on their past experiences with the plant.
2. Avoid passing judgement.
The cannabis industry and the people working in it were around a long time prior to legalization. When interviewing candidates, stay neutral on their past experiences with the plant. Many cultivators for example, started growing in their backyards prior to legalization. There are advocates in the industry with criminal records, who took on the cause and were reprimanded for it. View them as people who are knowledgeable and well-versed in cannabis, rather than play the morality police during the interview process. Writing off individuals based on such factors can dilute your candidate pool rather than allowing these individuals to have an equal opportunity to secure the role.
3. Provide ongoing training and education.
Employees come from different backgrounds and cultures and have varying levels of education and training. Many times, minority groups don’t have access to the same opportunities others may have and therefore believe they cannot perform the job duties as well as their peers. Provide ongoing education on the cannabis plant, the industry, and of course implement an ongoing training program to ensure employees have all the tools they need to carry out their tasks and do them well. Education provides opportunities for everyone to be great at their jobs without any unfair bias.
4. Implement standardized processes across the organization.
All organizations should have set policies and procedures that are applied to ALL employees fairly and without bias. Cannabis retailers should have standard performance reviews with pre-written questions for each position. The base pay structure for each position should be pre-determined and can go up based on experience, not due to an individual’s characteristics unrelated to the job. Growth opportunities should be open to all employees and promotions should be given based only on merit. These types of policies help mitigate much of the unfair bias that still exists in the workplace.
Growth opportunities should be open to all employees.
5. Improve your recruitment practices.
This is a new industry; fresh, innovative, and on the rise! Many retailers focus on finding employees only from within the cannabis space and that search may not produce many diverse candidates. Expand your search to other industries and look for transferable skills. Reach out to your current employees and ask for friend or family referrals. Reach out to minority associations to post jobs on their websites or approach colleges and universities to provide internship opportunities for students studying cannabis, horticulture, agriculture, or even business-related fields.
Another option is to hire a staffing agency to provide candidates. Staffing agencies have a more robust candidate pool and can pre-screen and interview job seekers to provide companies with a diversified list of candidates. There are hidden gems in every market looking to transition to an industry they are passionate about.
Diversity and inclusion in the workforce isn’t important because it’s trendy, but because people’s collective experiences and differences help organizations grow and provide opportunities for individuals to earn a living. It also shapes the world to be more open and accepting of others who are different than them.
Dina Yousif is with CanMar Recruitment and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, in Vancouver at 236-863-4900 or 1-855-CAN-MARR.