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Plant the Seeds for Success

Developing a strong onboarding program is an important management skill. While hiring and onboarding looks different from business to business, formalizing your process and implementing best practices for new hires is beneficial for both manager and employee. In fact, a good onboarding process isn’t just the best way to welcome and create all-star employees, it can help you retain them.

Whether employees are in the store or working remotely, the following tips can help you put together a solid onboarding program.

Clearly Establish What Employees Need to Know

An onboarding program should reflect the values of your shop and the day-to-day operations of your business. What should every employee know how to do? What processes and procedures are critical to their role?

Write these tasks down and then break them into clear, concise steps. When you are able to articulate the what, why, when, and how of roles and responsibilities, training becomes that much easier.

Creating comprehensible job descriptions, having an employee handbook and developing reference materials are all helpful methods to set clear expectations for employees.

Allocate Resources and People to Onboarding

A good onboarding program requires time, tools, and people. Be sure to make time for your new hires and pick the best person to take them through their training. Not everyone can train on everything— different members of your team may be best suited to introduce specific tasks and procedures. For example, the staff member who cashes out at the end of the day on a regular basis may be the best person to train a new hire on cashing out.

Create a Checklist for Your Management Team

While most cannabis retailers are smaller stores employing anywhere from a handful of people to a couple dozen, the business runs at a busy pace. Creating a new hire checklist not only acts as a communication tool among management, it also saves you from the headache of forgetting where people are in their onboarding and training process.

Your checklist can include:
·         Send a welcome email to advise staff about dress code, parking, and what to expect on the first day.
·         Make sure the shop is adequately staffed to accommodate training.
·         Ensure the equipment and space needed are available (and operational!).
·         Determine what tasks and procedures will be covered each training shift.
·         Identify who will be doing the training that day.
·         Plan check-in meetings to see how it’s going.

If you need help creating an onboarding checklist, there are countless resources online that offer checklist templates to get you started or inspire you to customize your own.

Remember That Training Isn’t One-Size-Fits All

“While it’s important to be consistent with education and training, we must also be aware of how people have different learning aptitudes,” says Eleanor Lynch, Chief Operations Officer at Kiaro.

“Cannabis is a multifaceted product with many points of interest, and learning styles are varied. Training and education programs should speak to that.”

Many training programs have a tendency to try to cover too much too fast and overwhelm new hires with a plethora of information. As you develop your training program, consider your objectives and the best way to share information. Keep it simple, concise, and most importantly, helpful.

Kiaro
Courtesy of Kiaro

“We’ve tried to create an onboarding program that supports the natural dialogue between customers and associates,” Lynch says. “It’s important that our training programs are helpful to staff. We work closely with our teams on the floor and learn about the conversations they’re having and what type of questions customers are coming in with.”

Determining the type of training to implement is unique to you and your store. Smaller shops are typically able to put a stronger focus on teamwork and hands-on learning.

“Coaching a new hire is a team effort. We want a new employee to have confidence in what they’re doing,” Mike Babins, Co-owner of Evergreen Cannabis says. “We do a lot of on-the-job training to teach employees how we work together, communicate with customers, and use our point-of-sale systems.”

Larger retail operations may benefit from implementing a Learning Management System Platform (LMSP) to train and onboard employees. “Our onboarding is very structured and we’ve tried to create a robust learning program for new hires at Kiaro,” Lynch explains. “In the past, we’ve used LMSPs and it’s something we definitely want to have again once we find the right fit. Right now we’re leaning on in-person training with reference material, quizzes, and hands-on learning led by store managers.”

Make Sure the Training is Working

Loading your new employees with information and hoping that it sticks isn’t enough. After training an employee on a process or task, make sure you leave ample time for questions and dialogue. An employee should feel comfortable coming to their manager with questions—one way you can do that is to build time for questions into your training schedule.

Make sure you leave ample time for questions and dialogue.

“Leadership can’t be understated,” Lynch notes. “People work for people—not the company. It’s so important to have a management team that makes the staff feel supported. We want to cultivate a team and workplace that staff enjoys coming to every day.”

You can also create tests and assignments to make sure your training is working.

Don’t Forget: You’re Also Training for a Culture

A strong training program should also help new employees understand the store brand and identity. “My first order of business is to show new hires how to use our turntable and properly play a vinyl record, as the music we have in the store is almost as important as the product on the shelves,” Babins says. “When we opened Evergreen, we didn’t want it to feel corporate—we’re craft cannabis focused—so we feel it’s important to train our staff to help us set the atmosphere of our store.”

Onboarding Doesn’t Stop After Orientation

Employee education and growth should be an ongoing practice. “About two to three times a month, we like to invite licenced cannabis cultivators and producers to the stores to educate our staff on new products or trends,” Lynch says. “Hosting workshops seems to be a favourite learning opportunity for our employees—they really enjoy it.”

Checking in regularly with staff, adjusting your training as needed, and demonstrating a commitment to your employee’s growth should be a healthy part of your company’s culture.

After all, the goal of a solid onboarding program is a happy, productive, and supported employee.