As businesses go, cannabis retailing is new—really new. While the business has a lot of rules from various levels of government, the “rules” for recruiting and retaining employees in cannabis retailing are being explored and updated on the fly as the industry grows and evolves.
A key to recruitment is to step back and think about your desired result before starting the process. Knowing your end point—who is your ideal candidate—makes the whole process of recruiting easier.
What To Look For
Each business (and even different locations of the same business) should have different answers for this question.
One common approach is to take the time to think about the attributes of your best employees.
• How computer savvy are they?
• Do they drift towards the science of the products or are they more focused on engaging customers (or both)?
• How do they approach and respond to the myriad of ever-changing rules of the industry?
• Do they connect with their teammates as a peer, a leader, or a jerk?
Even your least engaged employee may have attributes that you would mimic with future hires.
The other consideration is making sure that your hiring decisions allow for the growth of your operation.
• What are the computer or technical skills you will need a year or five years from now?
• Do you as an owner or manager have a gap in skills (or a distaste for) an area of the business like marketing, accounting, or inventory management that you would prefer to delegate to a future employee?
Now is the time to build those needs into the model of your ideal candidate.
Be cautious about narrowing down skills too much.
At the highest level, you could call these attributes ‘competencies’, but you may also want to inventory skills and abilities. Be very cautious about narrowing down skills too much; for example, finding a candidate who is computer savvy is often preferable to finding someone with the ability to use your special programs, like a POS, which will likely be obsolete in a few years while being computer savvy is a higher level competency that indicates the candidate can learn your current and next POS or other programs you will need in the future.
It’s also a good idea to consider your clientele when deciding who to hire. Deanna Johnson, General Manager of Cannabis Connection in Chilliwack, British Columbia, found that her store developed a following with more mature customers. Her targeted new hire morphed as the store developed to more closely match the needs and interests of her typical customers. Her staff now is more focused on a long-term career in the trade versus the mix of university students and part timers she opened the store with.
Your next hire may be lining up at the cash register.
Where to Go Looking?
As Johnson shows us, knowing what attributes of an employee you are looking for opens the door to focusing on where to look for your next great hire. Looking for part-time students is very different than those interested in a long-term career in the trade of cannabis retailing.
Your store sees hundreds and hundreds of customers each week, many of whom know and love your products, location and approach—your next hire may be lining up at the cash register right now. Consider putting a short sentence about career opportunities on your receipts or having a small display of post-card size career flyers on the counter.
Do not overlook your current employees as a key recruiting source either. Remind yourself where those employees came to you as candidates and use that channel again. While referral bonuses can work, do not let them become a stale “always there” program. Instead, take the time to talk to your employees (especially the ones with the competencies you need) about what you are looking for in a new hire and actually ask them for their help to help find your next employee from their network.
A powerful conversation asking for help will always trump a referral bonus scheme.
Recruitment of new hires can be outbound, too. While “headhunting” recruitment is more common with executive roles, there is no reason it cannot work for the retail cannabis trade.
Consider this scenario: You are at a retail store or restaurant in the same area as your store. A worker at that store creates a service experience that is amazing and that you would love to recreate at your store. Why not simply ask the person if they are interested in a new position? The “that was amazing service, and I would like to have a formal interview with you” conversation works even better when you have a business card or post-card size career handout to leave with the potential candidate.
One of the reasons headhunting works is that many people do not even think about changing positions until they are approached; the odds of finding someone willing to change to your store increases when you are the one asking.
Recruiting as a Marketing Exercise
At its core, recruitment is a marketing exercise and should be given the same level of importance as your other marketing efforts. Being innovative in recruitment does not mean trying to tackle every possible channel—innovation should lead to something unique and great. If you are going to utilize a marketing channel for recruitment, make it great, do not fall into the trap of trying to utilize every media platform (poorly) to find people.
If your target audience for hiring is, for example, TikTok users, focus on using TikTok for recruiting and do not try to spread your brand across another dozen media platforms with half-hearted attempts to be everywhere. Figure out how and where your next hires are consuming media and meet them there.
Finally, some innovations are timeless; we still use the innovation of a wheel daily. In recruiting this means creating a positive experience for candidates throughout your recruitment process. Respond quickly to applications, be flexible about interview times (candidates often already have jobs) and make (and communicate) your hiring decisions quickly. As the candidate is also a potential customer and referral source for other candidates, treat them well!
Kevin Woolliams is the Managing Director of HR West Consulting Ltd. HR West provides human resource services across Western Canada.