Member Blog: Increasing Employee Retention in the Cannabis Industry

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by Matthew Hughes, Ximble

A recent report from Headset Cannabis Intelligence utilized Point of Sales systems to gather data from Washington and Colorado state cannabis dispensaries.

The general overview of dispensary budtenders is that they don’t tend to stay around long as the job role has a high turnover rate. In fact, nearly 60% of employees don’t last past two months – and only 40% make it past the first. To make new hires worth the time and cost retention is essential, otherwise any hiring dispensary will be hemorrhaging time and money that could otherwise be directed into the growth of the business.

With only 14% of employees lasting beyond three months, it’s obvious that the quality of onboarding and training is a crucial, determining factor of retention.

The type of welcoming into the workplace, type of training and management they receive in conjunction with the tools they receive for work all contribute to whether that stay past the two-month mark.

While the roles in cannabis dispensaries may come with their own challenges, there’s no clear reason why turnover is so high.

With the industry expected to grow from $9.2 billion to $47.3 billion over the next decade within the U.S alone, it could be that the growing opportunities available allow budtenders to choose and hop between employers within the industry, meaning that dispensaries need to compete against one another to retain employees. Alternatively, it could be the management, burnout, being overexerted or under challenged.

Either way, there are a number of employee management methods that help reduce the employee turnover rates by creating an engaging and hospitable working environment, which will in turn lead to the reduction of hiring and training costs, the boosting of team morale and consistency in the customer experience.

Promoting Workplace Harmony

The running of a dispensary requires management to constantly assess staffing costs and needs for the changing demands of the business. However, too much attention to the needs of the business and too little on employees can lead to the overworking of staff, burnout and an unpleasant working environment.

It’s worth noting that Headset Cannabis Intelligence identified that high growth dispensaries (40% growth) have fairly high turnover rates, while dispensaries with 20% – 40% growth tend to have more stable turnover rates.

With dispensaries that are growing slower and steadier, they do benefit from lower turnover. However, with rapidly expanding dispensaries, it appears it may not matter what the employee churn rate is. Although, regardless of the rate of expansions, employee churn harms the business’s bottom line in the form of hiring and training costs, inconsistent performance and customer experiences.

Effective employee management will maximize productivity as well as engagement. To do that it must involve adequate time off for employees to attend to their personal obligations, like education or family, and time for recuperation.

With a variety of employee management solutions available, it can be hard to know which tools will actually help. With employee organization being at the heart of engagement and productivity, a solid employee scheduling solution should be at the top of the list. Decent solutions will be able to assist in keeping employees’ needs in consideration during the scheduling process by setting working parameters like their availability, maximum working hours and shift lengths, resulting in easier organization with greater visibility of your available resources.

Alternatively, many solutions allow varying degrees of employee self-management. The amount is up to management, but it can range from complete self-management, where employees opt for the shifts that suit them, to allocated shifts where employees can arrange their own shift-swaps, drops and pick-ups with managerial approval.

However employees are managed, the truth is that a workplace that considers and accommodates the workers’ needs is appreciated and makes for a desirable working environment.

Communication/Involvement

The value of effective communication cannot be understated for operation efficiency and performance. Although widely understood, its importance is often overlooked with regards to employee retention.

A staggering $2,100 to $4,100 is lost by businesses each year with poor communication being the sole cause. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identified in 2014 that the staff turnover rate was at 66% with that percentage increasing ever since.

People like to feel their role has a purpose and their input makes a difference if they are to remain performing optimally and satisfied in their role. The problem is that communication in businesses is in a usually top down manner.

The promotion of the bi-directional flow of information can be used to elicit feedback from employees on a regular basis. It encourages staff to alert management of any issues they’ve noticed, be it operational or otherwise. Utilizing the snippets of information gathered from employees can be used to drive positive change in both operations and the working environment.

By opening up dialogues with employees, be it weekly, monthly, or via an instant messaging app it shows their opinions and input matters, when acted upon. It makes employees feel like a valued team member and keeps them actively engaged in their role. As such, the working space becomes a much more positive and proactive place that employees enjoy working in.

Recognition and Reward

A cannabis dispensary’s employee schedule may not necessarily be constant from week to week, which can cause missed opportunities and events in their personal lives. If employees aren’t given recognition for their contribution and sacrifices towards the dispensary’s success, they can feel alienated and undervalued, causing them to look for somewhere where they will be appreciated.

That is why recognition and rewards of employee performance is so important. With over 70% of employees feeling disengaged in the company they work for it’s important that we treat employees as more than a cash machine. In doing so, they will see their work is appreciated and continue to remain engaged and productive. The reward itself doesn’t need to be large or over the top, even a few words of praise can be enough or an annual bonus.

It can be difficult to gauge performance solely by watching employees. That’s why a good workforce management solution can help, as it is possible for employees to log completed activities and add shift notes. This delivers and insight into workforce performance of each individual employee and makes it possible to identify those who deserve recognition or are ready for advancement.

Recognition encourages engagement from team members and employees tend to stick around for longer when they feel they are valued in the workplace.

Every dispensary is different and every team is a collaboration of different personalities that require different approach to management. There is no “one fits all” solution, but increasing the standard of employee management with an emphasis of improving the employees experience and sense of value will help to boost employees’ job satisfaction. Upon doing so staff turnover may not disappear, but will drop as job roles to employees today are more than a paycheck; they must carry meaning and value which needs to be communicated from management down.


Matthew Hughes is a British-born content writer with the mindset of a cat, he has a curiosity for the unknown, can be impulsive and can be won over with food. The best place to catch him will be in the offices of Ximble, a dynamic cloud-based workforce management system that simplifies employee scheduling, time tracking, and management. He also hates Sudoku.

The post Member Blog: Increasing Employee Retention in the Cannabis Industry appeared first on The National Cannabis Industry Association.

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