October 30, 2020

How to Attract the Best Talent to Cannabis Businesses

by McKenzie Swisshelm

Despite the losses all businesses have seen with COVID-19, 2020 is still on track to be a great year for cannabis businesses. Through countless mergers and acquisitions, legalization efforts, multi-state expansions, and new licensing opportunities, there has been a surge of new jobs created. To stay ahead of this immense growth and consumer demand, cannabis businesses need a strong strategy to not only hire new employees, but hire the right employees.

The reputation of the cannabis industry still has an element that can attract unsavory characters with no experience and a loose grip on their expertise for their job role. There is also huge competition within the industry, which can drive a recent hire to leave their job quickly if a competitor offers better salary or benefits. 

The need to find reliable, qualified, and loyal employees who are enthusiastic about the cannabis industry and have a desire to grow with their company is obvious. But where do cannabis business owners and leaders start? How does one attract the best talent to cannabis businesses?

We’ll offer some tips on how to better manage the recruiting and hiring process. Start by pivoting away from quickly filling a position. Instead, learn to attract the right prospects that will bring value to the business, help to enhance the culture of the workplace, and contribute to operational success. Beyond boosting the bottom line, these steps will drastically improve turnover rates, freeing management to focus on business goals, not on empty seats.

Best Practices for Recruitment


Madness is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. What does that mean for recruitment? Well, if a hiring manager continues to use the same job description, on the same job board, ask the same interview questions, while rushing through the hiring process to quickly fill a position, they will continue to onboard employees who either don’t work out or won’t leave for new opportunities. 

Rethink the hiring process to find the right fit for the right position. We’ve compiled some best practices all companies, cannabis included, should follow. 

1. Define the job role and the ideal candidate.


Businesses hire a new employee for a number of reasons: replacing an employee, filling an operational void, or even increasing demand due to business growth. But hastily advertising a job vacancy isn’t always the best way forward. It’s important to identify what the actual needs are first, and what characteristics are needed in the right candidate. 

For example, if a company is seeking a Budtrimmer, the ideal candidate will be:

  • Passionate about the cannabis industry
  • Happy with manual labor duties
  • Detail oriented & punctual
  • Looking for role with advancement opportunity

Adversely, the perfect match for a Budtender position will be:

  • Great with customers and have sales experience
  • Knowledgeable about cannabis products
  • Good with communications and relationship building
  • Eager for continuous education

After defining who the ideal employee is, it’s important to include this in the description of the job posting. Let candidates know what to expect and what’s expected of them.

2. Audit and revise job descriptions. 


A well-written, concise, and exacting job description tells prospective employees that the management of this company is focused on finding the right candidate and cares about a good fit. It’s important for hiring managers to routinely review their job descriptions to make sure they are up-to-date, and include:

  • Company details and brief history, product and mission, and corporate culture
  • Goals, expectations, and responsibilities of the job
  • Any prerequisites they should meet like skills, licenses, or background checks
  • Compensation, benefits, and perks of the job
  • Characteristics of the ideal candidate


3. Consider looking beyond the industry. 


The cannabis industry is still very new. The frontier of a new industry can be challenging when it comes to candidate search. It’s not uncommon for hiring managers to be inundated with resumes from applicants who are very passionate about the industry, but have thin resumes lacking the skills and experience required – especially for entry-level positions. 

Opening candidate search to other industries can bring great results. Obvious choices are to target commercial agriculture for growers. But not-so-obvious, is to look to highly-regulated industries like banking and finance or even pharmaceuticals for sales and customer service roles in retail cannabis operations. Some other skill set matches include: 

  • Social Worker > Budtender
  • Medical Administrator > Budtender
  • Science or Laboratory Roles > Extraction Technician
  • Culinary or Food Services Roles > Edibles Chef
  • Horticulturist > Lead Cultivator

 

4. Recruit from multiple channels.


Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Today, qualified candidates can come from almost anywhere. 

Use social media from Facebook to LinkedIn for both their job posting functionality and regular social posts for your followers to share. Leverage cannabis-friendly job boards like ZipRecruiter and Indeed. And don’t discount the power of networking. Utilize association memberships like the National Association of Cannabis Businesses or the National Cannabis Industry Association to make sure opportunities are seen by as many eyes as possible. These vehicles in conjunction with the company’s own website posting will yield results.

For small businesses, creating a job description and managing the application process can be cumbersome and time consuming. It can be immensely helpful to work with a PEO (professional employer organization) or a staffing agency to take on this responsibility. These professionals can take care of everything, from posting to all the appropriate channels, reviewing and screening applicants, then find the best candidates for the cannabis business to interview and ultimately hire.

5. Get the most from the interview process.


Most employers think of the interview process as their version of the Bachelor – they get to meet the candidates, size them up, and give a rose to their ideal match. But what few consider is that the interview is also the candidate’s first impression of the business and management style they can expect. It’s important to present an accurate look at the job and company, and make sure both are getting the most out of this opportunity. 

  • Be responsive when it comes to communication with a candidate leading up to an interview. All parties involved need to be respectful of a candidate’s time by being punctual for scheduled calls and in-person meetings. Candidates will lose interest if they feel they are not a priority to the hiring manager, and will see this as an indication of how employees at the company are treated.
  • Discuss the business’ mission, values, and corporate culture to give candidates a clear picture of the workplace they might join and what sets the company apart from the competition.
  • Be clear about the job role, duties and responsibilities, and what they can expect each day at the workplace. This kind of clarity will ensure the candidate knows precisely what the job requires. Accuracy with this detail will eliminate candidates who aren’t a good fit for the job.
  • Get a sense of the candidate’s personality and work ethic by asking open-ended questions pertaining to the job and industry. If they are new to the industry, inquire about what makes them want to be a part of it. This helps to separate those who are passionate about the industry or job, and those who are looking for any job where they can simply collect a paycheck until something better comes along. 


6. Be competitive with salary and benefits.


Every employer wants to cut costs wherever possible. One place most can find savings is by offering minimum wage for entry-level positions and the lowest salary possible for others. While this tactic is great for cutting costs, it’s not great for employee retention or cultivating a loyal and reliable workforce. 

It’s also important to consider the time and money high employee turnover rates will take to address. The ultimate cost in replacing an employee can cost as much as 50% of their salary. To say this is counterintuitive to the idea of cutting costs is an understatement.

Offering a competitive salary and benefits is not only a great way to ensure companies retain staff, but it’s also critical in attracting the best talent. Employers should routinely conduct research on wages for similar businesses in their area. This helps ensure they are paying staff competitively for their skillset, experience, and market.

If a startup or small cannabis business can’t afford to match competitive wage demands, they can offer perks to entice candidates and employees alike. Offer discounted products, training and education, tradeshow and conference travel opportunities, flexible hours and vacation time, or even telecommuting options. 

7. Perform pre-employment screenings.


It should be no surprise that in an industry as highly regulated as cannabis, thorough background checks and employee eligibility verification is paramount. Hiring unqualified candidates can result in fines, or even a business being shut down if they fail to comply with regulations. 

Work with a screening service to conduct a pre-employment screening to protect the business’ interests and the cannabis industry by ensuring only qualified candidates are hired. A good pre-employment screening will include:

  • Criminal and civil records search
  • Social security trace
  • Professional license investigation
  • A restricted party search
  • A search through National Record Locator
  • A search through the National Sex Offender Registry
  • Previous compliance issues for past cannabis industry workers


Feeling overwhelmed?


The hiring process for any business can be difficult and being successful at recruiting for the cannabis business won’t happen overnight. Many companies get through this never ending task by working with a PEO to create a well-oiled workforce machine. These professionals will offer guidance on recruiting the best candidates, from creating a hiring strategy to posting well-crafted job opportunities to the right channels. To get help with talent acquisition today, contact Greenleaf HR for a consultation.   

McKenzie Swisshelm

McKenzie Swisshelm is the Marketing Manager for Greenleaf HR and Worklogic HR. She produces effective content like a fifth-year wizard but with a knack for strategic marketing, crafting digital strategy and, of course, Charms. In more wanky marketing muggle jargon, her specialties include setting metrics and reporting systems and then refining all of the above to impact an organization’s core business objectives and drive top line growth.

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