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5 Keys to Staffing Your Dispensary

Photo courtesy of Ashe Society

5 Keys to Staffing Your Dispensary

Cannabis legalization has not only brought immense business opportunities, but it has also greatly increased the need for a professional workforce as the industry becomes more mainstream. Legal cannabis is expected to generate an additional 250,000 full-time jobs between 2020 and 2024.

The cannabis workforce is becoming increasingly professionalized up and down the vertical, but nowhere is that more apparent or more needed than in retail where contact with consumers and the public directly impacts a business’ reputation and the bottom line.

Dispensary owners should set up systems to ensure best practices, to support decision-making, and to comply with the slew of regulations that govern legal cannabis commerce. Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care, recently said in an interview that "having the right people is the main factor that makes or breaks any organization. But especially one that's as high growth and capital intensive as cannabis that is so highly regulated. You just can't afford to have anything but the best people you can find."

In this article, we cover 5 key things to consider when staffing up your dispensary:

1 - Who do you need to hire?

When building your team, consider the key positions that need to be filled in-house, your employees, and what functions can be outsourced to consultants to be more cost-effective.

When hiring consultants make sure they are licensed professionals and preferably with cannabis experience. They include:

● Legal counsel for representation should you need to go to court or navigate complex registration and licensing processes.

● Certified Public Accountants (CPA) to manage payroll, state and federal income taxes, and compliance with cannabis specific taxing agencies. Errors in tax filings may carry hefty penalties.

● A Compliance Officer to manage and document compliance requirements in every aspect of the business. Depending on the size and complexity of your operations, you may need an in-house employee for this role, but smaller cannabis businesses can easily outsource this function.

● Security services to secure your dispensary, perform security audits and install and operate security systems, including cameras and guards. It is often more cost effective to outsource these services to a professional security firm.

Some positions are essential to the daily operations of the dispensary and these should be filled by employees: These include:

● Budtenders are the first point of contact for your customers and their interaction will often determine if the customer comes back. Budtenders must be well trained and professional.

● The Store Manager oversees day-to-day operations, and should be the eyes and ears for ownership and executive management. This should be a seasoned leader who understands retail best practices and knows how to evaluate staff and vendors.

● The Inventory Manager conducts inventory audits, handles reconciliations and reports, and ensures the dispensary is complying with mandated track and trace systems.

2 - Does your scheduling make sense?

Your goal should be to work smarter, not harder, especially if you are operating multiple locations. A dispensary scheduling software can be a powerful tool that ensures you are maximizing your resources and minimizing waste. Software like KayaPush integrates with your POS and Workforce Management Systems, allowing you to:

● Customize and automate employee schedules. Time tracking uses facial recognition and manages employees' clock-ins, break behavior and hours.

Schedule your staff with real-time data analytics and reports, labor forecasts while tracking labor budgets against actual cost.

● Enforce set schedules so that employees are working only the stipulated hours (no early starts or overtime).

● Check on key performance indicators and make quick data-backed informed decisions with real-time reporting and insights dashboard.

Stay on top of every aspect of payroll with smart automation, calculations, data transfers and compliance.

3 - Are you using proper hiring techniques?

Hiring for cannabis can be a little more complex than your average business. It involves navigating compliance and regulations, so it is essential to build sound systems around hiring before you scale up. Consider the following:

● Widen the talent pool. Do not stick only to job boards. Include social media, employee referral programs, university campuses and other outreach channels.

● Be thorough and clear in your job postings. Include detailed roles & duties, minimum requirements, benefits, salary range, company location, and describe the culture of your company to attract the right fit.

● Know what you are looking for. Identify which skills, personality, and experience best fit your particular business. Use references to corroborate information and gain more insights into the candidates.

● Have an effective onboarding program. A digital onboarding platform can help you effectively support and train new staff and store important employee information for compliance purposes. Consider a Hiring and Onboarding software that offers applicants tracking, hiring tools, paperless self-serve onboarding, and performance management information.

● It often costs more to hire and train a new employee than to keep the one you have. An effective employee retention program should offer fair compensation, acknowledge performance, build a relationship with employees with great managers, and provide opportunities for growth.

A HR systems for hiring and onboarding can offer applicant tracking so you can hire at scale, document an employee's entire journey, centralize documentation and streamline onboarding experiences.

4 - Training and compliance.

Legal cannabis is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world. Employee training is vital to ensure you do not run afoul of the rules that could lead to hefty fines and even the loss of your cannabis license. For retailers, proper budtender training is essential for compliance and the bottom line.

● Understanding rules around age restrictions, product handling and daily allowances for individual sales should be part of budtender onboarding and ongoing training.

● Make sure your budtenders are fully versed on the product offerings by working closely with the brands you sell.

● Educate your budtenders about the unique aspects of the cannabis dispensary business. Course material and sessions can be accessed online and on mobile devices, using online learning platforms like Toptender.

● Offer ongoing training so budtenders are always up to speed and reminded about compliance and product knowledge.

5 - How to effectively manage multiple locations.

Growth is good for business, but it can also present challenges that if not managed correctly could damage your business in the long run. You may have several locations, but you are still one company. Here are some things to consider when you open multiple dispensaries:

● Have a consistent program for staff onboarding, scheduling, payroll and compliance across all locations.

● Ensure all locations are truly part of the larger organization by creating lines of communication and consistent practices around hiring, compensation and training.

● Keeping multiple locations under one organizational roof can seem daunting, but technology can help. HR software can help you manage staffing and schedules as your footprint grows, and cannabis specific project management software can help you streamline workflows and manage compliance across different facilities.

In conclusion…

Hiring and managing an effective retail workforce in the fast-growing cannabis industry can be challenging, but there are some basic rules you can follow and proven business software you can deploy to make your journey easier. And the earlier you adopt these tools, the easier the rest of the journey will be.

This post is a collaboration with our friends at KayaPush, a comprehensive HR solution for licensed cannabis retailers.