Why the Cannabis industry is experiencing growing pains
As is the case with any emerging market, the cannabis industry is experiencing growing pains. Specifically, one of the most prominent issues many dispensaries face is budtender turnover.
On average, a cannabis retailer has a turnover rate of 30 percent. This turnover rate is somewhat justified as some college students seek budtender work as a summer job.
However, both Colorado and Washington experience worse months for turnover than just August. Many argue that, despite their “low” ranking within a company’s hierarchy, budtenders are a company’s most important employees.
Dispensary Managers must find ways to lower budtender turnover
The direct interaction they have with customers provides an opportunity for cross-selling, which encourages customers to experience different products hence increased ticket sales. Given the importance of budtenders and their influence on a business, it is imperative that dispensary managers find ways to lower budtender turnover.
The knee-jerk reaction, simply raise salaries and benefits.
The knee-jerk reaction many would have to the problem of turnover would be to simply raise salaries and benefits. However, such an action is not always feasible for a dispensary owner, and it’s not guaranteed to pay dividends as the summer budtenders will still leave to go back to school.
If not through direct salary increases, what are the best ways to keep passionate employees? For inspiration, we can look to the specialty coffee industry, which found itself in a similar position before experiencing its boom.
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Many employees can find themselves frustrated with their jobs because they can’t envision their future direction. They are unaware of when or how they can earn raises, and they’re left in the dark about the company’s vision.
When Ryan Jensen started his successful Washington D.C. based coffee chain, Peregrine Espresso, he sought to change that norm as a means of incentivizing his staff to stay. In addition to providing health insurance and paid vacation time, Jensen and his wife made their pay scale clear to employees and clearly specified how experience and professional development can lead to raises.
This clarity equates to security for many workers, incentivizing them to stay and progress through the safe system the company has developed as opposed to looking for employment elsewhere.
A Luxury Experience
As a former barista, Sam Penix was able to authentically empathize with his coffee staff when he realized they weren’t receiving the type of compensation he wanted to give them. As a result, he decided his café, Everyman Espresso, would be the first in New York to raise their latte price to $5, clearly defining his brand as luxury.
The justification for the higher price was easy to see. If a drink uses higher quality ingredients and is made by an expert in an expensive city, it makes sense that it would be priced higher.
This parallel does not sit perfectly for a dispensary, though, as budtenders are more akin to salesmen than craftsmen like baristas. Regardless, if a dispensary decided to become a luxury brand, they could justify raising prices and, in turn, raise salaries to incentivize their budtenders to change their jobs into careers.
Even without becoming a luxury brand, an improvement in compensation will certainly never deter an employee from continuing their role.
While providing a luxury experience is a business decision that’s not necessarily required to succeed as a brand, having a strong company culture that promotes camaraderie among employees is necessary for brand success.
There are plenty of ways to show employees they are appreciated, and not all of them have to be monetary. Simple compliments and shows of appreciation can go a long way in making employees feel needed and important within the company.
In addition, company bonding events and parties can boost employee morale and position a business to be viewed as a more desirable place to work at in the long term.
Although coffee shops and dispensaries sell different types of products, the similar, direct interaction they require from baristas and budtenders allow one industry’s practices to inform the others.
The implementation of a transparent path to success, a strong company atmosphere, and, optionally, more competitive compensation will allow dispensaries to retain employees as they experience even greater growth than the coffee industry did over the past thirty years.
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