Cresta Insights

Putting Employees Through Basic Training: Providing the Necessary Skills Needed to Work in the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry is hot right now. As with the automobile industry in the 1920s, the steel industry in the 1940s, and the dot com explosion of the 1990s, the cannabis industry is exciting, refreshing, and profitable. As with other industries when they were in their infancy, some regulations and standards have yet to be ironed out, but progress is being made. In April 2019, the National Cannabis Industry Association formed a coalition of scientists, entrepreneurs, medical doctors and FDA attorneys, to “inform and influence FDA rule-making on cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds.” However, one area of the cannabis industry that does not yet have any kind of standardization is that of training employees.

Standardized Training

A Cannabis Industry Journal article found that currently there are no national standards for training dispensary employees or a licensing code. The closest attempt at standardization for the training and qualifications of cannabis industry employees is what individual states are doing in requiring cannabis employees to receive a certain number of education hours on specific topics, like patient confidentiality. Currently Massachusetts requires a $500 fee for employee registration, and it is predicted other states will follow with similar regulations and standards, but it is slow in coming.

According to a recent Glassdoor study, job openings in the cannabis industry are increasing rapidly. In December 2018 alone, there were 1,512 job openings in the US, a 76 percent increase over the same period in the previous year. The same study found that the roles in the cannabis industry are highly diverse, and require an array of skills and backgrounds – from marketing and retail to research and agriculture.

The study found that these jobs fit broadly into three categories: service and retail, professional and technical, and labor and physical. The challenge is that in order for these three categories to be filled with qualified candidates, specific skills geared toward the cannabis industry would be needed. Providing additional training during the onboarding phase of the employee lifecycle is simply a smart business practice.

Sending Employees to Boot Camp

Quality candidates for working in the cannabis industry abound. People trained in the three main cannabis categories – retail and service, professional and technical, and labor and physical – can come from a multitude of various industries. A manager from Neiman Marcus, an IT person from Marriott Hotels, and a laborer from the wine industry can all perform successfully in the cannabis industry. As with other candidates who change, not just jobs, but careers, they can learn how to succeed. The key is to show them the ropes by training them in the basics first. This doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor, but you will have to devise a plan for putting your new hires through a boot camp of sorts during the onboarding process to learn the required skills needed for the job.

First, you need to know what is required. Here are three key points to use to determine what skills and what knowledge you will need to provide:

1. Begin with a Job Analysis

The first step for ensuring employees have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform the job is to recognize what is needed. In order to do this, you must perform a job analysis, a process used to collect information about the duties, responsibilities, necessary skills, outcomes, and work environment of a particular job. It doesn’t have to be a deep, involved, time-consuming study, but you do need to gather as much data as possible to put together a solid job description. Use all available resources including what current employees are doing in that particular position, research other companies and get information from those willing to share, and of course, using the internet to find out all of the skills that are required to successfully perform at the job.

2. The Job Description

The next step to make sure your employees have the required skills to succeed is to develop a job description. The job description provides a clear picture of the position for potential candidates, and is a useful tool for measuring performance and a vital reference in the event of disputes or disciplinary issues. The job description should outline the following five areas:

  1. Job Title-should be self-explanatory reflecting the nature of the job.
  2. Job Duties-contain a list of the duties and responsibilities associated with the role
  3. Skills and Competencies required-skills are activities the candidate can perform based on what they have learned in the past and competencies are the traits or attributes you expect the candidate to display in the role.
  4. Relationships-includes lines of reporting and how candidate’s department affects other departments.
  5. Salary-a salary range is best used in the job description.

A well-written job description will protect both the employer and employee by serving as a guide to how the job will be performed as well as what is required to perform the tasks the job requires.

3. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

When you buy a new automobile, it comes with a manual of how to operate it, how to maintain it, and how to fix it when it breaks. Though most of us leave the car manual in the glove box and never read it, your company SOPs are a must-have to understand what needs to be done and when, and for determining what skills are needed at specific times. In other words, your SOPs are a written set of rules for how to handle certain situations. Gather input from managers and employees alike to develop your SOPs. These procedures are a living document in that they can, and should, be updated as situations demand.

Four Key Skills-Training Strategies

To get new employees up-to-speed with their knowledge and skills, begin incorporating and implementing these four key strategies:

  1. Make training an everyday event – Training your employees shouldn’t be an isolated activity reserved for onboarding and quarterly updates. Instead of waiting to improve, (or punish), employees during their quarterly or annual performance review, review performance daily. Take the time to correct the course of employee performance every day. Find opportunities for teachable moments.
  2. Assign a mentor – Designate a seasoned or high-performing employee to serve as a mentor to others. Use him or her to teach others special skills and impart knowledge for doing a better job.
  3. Focus on better communication – Teach everyone how to be better communicators in listening, speaking, and writing. A Cannabis Business Times article states that, “From budtenders to accountants and retail managers, the ability to communicate—both orally and in writing—is extremely important.”
  4. Put employees first – When it comes to acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge for performing well on the job, employers need to invest in their employees and make their training a priority. Seminars, industry shows, college courses, and online classes are all available for your employees. It takes a little money and initiative to make this happen, but it is well worth the effort.

Stay Ahead

A recent CNBC.com article uncovers the top 15 employers hiring for cannabis jobs. For almost all of these positions the company will need to familiarize new employees to new ways of doing business in a still uncharted industry. Succeeding here requires quality employees skilled in performing their required tasks. Once you recognize (job analysis), develop (job description), and plan (SOPs) for workforce skills as your company evolves, you will enjoy success for many years to come. This industry is one of changes and so long as you can bend with those changes and continually update your workforce skills, you will be at the forefront.