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Cultivating Talent in Cannabis Retail: Best Practices for Hiring, Training and Retaining Budtenders

Cultivating Talent in Cannabis Retail: Best Practices for Hiring, Training and Retaining Budtenders

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The Problem With Hiring Budtenders

Hiring and training knowledgeable, friendly budtenders are key to the success of any cannabis dispensary. This is especially true as the canna-curious increasingly become new consumers post-legalization. However, a complaint we frequently hear about with new cannabis retailers is that budtenders are lacking adequate product knowledge. Some companies have attempted to scale too quickly and, as a result, have lost the personal touch needed for success. Not to mention, lotteries have left a number of stores in the hands of owners without significant retail or cannabis experience. Many licensed producers have failed to make the necessary investment in building field teams to help train retail staff and properly merchandise the product. As the legal cannabis retail market slowly grows, an increasing number of small business owners and entrepreneurs are in need of assistance with the hiring, training and retaining of cannabis retail store staff.

How To Hire A Good Budtender

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One way to identify a qualified budtender is by their track record of training programs they have enrolled in prior to applying for the position. Another identifier is to gauge their enthusiasm and openness to completing your training program. Provinces have set minimum requirements that must be met by cannabis retail staff before they can work at a dispensary. These requirements include background, criminal record checks, as well as completion of provincially-mandated training programs such as CannSell or SellSafe. While the employer will order the background check, an employee that has taken it upon themself to obtain the required training certification before applying for the job demonstrates commitment to their cannabis career path.

The Issue With Provincially-Mandated Programs 

The issue with provincially-mandated training programs is that they are just minimums. An employee who has already completed further training is the ideal candidate for a budtender position. Examples of such training include cannabis sommelier, growing, and business courses currently offered by various private organizations and colleges across Canada. The cannabis industry will continue to grow. There will be more college and university-level programs, and government-mandated courses, that will provide budtenders with initial base knowledge required to be successful. Applicants that take it upon themselves to gain this knowledge will be the ones you should seek to hire and retain. 

Experience Matters

Experience also matters. Past budtending experience should not be disregarded simply because the prior employer may have been an illegal operation. As long as the employee does not have a criminal record that could hinder the background check process, the professional experience of serving cannabis consumers is invaluable. The recruitment process should create an environment where employees feel comfortable disclosing pre-legalization experience.

If They Can’t Tell. They Can’t Sell

Experience is a virtue. However, it all goes to waste if the prospective budtender has poor customer service skills. Customer service savvy is of equal importance to cannabis knowledge when it comes to budtending. Prospective budtenders should be put to the test during the interview process to assess both their customer service skills and cannabis knowledge by role-playing an interaction with a customer. For example, ask the interviewee to tell you about their favorite strain. 

A Good Budtender Understands Compliancy

Lastly, a good budtender has an understanding of the cannabis regulatory regime and an aptitude for compliance, and possibly record-keeping. The provincially-mandated certification programs cover this, but the prospective employee’s retention of this information should be tested during the interview stage. 

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How To Train A Budtender To Become Good

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As the budtending industry is relatively new, it is not guaranteed that you will be able to find employees with both experience and cannabis education off the bat. After hiring budtenders, training is required. It is key to ensure both product knowledge and compliance, which are necessary for the best customer experience. 

Invest Time

It will take time before your new hires learn and adjust to your store operations. Be patient and put in the time to truly allow your training materials to soak in.

Enroll Into Programs

Your hires may have completed the bare minimum to be qualified to work in your dispensary but that doesn’t mean they’re qualified as per your standards. Sometimes, retraining is needed and what better way than to enroll your employees into courses or programs that educate them about cannabis.

Adopt The Motto Of Asking Questions & Solving Problems

This is probably the most important concept for your employees to understand. It goes back to customer service. Even if they had all the knowledge in the world. It won’t matter if they cannot ask the customer’s questions to identify problems which are then solved. You want problem-solvers on your team who help people and produce results. Not people who know a lot about something and do nothing about it.

How To Retain Good Budtenders

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Retention of employees is essential for the success of a cannabis retail store given the amount of training and education that goes into becoming a rockstar budtender. If budtenders cannot be retained, you’ll find yourself constantly hiring and training budtenders.

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Offer Compensation

It is common sense that employees are more likely to stay at a job if they are happy with their remuneration. Just because budertenders budtend doesn’t mean it’s another low minimum wage job like being a cashier at McDonald’s. Budtending requires a lot of intake of knowledge and demands the skills of a salesperson. As a result, compensation and benefits should be competitive, with the possibility of increases should staff surpass expected results.

There Is No I In Team

There is a great success in retaining budtenders when key performance indicators (KPIs) are set for the store as a whole rather than per employee, and also when KPIs are set realistically, differentiating between slower and busier times of the year. 

Meaningful Growth Opportunities

Compensation and team-oriented KPI’s are not the only factors contributing to employee retention. Employees who are passionate about cannabis will find inherent value in the ongoing professional development activities provided by their employer(s). For example, an excellent growth opportunity could be further or continuous training available to your employees. This helps them grow so they help your business grow.

Create An Environment For Happiness

It is very important to cultivate good workplace relationships amongst your employees. Workplace culture is a key pillar of success that requires great attention and investment. Events are a great way to encourage relationship building between your staff while having fun. Bowling nights, theme parties and setting up a store volleyball team are some examples of events to strive for. We recommend having a dedicated team within each store for planning and organizing staff events.

Who Is Cannisquad

Cannisquad is a leading industry expert in cannabis retail store operations with over 17 years of experience. They staff and manage retail stores across North America, with ambitious plans to expand globally.  

Why Are They Important?

With experience comes insight into the best practices for hiring, training and retaining staff that is helping retail stores quickly stand out and achieves sales targets, ensuring profitability. Hiring the right budtenders and training them properly is key to ensuring staff have the confidence needed to be successful. It also ensures friendly, two-way relationship-building with customers. As cannabis retail continues to expand, it is relationship-building and product knowledge that will foster customer loyalty in revisits. 

Cannabis is both a trending topic in current events and a beloved source of good times for multiple generations of consumers. Many people have more than a passing interest in the subject. When evaluating prospective employees, how does an employer distinguish a regular consumer who is applying for the job because they think it would be “cool” to work at a dispensary, from those with a more sophisticated understanding and appreciation of the plant? Cannabis retail store owners should look for employees with a passion who want to build a career in cannabis, not those who are just looking for a fun job to tide them over until the next opportunity. 

How Cannisqaud Can Help Your Business?

In partnership with Cannisquad, we were able to provide valuable insights into the subject of hiring, training, and retaining budtenders. If you’re a dispensary owner and you’re struggling with recruiting, teaching and keeping your people, consider Cannisquad’s services to help you thrive in those aspects of your business. Speak to a representative today by contacting Cannisquad.

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