Budtender turnover hampering the cannabis industry

High turnover rates among budtenders continue to plague the cannabis retail sector, an issue that has ramifications for the industry beyond just immediate costs.

Budtenders are the first point of contact for consumer education and are often a marijuana brand’s best bet for building awareness of a product.

Growers and brands spend a significant chunk of their budget sending their sales reps into stores to educate shoppers about their products, only to have them leave soon after.

“This is a million dollar battle. … You build relationships with budtenders and people who are on the front line for the consumer and then, the next thing you know, they turned,” said Chris Morsette, president of Redding, California grower Ember Valley.

A recent report by Seattle-based data analytics firm Headset found that in the United States and Canada, 55% of budtenders who have worked at some point in the past 12 months “have moved away the end of this period”.

“There’s this underlying feeling that cannabis retail is immune to all other retail trends in traditional commerce, and that’s not true,” said Marc Rodriguez, president. of Greenleaf Business Solutions, a San Diego company that provides marijuana payroll and human resources services. businesses.

Solve the problem

According to Rodriguez, part of employee retention in the cannabis industry legitimizes the employee experience.

Many marijuana workers are still paid in cash, and many jobs lack modern perks like online pay stubs or 401(k) plans.

There are companies that provide these types of services to cannabis companies, but they are less common than in traditional industries.

“There is access to these things, but they cost,” Rodriguez said.

“They’re expensive, and they’re way more expensive than any traditional retail or any traditional business that would want the same thing.”

He estimates that he spends $60,000 more per year on cannabis-based payroll and employee services.

Jim Finkelstein, CEO of California-based compensation consultancy FutureSense, said employee retention is more about good leadership, good pay and good benefits.

“The #1 reason people leave is usually because they don’t like their boss or don’t feel like they’re getting the tools they need to be able to advance their own personal skills. “, Finkelstein said.

“You have all these dials – environment, culture development, reward. They are going to have a huge impact on the bottom line.

Some companies anticipate high turnover in the cannabis space – a business strategy known as “come, contribute, go”.

However, Finkelstein said this strategy hurts long-term business owners.

“It’s a legitimate business strategy,” he said. “On the other hand, coming, contributing and staying is probably a better business strategy, because then there is the cost of turnover.

“It’s not just about hiring costs. It’s the gap of not having someone on the line, not having someone on the front desk, the opportunity cost of having to retrain people.

Learn from older markets

According to Finkelstein, if cannabis retailers want to improve employee retention, they can learn from strategies that have worked in the past for traditional names like hotel operator Marriott International.

“We know, for example, that Marriott has been very successful over the years in retaining housekeepers,” he said, “because they had a profit-sharing program where if you had a career as 30 years at Marriott Corporation, you can walk away with a quarter of a million dollars.

“You have to tell them how important their job is to the customer experience. They must be recognized. They need to be trumpeted as being so valuable to how the whole process unfolds.

Rodriguez and Finkelstein both compared marijuana retail to traditional retail in that most of the revenue occurs in entry-level positions such as budtenders.

Thus, a budtender can be compared to clerks in clothing stores in terms of the type of employee the position attracts.

“Not everyone is going to come here and be full time,” said Duncan Ley, owner of the California Street Cannabis Co. in San Francisco.

“Maybe they’re a student, or maybe they’re a mother or an artist.”

Ley described his retention as “super low,” but maintained a positive stance on the issue, likening low retention to something else retail owners have to adapt to.

“I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t had to fire someone (recently), because I did,” Ley said.

“We have to attract people, excite them. And then when they leave, I want them to move on to something better and different.

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