The American cannabis industry has been one of the most prolific job creators in recent times, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs and generating billions of dollars in sales revenue. Of the entire class of cannabis employees, budtenders are probably the most recognized among cannabis users. This position interacts with customers the most, answering questions about different marijuana strains, medical applications and optimum methods of consumption.
However, the retail cannabis space is currently plagued by a high turnover of budtenders, an issue that could severely affect the industry in the long term. As the front face of cannabis retail stores, budtenders are usually the first point of contact between the customer and the business. To ensure that these individuals convey accurate and up-to-date information to customers, brands and cultivators invest significant amounts of money and time into training and educating budtenders about the products they offer.
The problem is that many budtenders leave soon after receiving this training, costing the companies that initially hired them cash as well as depriving them of much-needed expertise. The president of a California-based cannabis cultivator called Ember Valley says marijuana operators often spend time and resources building relationships with budtenders and similar employees who are on the front lines with the customer, only for them to leave.
A recent report from analytics firm Headset revealed that 55% of budtenders in the United States and Canada who had worked at a retail cannabis establishment in the past year had left “by the end of that time period.” Greenleaf Business Solutions president Mar Rodriguez posits that players in the cannabis sector have to legitimize the employee experience if they wish to retain budtenders.
Thanks to federal prohibition, the state-legal cannabis industry cannot access traditional banking services. This means that many employees in the sector are paid in cash, and many cannabis employers still don’t offer 401(k) plans or online pay stubs. Companies that offer these benefits in the cannabis space are few, Rodriguez says, and accessing these types of financial and banking services tends to be more costly for cannabis businesses compared to other industries.
On average, he estimates, cannabis businesses spend an extra $60,000 annually on payroll and employee services. For companies that simply can’t afford to offer these services, retaining employees can be a challenge. FutureSense CEO Jim Finkelstein believes that good leadership also plays a role in retaining employees, stating that the number-one reason people leave their jobs is because of poor leadership or not being provided enough tools to advance their skill sets.
Finkelstein says that even though companies can plan for high employee turnover by implementing a business strategy called “come, contribute, leave,” this strategy will hurt them in the long term, resulting in increased hiring costs and depriving companies of much-needed labor as well as raking up training costs. He pointed out strategies such as profit sharing and legitimizing employee experience that have been successful at retaining employees.
Since each cannabis company is unique in its internal dynamics, players such as Cannabis Strategic Ventures Inc. (OTC: NUGS) are likely to have their own mechanisms of attracting and retaining employees, including budtenders, who are in high demand within the industry.
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