Chief Operating Officer
Last Frontier Joint Operations
As springtime breezes into Southeast Alaska and brings with it the return of our cruise ship clientele after two years of absence, I can’t help but reflect on the changes the industry and the world have experienced since the last time those ships brought thousands of cannabis consumers to Alaska.
Not only have we learned to operate and problem-solve in new ways in this post-COVID world, but some of these changes seem here to stay. We are far more in tune with our own health and the health and safety of our employees and our communities.
One of the many takeaways from this for me as an executive is how important it is to make sure my employees’ safety, compensation and peace of mind are paramount. We are facing a national shortage of employees. People have shifted to a new paradigm: working from home is feasible, and side hustles combined with government assistance is a viable option, instead of working jobs that don’t value and treat their employees well.
In response, wages are being raised, and business owners and their executives are being taken to task for how they truly treat their employees. We are entering into a time where the bar is being raised. Not only are employees demanding fair pay and treatment, but they are going a step beyond. We have all had a boss that talks down to everyone and can’t be coerced into a great idea unless made to think it was their idea, but that is fast becoming no longer acceptable. People are standing up to their horrible bosses, demanding what they deserve and quitting if they don’t get it.
I, for one, support this evolution of employment. When I joined Last Frontier Joint Operations as chief operating officer this past January, staffing was one of the first issues on my list to tackle. I have always been able to find people and place them in positions that speak to their skills and preferences as an individual. However, it wasn’t as easy as I was used to this time.
After five months, I am almost seeing the light at the end of the tunnel to staffing an exceptionally large cultivation and manufacturing facility. The first thing I did was look to promote internally. Anyone who wanted an opportunity to prove themselves and step up to the plate was given the chance, along with a raise. After letting that play out for a bit, I went on the hunt to fill in the blanks.
Ketchikan is a very small community, and I have been in the industry here for half a decade, so I used my personal resources and social media to get the word out that I was looking for crew. Slowly, over a period of a few months (with some trial and error) I have been able to source and staff almost all of the company’s needs.
I find it vital to get to know each person. Making the personal as well as a professional connection is paramount to the process. For example, learning why they want to work in cannabis and what their life is like outside of work (kids, other jobs, etc.) allows us to better support their life outside of their 9-to-5.
It comes down to a gentle balance between the corporate executive approach and that old-school “do-they-have-the-vibe?” approach that we used to use in the California hills when we were looking for farm crew on the [black market] cannabis grows. Combining compassion with professionalism is a skill I find to be highly undervalued; hopefully that will change soon.
I have one piece of advice for maintaining happy, productive and consistent staff: try being nice. I’m not saying be a pushover, but coupling compassion with professionalism is the only way forward in my eyes.
Truly valuing people, instead of looking at them as pieces of a chess game, will build a better world for us all and ultimately pave the way for your business’ success.