Are you getting more applicants than ever before for your job postings? Is your inbox busting with resumes? Are you spending more evenings than ever going through them?
If you are, you may not be alone. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the cannabis industry is getting swamped with interested (and interesting!) people looking for work in our fledgling community. According to some, the groundswell is due to more and more folks discovering the cannabis industry as a growing and vital employment sector.
Why? The answer may be counterintuitive. The mass media has been reporting the phenomenon of the Great Resignation for some time now, and the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs behind is beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. In August 2021 alone, more than 4 million people chose to step away, most of them with no firm offers in hand. And, according to some industry analysts and thought leaders, some may be coming to cannabis. Leafly’s 2021 Jobs Report bears this out, as does a recent Washington Post article that indicated there are more cannabis jobs in America than dentists, paramedics or electrical engineers. Business Insider even weighed in on this sudden shift in the fall. The mainstream is noticing.
There’s some logic to this. The most heavily impacted industries in the Great Resignation are hospitality, food service and retail, all of which operate at low wages, and many of the skills developed in those industries can transfer well into the cannabis world. Cannabis companies are also more likely to offer relatively stable scheduling that favors work/life balance than similar jobs in other industries. Plus, cannabis is viewed by many as a growing, exciting, high-potential industry that doesn’t require 80-hour workweeks, and whose product has recreational and medicinal applications.
So if your company is feeling the benefit of that attention, and you’re getting more candidates with broader backgrounds, then good for you!
But hold on, because that’s not the full story.
The cannabis industry continues to struggle from high turnover, with employees often leaving after only a few months in a job. Some believe it’s a reflection of two major factors: fierce competition and ineffective management. While the former condition may be with us for a long time, the latter can be addressed more directly.
Whether hiring from within the industry or taking on talent from other industries, there are some key fundamentals to managing people effectively. Most are not difficult; they just require that as owners and managers behave intentionally and with positive intent.
– Be aware of your impact: As leaders, people are watching you all the time, whether you realize it or not. So, pause and consider how you are showing up in both your words and your actions. Are you aware of how your own concerns and frustrations are experienced by others? Are you unintentionally creating or adding fear and uncertainty? When you become aware of your impact, you can control it and steer it in the right direction.
– Engage your people: Even within the cannabis industry, which on the surface appears robust, businesses are hurting. At the root of that pain for many today is a shortage of people to do the work. Your existing staff feel that pain as they extend themselves to pick up extra shifts to provide coverage, listen to customer complaints when they are helpless to fix the real issue or witness one more colleague call it quits when their tipping point is reached. So, be bold and engage your people in helping you solve problems. Ask for their help. This requires courage because admitting that you do not know all the answers is vulnerable work. It takes strength and confidence to appreciate that outcomes are better when more ideas are included, when fuller representation is present and diverse perspectives are heard. Showing that strength and confidence is not only okay, but also essential.
– Reward them: Companies in an industry as new as cannabis need to continually be aware of and refine what is recognized and rewarded. This is not just about paying people more — research tells us the motivational effect of pay raises is short-lived. Just as important is how you recognize and value the contributions and impact of your people. Play the long game here: be sure your company’s compensation philosophy is clear and understood by all. (That starts with you.) And make sure accountability is in place so that those current employees are not shorted when new people are hired.
– Give your employees the respect and attention they deserve: Here’s a novel concept: think of your employees as customers and put thoughtful attention into retaining them. What happens when they feel ignored in the fever to hire new people or underappreciated for the effort they make to keep business moving forward? You know the answer. You cannot take your people for granted and expect them to stay — healthy relationships do not work that way.
If the cannabis industry is to benefit fully from the effect of people from other industries reassessing their lives and changing careers in our direction, then we owe it to ourselves as much as to them to be effective managers and leaders. Fast-breaking industries of the past have clearly demonstrated how to fail at leadership and management.
As at least one industry pundit has stated, we have the opportunity in this young, upstart industry to do things the right way and learn from the mistakes of others. It’s up to us not to drop that ball.
Terry Smith is a consultant in the cannabis industry and a senior leader in organizational development and change management, specializing in strategic and operational management. His focus over the past decade has been on building organizational capability and success through effective program and system design and implementation to ensure staff can succeed and find value in their work. He has served as an adjunct professor in the School of Business Administration at Portland State University. He is a certified facilitator and coach through Korn Ferry, The Leadership Circle, Organizational Systems International and Achieve Global. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.