Leadership & Management, Trends

Improving Employee Retention in the Cannabis Industry

| August 29, 2018

Hiring employees can be very exciting. You meet new people, encourage them to become invested in the success of your cannabis company, and you see them evolve into an important part of your team. But chances are this happy situation won’t last for long. A recent survey from Jobvite found that almost 30 percent of new hires will leave within their first 90 days of employment.

Unfortunately, high turnover especially plagues the cannabis industry. Having to refill positions over and over leaves businesses frustrated and wastes resources. Employers can try offering better benefits or more competitive pay, but that alone won’t solve the issue.

In fact, research has found that one of the biggest influences on high turnover is the quality of the company’s management team. A survey from Gallup discovered that one in two employees has left a job because of their manager.

Considering how closely managers work with their employees, it’s not surprising that ineffective leadership hurts employee retention. But what can cannabis business owners do?

Here are four strategies to pass on to managers to improve the work environment and lower employee turnover:

1. Give every job meaning

Business leaders have a unique perspective of their company and how every employee plays a part in its success. They see the big picture. Too often, however, employees are blind to how important their position is. They begin to feel like they’re just clocking in everyday, and aren’t contributing in a meaningful way.

Managers are the intermediaries between company owners and the employees. Part of managers’ jobs is communicating to individual employees why their job matters. They need to connect the dots so everyone sees why they are valuable.

When hiring a new employee, business owners need to sit down with the new hire’s manager and discuss the role. Explain how the job meshes with the company’s mission and values. Also, list why this particular new hire brings something special to the table. Then, using this information, work with managers to define a clear 30-60-90 day plan that will keep new hires focused on achieving goals.

2. Provide variety

There are a lot of jobs in the cannabis industry that require employees to do the same tasks repeatedly. While this allows new employees to quickly become experts, it also means the job soon becomes mundane. Without any variety, new employees can get bored and may contemplate leaving the organization.

As leaders that deal with employees every day, managers need to provide the team with new challenges. Whether it’s learning new skills or working with different co-workers, managers can maintain an exciting environment.

Consider hosting a vendor day so employees can learn about the products the company offers, network with others in the industry, and take home samples and swag. Another option is scheduling activities outside of the workplace. This can be especially powerful if the company culture values giving back to the community. Having the entire team volunteer with a charity on a regular basis provides meaning and variety to their day-to-day job.

Also, business leaders need to give managers the room to change things up. Having an employee try a new task or skill might mean a less productive day, but in the long run, happy employees will pay off. Managers just need to understand that changes shouldn’t be random. They need to talk with employees and find out what other interests or skills they have. This will show managers opportunities to let individuals undertake different, motivational challenges.

3. Increase feedback

Communication is the basis of any healthy relationship. But, many managers only sit down with their employees when there’s a problem. They don’t regularly give feedback on the individual’s performance. This leaves new employees unsure of how they are doing.

Business owners should make it company policy for managers to give regular formal and informal feedback. The former should be monthly one-on-one meetings when the manager and the employee check-in with each other. Have managers prepare agendas for these meetings so both parties can bring meaningful contributions to the conversation.

Use the same planning strategies for weekly team standup meetings. This way when managers make announcements and relay goals, employees will have prepared questions. When new hires see their co-workers participating in the feedback process, they’ll understand how important it is for the company culture.

As for informal feedback, it works best when everyone feels comfortable asking and answering questions. For instance, managers need to ask new hires what challenges they are facing and what tools they need to succeed. This shows the employee that they are being supported, not judged or blamed for their inexperience.

4. Swiftly address conflict

Whether it’s a scheduling issue or an argument between co-workers, there are always conflicts in the workplace. In most cases, employees can work out disputes on their own. But when managers ignore the same issues over and again, tensions can rise and this creates a toxic work environment.

When a new hire starts, managers need to sit down with them and discuss how conflict resolution works at the company. Have them explain how employees can report issues as well as how the manager will respond.

Business owners need to make sure managers understand that their role in conflict resolution is not judge and jury. Managers are not supposed to be deciding who is right or wrong. Rather they should act as a moderator who helps all involved employees work together for a solution. This way everyone can air their concerns and feel like their points of view are respected.