Best Practices

5 Building Blocks For A Rockstar Cannabis Retail Staff

Your budtenders are your cannabis customer’s first point of contact

Your budtenders are your cannabis customer’s first point of contact within your dispensary and can make or break a retail store customer’s experience.

A cannabis retail employee’s day to day job can’t be underestimated: they’re expected to perform customer service, listen to the needs of each customer, uphold regulations and compliance, and make thoughtful recommendations for strains and cannabis products. Not just anyone is well suited to work at a cannabis retail operation!

A budtender’s role should be recognized for the important role it plays in people’s lives, and thus, a cannabis retail operation needs to take care, diligence and make a significant investment in building their staff to help manage the shop.

Here are a few ways to dial up your recruitment practices and your budtender training at your cannabis retail operation to ensure best practices in legal cannabis retail:

Weed Out Bad Seeds with a Good Application & Interview

Your employee application for your dispensary is the first place that your prospective budtender will have to show their chops.

Ask thoughtful questions on your application that will help you narrow the masses down into suitable candidates. For instance, you can include cannabis-specific questions that ask them to demonstrate their knowledge. This can be something as simple as explaining the differences between an indica and sativa, or as in depth as how asking them about different product types and what they would recommend for specific customers in different types of scenarios.

Once you’ve been able to use your employee application as a tool to weed out any potential bad seeds, you can move onto the interview stage with who seems like promising and qualified candidates. Don’t take interviewing lightly, as the way someone interviews can be a very strong indicator of performance.

Take this time to truly understand why they’re in the cannabis industry. Where do they see themselves in 5 years? Do they have a favorite cannabis strain or product that they’d recommend to customers and why? What is something new they’ve recently learned about cannabis that they feel is valuable information? What are some of their ideas for how the customer experience can be improved?

During the interview stage, you’ll be able to tell the motivated from the duds by how they answer questions. If they speak in generalizations, they may not be able to get down to the detail required by a budtender.

Keep Training a High Priority

How much training should a cannabis retail store place into their employees? Recent research suggests that there is room for significant improvement in budtender training. In 2016, the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research journal posted a study called “Training and Practices of Cannabis Dispensary Staff”, and the gap in training and practice was jaw-dropping.

Of the respondents to the study’s survey, only 55% of dispensary staff indicated that they have had formal training for their roles. Of this 55%, only 20-30% had any medical-related training, yet 94% of the respondents were making recommendations of cannabis strains to treat specific medical conditions to inquiring patients.

Don’t be a cannabis retail operation that doesn’t invest in training. In fact, if you don’t have a line in your budget for training, you are already setting yourself at a disadvantage.

Don’t Get Complacent with Compliance

While they vary by state, all legalized states have a number of points of compliance that retail operations must abide by in order to stay licensed and open.

The thing about compliance is that regulations change all the time, so no cannabis retail operation can afford to let their standards and practices around compliance get lax. For multi-state operators or those in compliance patchwork states like California, going the extra mile to maintain your compliant status is an investment worth making.

Retail operations should also not only review their compliance practices on a regular basis, but the training of employees on compliance issues should be ongoing and at regular intervals with tests and follow ups. The goal isn’t to trip up your employee’s in “gotcha” moments, it’s to run into compliance gaps before they become license threatening issues and so if your budtenders or managers run into an issue, they know how to resolve it.

There is no shortage of topics to be included in compliance. They are including, but aren’t limited to:

  • Edibles marketing and packaging
  • Marketing and advertising of services
  • Reporting of sales to local/state governments
  • Taxation of sales
  • Elimination of sales to minors

Review with your management team some strategies to ensure that your budtenders receive regular “refreshers” on important compliance issues.

Refresh Customer Service Regularly

The way a retail operation builds loyalty is through excellent customer service where the customer feels cared for and well-advised about their cannabis.

Customer service isn’t a skill that’s acquired just once; it’s something that is developed over time, added to, and improved upon as market conditions change, and sometimes your customer changes too.

Regular employee customer experience training can include a number of relevant topics from dealing with the first-time cannabis user, to working with the customer who isn’t interested in a psychoactive cannabis experience, to different ways to explain the features of specific strains or new products. Always prepare your staff to deal with just about any possible situation under the sun, so that your retail operation can have a unified response to any issues for customer service that may arise.

Build Your Human Capital

When you’re hiring a person to work with your retail operation, you’re building human capital within your organization. Human capital is the value an employee provides to their company through their knowledge, skill, and abilities. Human capital isn’t just built with your own internal training programs; it’s about a lot more than that.

Showing your employees that you’re invested in your human capital involves providing regular and adequate opportunities for them to learn in formal and informal settings while developing as professionals. Development is very important to the upcoming workforce. Last year, a survey by Deloitte showed that 70% of millennials leave their employers because they don’t have an interest in their development. It’s estimated that only 40% of companies invest in professional development for their employees.

What happens with professional development and investing in your human capital? Employees become more loyal, job satisfaction increases, employee turnover rates are low, and customers are more engaged, and most importantly, there is usually a visible return on investment when employees bring new learning and innovation into the workplace.

A retail operation shouldn’t shirk their responsibility to develop their employees. Examples of professional development include attending one of the many national conferences about the sector, or even sending your budtenders to official budtender training through a firm like Hemp Staff, Cannabis Training Institute, or Oaksterdam University. You can even buy a subscription to a platform such as Green Flower Media, who provides regular in-depth seminars to subscribers about the science of cannabis and new advances in medical cannabis.

Hold On Tight to Your Rockstar Staff

Once you’ve done all the hard work to build an amazing staff that will help you manage your cannabis retail setup, hold on to them! Good staff is hard to find, and building a rockstar staff is an investment in your business success!

Show that you the investments in your staff pay off for them. Give them larger scopes of responsibility, compensate them at or above market rates, and always ensuring good performance is recognized.

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