As cannabis professionals and entrepreneurs know, it’s not easy to train new hires within small, disparate regulatory markets. A budtender, grower, cannabis insurer, or cannabis marketing expert will interact with a slew of policy practices in different municipalities or markets, often in unpredictable ways. Therefore, proper and specific employee training is imperative.
As someone who has immersed myself in crafting cannabis course curricula for the next generation of professionals, I have given this topic ample attention. Here are the top three tactics cannabis businesses must undertake to prepare employees for whatever on-the-job hurdles they encounter.
Clearly map expectations in an employee training manual
You likely are familiar with the standard elements of a company handbook: general policy, holiday and pay schedules, staff expectations, etc. An employee handbook for cannabis companies must transcend the basics and address the nuances and particularities of the cannabis subsector. Begin by including clear job descriptions, an explanation of why certain jobs are vital to the function of the company, how each role impacts the broader community, and the associated licensing and training requirements. It is important to stress to new hires that they must understand the regulations relevant to their position and their role in upholding those standards to maintain compliance.
Make addressing cannabis-related social issues a vital part of the handbook. The legal industry was built on a legacy market, and the federal illegality of cannabis continues to result in the incarceration of tens of thousands of people. For this reason, including a bit of history in your manual and explaining how your company will take on social equity issues will help ensure buy-in. Topics may range from your company’s take on corporate social responsibility (CSR) to how your environmental mission will benefit disparately impacted populations. Take the time to acknowledge social justice in the cannabis space, and explain what your company plans to do to make the industry more equitable, sustainable, and just.
Finally, creating a cannabis-conscious compliance culture in the workplace is imperative. The employee manual should definitively spell out what is acceptable within the workplace versus outside of it, particularly when it comes to clarifying whether employees may consume cannabis at some times and not others.
Employ a variety of training methods
Compliance is a challenging skill to teach: Not many employees particularly enjoy reading policy or regulation requirements, but all employees must be able to uphold the standards they describe. Real-world, side-by-side training for an extended period is one strategy for success, as it gives employees time to encounter an array of situations and ask their trainer questions. Job shadowing should be just one employee training method deployed, as people retain information in a variety of ways.
Mixed-method approaches to training, such as providing audio/visual lessons or access to interactive digital learning modules, will help new hires remember vital facts. Regardless of the method used, ensure consistency and stagger types of training with reflective conversations so employees can ask questions and absorb knowledge without becoming overwhelmed. Employees need to demonstrate they have learned what is expected of them as a way of wrapping up their initial training.
Ensure education is ongoing
Training cannot end when the onboarding process is complete; after all, the regulatory, social, and economic landscape simply won’t stay static. All employers and employees in the industry must readjust by being as proactive as possible and embracing ongoing educational efforts until the industry creates a culture of compliance and social responsibility.
Team leaders should be tasked with attending continuing-education programs or other learning opportunities relative to their position and industry focus and then conveying what they learn. Whether your company offers compensation for attaining new certifications, allocates conference time, or simply provides a self-guided syllabus, ongoing education is a win-win for employer and employee. Employees who demonstrate a desire to learn, position themselves as candidates for advancement, and feel supported in the pursuit of skills that aid their professional development report increased contentment. As such, companies should budget for ongoing training opportunities and work to ascertain the mixed-method approach that will bring each team success. Be sure to collect regular feedback from your team on improving your educational program.
The cannabis industry shifts every day, meaning your workforce must be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. Prepare employees and your company for the inevitable winds of change by implementing a cannabis-specific handbook, crafting a robust employee training program, and providing time, space, and compensation for a variety of ongoing educational opportunities. Remember, too, that employees who feel invested in their work are happier and show greater employer loyalty.
With proper staff training, compliance becomes ingrained in your company culture, employees are content, and your enterprise is positioned to thrive.
Gretchen Schmidt is the faculty program director for the Graduate Certificate in Cannabis Control program at Excelsior College. She consults with industry experts to identify employer needs in compliance; oversees curriculum development; collaborates with subject-matter experts and course designers to create innovative, interactive online courses; and collaborates with the marketing unit to identify target markets and create a marketing plan for the program, among other responsibilities.