5 Best Practices for Retail Staffing in Cannabis

5 Best Practices for Retail Staffing in Cannabis



Retail jobs come with some of the most difficult hiring challenges

Journalists call it “the green rush,” and for good reason — the cannabis industry in California, already the largest legal cannabis marketplace in the world prior to January 1, now is poised to evolve into an even bigger behemoth. Jobs? Oh yes. Grows, delivery services, ad agencies, edibles manufacturers, retailers — companies across the state are hiring like crazy. The hiring spree is even affecting other industries, like restaurants, which are losing cooks and servers to dispensaries and grows.

Retailers serve as the principal cannabis ambassadors for this rapidly expanding industry, and dispensary jobs are some of the most sought-after in the business. But retail gigs, too, pose some of the most difficult hiring challenges. Job openings arrive with plenty of resumes (sometimes, it’s an inundation). The tough part is finding the right employees.

Working in a dispensary is not just another stand-behind-a-register job. Employee, team and store triumph hinge a variety of key factors.

Look For Brand Ambassadors

“We maintain a higher standard” than a lot of other retail industries, said Erika Henika, general manager of Caliva’s shop in San Jose. “We look for people who are passionate about cannabis, of course. But they also need to be sensitive to differences between people seeking cannabis for medical and recreational uses. Customer service must always come first, and this industry attracts a lot of different kinds of customers.”

All employees at retail shops should expect to interact with customers — the jobs do not often separate customer-facing employees from those dealing with inventory or rolling joints. Personality and friendliness rank high for people in retail shops.

Treat Your Shop Like A Fine Wine Store

Wine shops, like good dispensaries, draw a diversity of clientele — wine geeks who want to talk varietals and vintages, people with strong opinions about likes and dislikes (“I want Syrah, and I want Northern Rhone — definitely not anything Southern Rhone. Please help me find something great”), customers full of curiosity about different regions and styles of wine and open to advice, people seeking something to pair with tonight’s dinner, and newbies who know nothing about wine and find the whole topic a bit intimidating.

The best wine shops make everybody happy, and become part of the community’s fabric. Good dispensaries achieve the same sort of feat. It’s not easy. Customers will walk to the counter who do not know the difference between indica and sativa and have not tried cannabis for thirty years. Beside them at the same counter could be a 23-year-old architect who wants to talk in-depth about the terpene profile of Skywalker OG before she decides to plonk down money for an eighth and a 40-year-old former college football player inquiring about the pain-relieving properties of CBD. Dispensary employees should be able to pivot with ease between these customers — making the newbie feel comfortable and at-home (and eager to return) and speaking about terpenes and CBD with the same level of fluency and savvy as the weed connoisseur or patient.

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