By Liesl Bernard
Who could have predicted back in January how much the world would change over the months to come? With all of the turmoil and challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the resiliency of the cannabis industry has been a welcome bright spot in 2020. Cannabis businesses have filled thousands of positions this year – both temporary and permanent – in a labor market where more than 30 million have filed for unemployment. According to one study, the number of people working in the U.S. cannabis industry is predicted to reach almost 300,000 by the end of the year, almost a 50% increase from 2019.
In addition to an expanding job market within the industry, across-the-board growth means compensation and median salaries are also rapidly increasing. Some positions have seen double-digit growth in average compensation compared to data from 2019. Smart cannabis businesses looking ahead to 2021 should take a strategic look at their hiring needs and develop a comprehensive plan for compensation and payroll.
As the market becomes more saturated and competitive demand increases, companies will continue to seek top talent experienced in their fields. Smaller regional groups and singular dispensaries are starting to be consolidated as multi-state operators establish greater footprints and work to attract talent with stronger compensation packages. Both executive and non-executive employees are in high demand:
The cannabis industry is still young, and effective leadership is often the difference between success and failure for a new business. Many cannabis companies fail to reach their full potential due to poor leadership, and filling executive positions with qualified candidates is vital to profitability, sustained growth, and creating a competitive edge for your business.
Some of the most important traits to look for in C-suite and VP level candidates include:
Hiring an executive employee is all about finding the right balance of experience, company culture and industry fit, and offering a competitive compensation package that will still allow room for growth.
With the uncertainties 2020 has presented, many cannabis companies have opted to expand by adding temporary staff as an affordable, on-demand solution. Prescreened temporary workers have proven to be excellent solutions for companies that are looking for workers during the pandemic, either for short or mid-term special projects, or to fill in for employees on medical leave.
As the industry continues to flourish, many employees are looking to enter the space, and many are starting in entry-level positions and working their way up. Positions like budtenders, trimmers, delivery drivers, cannabis extraction technicians, security personnel and even entry-level marketing roles are all in high demand in today’s market. Some of these positions don’t necessarily require prior cannabis experience, but provide candidates with the perfect opportunity to gain experience.
Some important attributes to look for in non-executive candidates include:
Median salaries for the most popular entry-level cannabis positions have increased steadily since 2019, and this growth isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. Temporary positions are also in high demand as cannabis companies adjust to new regulations, deal with absences and manage spikes in sales activity.
Despite the sweeping challenges presented by 2020, the cannabis industry has remarkably not seen a significant reduction in overall hiring levels for C-suite and senior staff employees. This year has also provided new opportunities for early-career individuals to enter the market as temporary employees. As legalization continues to spread and the industry continues to expand, companies are asking for cannabis experience and higher education levels more so than before – and salaries are rising to meet this demand. Retail workers are also seeing a boost in pay as national cannabis sales are projected to hit record numbers by the end of the year, even in the midst of a pandemic.
My advice for companies recruiting employees during an extraordinary year:
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