The cannabis industry has undergone significant changes in recent years. Still, the role of budtenders as essential employees in cannabis retail has remained constant due to educational and regulation factors. According to Headset’s latest report on turnover in cannabis retail, budtenders are considered the “heart and soul of the industry,” and their hiring, onboarding, and management are crucial to the success of any cannabis retail operation. Despite their importance, high turnover rates among budtenders continue to be challenging for dispensaries, with 55% of budtenders leaving their positions within 12 months in the US and Canada.
Dispensary owners and managers must address this issue, as failure to reduce staff turnover can have significant financial implications. This how-to guide on reducing dispensary employee turnover will cover the following topics: the definition of budtender turnover, how a high turnover rate can affect dispensary operations and culture, how to identify the root causes of budtender turnover in your dispensary, and specific strategies to reduce turnover in your dispensary.
If you had 20 budtenders at the start of this year (2023) and your dispensary experiences an average turnover rate of 75%, about 15 of your original staff will likely have left by the end of the year. Considering that replacing an hourly employee costs approximately $6,000, this turnover could cost your dispensary $90,000. For dispensaries with larger teams, the annual expenses related to turnover could exceed $100,000, which is a considerable amount of money to lose.
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Anywho – let’s get into how to retain budtenders!
1. Pay Them & Give Them Benefits
While feeling fulfilled and supported in their roles is crucial, it’s also important for budtenders to make ends meet. Offering competitive compensation and benefits that enhance their quality of life is one way to demonstrate your concern for their overall well-being, both inside and outside of the dispensary.
Health, dental, and vision insurance are the most common benefits that can significantly improve the employee experience. However, if your business cannot provide these benefits due to budget constraints, you can consider offering Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). By establishing a yearly budget cap, you can provide financial assistance to employees for their medical expenses without incurring regular premiums.
Additional benefits, such as AAA insurance for delivery drivers and Roth IRAs, may be feasible for more established dispensaries.
2. Actually Have Core Values
Fostering a healthy work environment that enables budtenders to excel is the goal. In addition to a passion for cannabis, budtenders desire to work for dispensaries with clear standards and uphold them.
For instance, “DO THE RIGHT THING, ALWAYS. Create a culture of transparency and honesty. Act with integrity and never compromise. Make the world a better place. Show love to every customer. Support our communities. Advocate for the planet.” – If that is your core value statement, live it daily and hold your employees to the company standard.
3. Prioritize Professional Development
Career path your employees from day one.
As a dispensary owner or manager, your primary responsibility is to facilitate the growth of your budtenders. Demonstrating your interest in their long-term career success will encourage them to stay with you, even if their career goals extend beyond your dispensary or the cannabis industry as a whole.
Start by inquiring about your budtenders’ career aspirations. For example, if one is interested in becoming a shift manager, provide an opportunity for them to shadow your best shift manager. If another desires to launch their dispensary in five years, guide them through the process and teach them what it entails. In essence, empower your budtenders to take on new responsibilities and positions that align with their ambitions.
4. Incentivize Budtenders to Stay
Budtender education is vital to a dispensary’s success. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there, so make sure your budtenders have a deep understanding of the plant and common misconceptions and stereotypes. The goal is for your customers to trust your budtenders on anything product-related. While it’s true that cannabis consumption varies by individual body chemistry, a proper cannabis enthusiast can still teach your customer how to pick a product that agrees with them.
Resources for budtender education can include books, scientific research, brochures from brands you sell, email newsletters, and online courses. Utilize all the resources available to keep your budtenders passionate about the product.
Contests within your dispensary can incentivize your staff to work faster and upsell more often. In most cases, your point-of-sale analytics should be able to help you track sales for these contests. Every contest should have a tangible reward; a gift card to a local glass shop, a vaping device or battery, etc. Make the prize the result of an attainable (but significant) sales goal. Your revenue will spike, and the commitment to that featured contest brand will follow naturally