For many cannabis retailers, finding budtenders is a friends-and-family exercise. They first consider people they know, and more often than not are able to find a suitable candidate among friends and relatives looking for a job and excited to get into the business.
That’s good for a year or two, until you run out of people in your immediate circle. And while they may provide a loyal employee base, loyalty is often overshadowed by the interpersonal baggage that they bring to the job.
About the time most retailers need to move away from family-and-friends phase, they graduate to circulating budtenders. These are budtenders who get their first job in cannabis, gain some experience and a little training, then start to look around for a better opportunity in the industry—sometimes because they are disillusioned with their employer, and sometimes because their employers are disillusioned with them.
Many retailers get stuck in the circulation phase. Store managers look for budtenders ready to move from their first job to their second, or second to third, which looks like a good deal…at least on the surface. By hiring an “experienced” budtender, retailers expect they can save some training time and expense, as well as be more confident that the new budtenders know what they’re in for and, because the work suits them, they’re less likely to leave.
The problem with these recruiting models is that they emphasize the ease of finding candidates over the hard work of hiring budtenders with the skills, attitudes and dedication to be great budtenders and outstanding employees.
So, if you can’t hire friends and family or circulating budtenders, how do you find your next budtender? It’s important to start with a clear understanding of what you’re looking for and the role that experience plays, compared to intangibles like ability and attitude.
Experience: Hiring experienced budtenders isn’t a bad thing by itself. But research tells us that the average manager places too much emphasis on experience when making a hiring decision. Just because someone has been a budtender for six months doesn’t mean they’re necessarily good at it, or that they’ll be a good budtender in your shop. In fact, some store managers avoid hiring experienced budtenders because they believe it’s easier to teach someone how to be a budtender than to try to correct the bad habits they’ve picked up from previous jobs.
But as long as you keep experience in perspective and don’t overvalue it, there are benefits to be gained from hiring experienced people. They understand the job and won’t be surprised by the pace, mental rigor, customer interaction or being a part of an industry that has a stigma to some. They also bring some product knowledge, which is one of the most difficult and time-consuming areas to train to proficiency. Experience can be valuable, but by itself it’ll never make a lethargic, uninterested, preoccupied or customer service-challenged individual a great budtender.
Attitude: Hiring for attitude is a given today, for any job. Progressive employers understand that the attitude employees bring to the job every day is one of the most important factors in their contribution. But how do you measure attitude in budtender candidates? There are pre-employment assessments you can purchase and give to candidates such as this one from The Hire Talent or this one from HRdirect.
But you’ll want to check with your attorney and talk to the test vendor about the legal risk of using them. Whether or not you use an assessment, you’ll also want to hone your interviewing skills so you can learn first-hand about a candidate’s attitude during the interview. A book that can help you with that is Hiring for Attitude by Mark Murphy.
Abilities: Much is said about hiring budtenders who are naturally good at customer service—and for good reason. Building rapport with customers is critical to provide them with a good experience and to engender confidence so they will buy products from you. But budtenders need other abilities as well, such as the mental acuity to deal with the challenges of the job. Budtending requires deep knowledge of scores of products on the tip of the tongue, instant recall of dozens of rules and regulations, and the math skills to convert wildly different measurements into common equivalencies so they don’t sell more than the allowable amount to a customer.
Many retailers put the burden of this task onto their point-of-sale systems. It’s true that most POS systems compute equivalencies and flag oversales, but that’s not enough. If you don’t know the customer has too much product until you enter them into the POS, you’ll look like an amateur. Good budtenders have the math ability to compute equivalencies on the fly so they don’t get to the register with an oversale.
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