Staffing for Success: 7 Cannabis Staffing Trends to Look Out for in 2024

Gabriela Tan
March 19, 2024

The cannabis industry is on a blazing fast track, meaning cannabis hiring is expected to follow suit. With emerging markets opening up and innovative products hitting the shelves, this rapid growth will result in many new opportunities. In a survey conducted by Vangst, 86% of surveyed cannabis companies plan to expand hiring in core areas in 2024. From cultivation science and product development to retail sales and marketing, it’s anticipated that we see a surge in demand for skilled workers across the entire cannabis supply chain this year. 

In a relatively new industry that experiences significant changes from year to year, it’s essential to keep up, and cannabis hiring trends are no exception to that. In this article, we’ll be exploring 7 key staffing trends that will shape the cannabis workforce in 2024. Let’s dive into some valuable insights to help you build your dream cannabis team. 

7 Cannabis Staffing Trends for 2024

1. Resurgence in Hiring

This year, an upward trend in M&A activities is expected due to the fast-paced growth of the cannabis industry, which is currently in the “Scale” stage of the Consolidation Curve. Simply put, the Consolidation Curve lays out a four-step consolidation path that all industries go through: Opening, Scale, Focus, and Balance & Alliance. Being in the “Scale” stage, the cannabis industry is set to see an increase in M&A activities in an attempt to achieve economies of scale through strategic partnerships. 

While this is an overall industry trend, what does it have to do with hiring? Following a period of consolidation combined with new markets developing across the US, companies are poised for significant hiring sprees in 2024. Despite the 2% drop in cannabis jobs between 2022 and 2023, the industry growth, along with the US federal government potentially rescheduling cannabis to a Schedule III drug, could result in up to 100,000 new jobs this year.

An applicant fills out a job application online amidst a surge in cannabis hiring in 2024.

2. Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I)

In most industries, DE&I typically refers to creating an inclusive workforce that includes people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations. However, in the cannabis industry, DE&I also includes those who have been affected by the injustices of the war on drugs, like individuals with prior cannabis convictions. The war on drugs disproportionately targeted minority communities, and with legalization gaining momentum, it’s time for businesses to incorporate those who have been negatively impacted. 

As the cannabis industry begins to mature, businesses are recognizing the importance of building diverse teams that reflect the communities they serve. With only 19% of cannabis business owners identifying as a person of color, the industry is due for a change. All in all, this will result in a heavier focus on social equity programs and reduce barriers to entry for marginalized groups. 

3. Rising Demand for Skilled Cannabis Workers

The expected hiring boom in the cannabis industry means that the demand for skilled workers will also be blazing hot. With 63% of hiring employers within the cannabis industry citing that relevant cannabis experience is their top criterion, competition for top talent will be fierce. When the demand for skilled labor rises, it can be difficult to retain employees due to the increase in talent poaching and job hopping. 

The journey of cannabis from seed to sale involves a variety of jobs. This includes experienced employees who work in cultivation, product development, and regulatory compliance. It can be hard to find qualified applicants, so we can also expect to see an increase in cannabis-specific training programs to develop industry knowledge. 

Two people are shaking hands, as a cannabis businesses hires a new staff member.

4. Peak Months for Cannabis Applicants

Based on data from our KayaPush State of the Industry Report, we found that dispensary hiring has seasonal trends with some months having more applicants than others. Here are the specific months to consider before publishing your next job posting:

  • Try Hiring in Early Winter: The data suggests that December 2022 to January 2023 had a significant application boom, with the highest average applicants per job posting hovering between 31.06 and 32.12 applicants per posting. 
  • Most Applicants Per Posting in November: For the past three years, November has consistently ranked in the top three highest months for applicants to job postings.
  • Do Your Bulk Hiring in August: August 2023 had the highest number of applications to date, with 83 postings and 1,939 applicants. 
  • Avoid Hiring in July: For the past two years, July had the lowest ratio of applicants per posting. 

Despite the slight decrease in cannabis jobs in 2023, the industry still saw a 54.7% year-over-year increase in overall applicants per job posting. The rising interest in cannabis jobs is a positive shift considering the expected rise in demand for skilled workers in the industry. Armed with this knowledge, you can be better prepared with the best times to hire in 2024. 

5. Time-Off Request Patterns

Most people look forward to enjoying their time off work, and budtenders are no different. Taking a look at time-off requests in 2022, August had the highest number of time-off requests, followed by July. Considering that 23% of all time-off requests that year were within these two months, it suggests a strong preference for summer vacations. Coming in third place after the summer months was December. Unsurprisingly, 46% of the time-off requests in December took place between December 23 to 31, meaning budtenders also value the time off around the Christmas holiday. In contrast, February was found to have the lowest demand for time off, followed by January and March. 

Recognizing the time-off patterns allows you to be well-equipped when it comes to managing vacation schedules, hiring temporary workers, and keeping your budtenders happy. 

A group of budtenders at the beach, highlighting the importance of time-off for cannabis staffing.

6. Emphasis on Budtender Retention

As a cannabis business owner, you may already know that high turnover can take a hit on your profits. According to data from our KayaPush State of the Industry Report, 55% of budtenders in the US and Canada had left their jobs within the first 12 months of being employed. Keeping in mind that the cost of replacing an hourly employee averages about $6,000, it can really add up over the course of a year. 

With the potential for increased talent poaching, cannabis companies will need to focus heavily on budtender retention. Some ways to increase budtender retention include offering:

  • Competitive pay and benefits
  • Training and development programs
  • Career development opportunities
  • Work-life balance
  • Recognition and rewards
  • A positive work environment

Making an effort to increase budtender job satisfaction not only reduces turnover rates and saves you money, but it also reflects in the level of service they provide. If your budget is tight and there’s no wiggle room for increased compensation, strategies like providing work-life balance and a positive work environment won’t cost you anything. 

7. Spike in Labor Organization Efforts

In 2022, the union membership rate for wage and salary workers hit an all-time low of 10.1% in the US. With more states legalizing cannabis, labor unions are seeing the rapidly growing cannabis industry as a target to increase membership. Back in 201, when only 16 states had legalized medical cannabis, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) labor union pioneered cannabis unionization with its Cannabis Workers Rising campaign. 

As cannabis sales continue to grow year over year, unionization has crept into the cannabis industry and shows no signs of slowing down. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) even has policies in place to make it easier for employees to organize. Whether you support labor unions or not, this is a trend that’s expected to stay, and it’s important to familiarize yourself with NLRB policies to avoid any legal trouble. 

Final Thoughts on Cannabis Staffing Trends in 2024

The cannabis industry is on fire this year, and gone are the days where you can easily hire employees from a newspaper ad. The talent you need is out there, but it’s crucial to stay on top of the latest cannabis hiring trends to get first pick. 

From the best times to hire to building a diverse and inclusive team, this article walked you through 7 key staffing trends to watch out for in 2024. Keep these tips in mind and put them into action to build and retain your dream team. After all, having the right people on board is the key to blazing past the competition and becoming a top player in this exciting green wave.

For more cannabis industry trends to look out for this year, download our KayaPush 2024 Industry Report

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