The 3-Step People-First Strategy for Cultivating Growth in the Cannabis Industry

Jessica Cranney
September 6, 2023

In the competitive landscape of the cannabis industry, your dispensary's most valuable asset isn't your product range, branding, or even your location — it's your people. 


In this article, we’ll outline a 3-step people-first approach tailored for dispensaries, focusing on attracting top talent, developing high-performing leaders, and retaining them for long-term success.

Step 1: Attract Top Talent to Your Dispensary

In this first step, we focus on the strategies and best practices to attract the best talent to your dispensary. The goal is to fill your team with individuals who are not only skilled but who are also a good fit for your company culture.

Why It's Important

Attracting top talent is crucial for the long-term success and stability of your dispensary. Here’s why:

  • Team Impact: Vacant roles can create internal disarray, affecting morale and productivity.
  • Customer Experience: Unfilled positions can lead to longer wait times and missed sales opportunities.
  • Brand Reputation: A strong team can elevate your dispensary's reputation, leading to increased customer loyalty and trust.

Understanding the importance of attracting top talent sets the stage for implementing effective recruitment strategies.

How to Do it Better

To attract the best talent, you need a well-planned and efficient recruitment process. Here are a few steps to improve recruitment: 

  • Streamlined Interview Process: Make your interview process comprehensive yet time-efficient. Before you start hiring, you should know how many rounds of interviews you will conduct, which questions you will ask, and your desired traits for new hires. When you have a structured interview process, you can hire more efficiently, make a better first impression on candidates, and manage timelines and expectations for everyone involved. For more details, check out our article on 24 must-ask budtender interview questions and 7 tips to enhance your recruitment process.
  • Employee Referral Program: Leverage your existing budtenders as advocates for your dispensary by offering incentives for successful referrals. An effective referral program can be one of the most reliable recruitment tools, as your current employees understand the company culture and can recommend like-minded individuals.
  • Managerial Recruitment: Recruiting the right manager for your dispensary is paramount. Start by clearly outlining the specific responsibilities and qualifications required for the role. It's essential to find candidates who not only have the necessary skills but also align with your dispensary's values and culture. This ensures a harmonious work environment and effective leadership. For in-depth insights, read our guide on hiring a dispensary manager.

Implementing these strategies effectively will set the foundation for a strong, cohesive team that can drive your dispensary's success.

A person is interviewing for a position with a people-first cannabis company.

Step 2: Develop High-Performing Leaders in Your Dispensary

In this second stage, we delve into the importance of nurturing your existing talent into high-performing leaders. Leadership development is crucial for long-term success and sustainability.

Why It's Important

Developing leaders within your organization is essential for fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Here’s why:

  • Employee Engagement: Investing in your team's professional growth shows your commitment to them.
  • Sales Growth: Well-trained employees contribute to better customer service and increased sales.
  • Organizational Resilience: Strong leadership helps the dispensary adapt to market changes and regulatory shifts effectively.

Developing leaders within your organization not only boosts performance but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

How to Do it Better

To develop high-performing leaders, you need to set clear expectations and provide ongoing training. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Clear Expectations: Setting clear expectations is paramount for any business, especially in the fast-paced world of dispensaries. By creating a Standard Operating Playbook tailored for dispensaries, you provide a comprehensive guide that outlines the procedures, standards, and best practices. This playbook ensures that every team member, from budtenders to managers, knows exactly what is expected of them. When everyone is on the same page and understands their roles and responsibilities, it reduces confusion, increases efficiency, and fosters a harmonious work environment.
  • Ongoing Training: The cannabis industry is ever-evolving, with new strains, products, and legislations emerging regularly. As such, regular training programs are essential to keep your staff updated and informed. By investing in your employees' skills and knowledge, you're not only enhancing their capabilities but also ensuring that your dispensary remains competitive and compliant. Our article on 8 ways budtender training can increase dispensary growth provides valuable insights.
  • Career Advancement: Employee retention and motivation are crucial for the long-term success of any business. One way to achieve this is by providing clear pathways for career growth within the dispensary. When employees see that there are opportunities for advancement, they are more likely to stay committed and motivated in their roles. For more, listen to our podcast episode on recruiting, training, and retaining top talent in the cannabis industry.

By focusing on these areas, you're not just retaining talent; you're also building future leaders who can take your dispensary to new heights.

Employees at a people-first company are in a training and development class.

Step 3: Retain High-Performing Leaders in Your Dispensary

In this final step, we explore how to keep your high-performing leaders engaged and committed to your dispensary for the long haul. Retention is the key to maintaining a stable and effective team.

Why It's Important

Retaining high-performing leaders is key to maintaining a stable and effective team. Here’s why:

  • Productivity: There's a direct correlation between tenure and productivity.
  • Financial Impact: The cost of replacing a budtender or manager can be substantial, costing a dispensary up to $90,000 annually.
  • Cultural Continuity: Retaining leaders ensures the preservation and propagation of your dispensary's unique culture and values.

Retention is not just about keeping employees; it's about keeping the right employees who add value to your dispensary.

How to Do it Better

To retain your top talent, focus on creating a work environment that supports their holistic well-being. Here’s how you can improve your processes:

  • Signature Moves: Every dispensary has the potential to stand out by creating its own signature initiatives that enhance the workplace experience. These unique initiatives could range from organizing memorable team outings that foster camaraderie to implementing special recognition programs. Such programs not only celebrate exceptional performance, but also motivate others to strive for excellence, creating a positive and competitive work environment.
  • Consistency: In any business maintaining consistency in policies and practices is paramount. Employees greatly value a work environment where they can anticipate what's expected — from consistency in responsibilities to regularity in their hours and schedule. Consistency provides structure, stabilitiy, and comfort, while decreasing workplace anxiety. Our article 7 tips to increase budtender retention dives deeper into the importance of consistency and offers actionable strategies to ensure that employees feel secure and valued in their roles.
  • Employee Well-being: A successful dispensary recognizes the importance of its employees' holistic well-being. This encompasses not just their physical health, but also their mental health and their work-life balance. By prioritizing and investing in these aspects, dispensaries can ensure that their employees feel genuinely cared for. This, in turn, fosters loyalty and commitment. For more, listen to our podcast on the four fundamental pillars of employee retention.

By implementing these retention strategies, you're investing in the long-term success and stability of your dispensary.

An employee is being celebrated by her colleagues.

Final Thoughts on Implementing a People-First Strategy

In the cannabis industry, where regulations are stringent and customer expectations are high, your people make all the difference. By focusing on attracting top talent, developing high-performing leaders, and retaining them, you're not just building a team — you're building a culture. A culture that is authentic, engaged, and committed to excellence.


Start building your dispensary's organizational vibe today. Identify one initiative for each of the three steps and commit to bringing it to life. Remember, success in the cannabis industry is all about growing others.


For assistance in recruitment and finding the right talent for your dispensary, connect with GRN Mile High. And if you're aiming to streamline people management and enhance employee engagement, KayaPush is an excellent resource. Let's cultivate success together!

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September 2023

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