While the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on industries, the cannabis industry fared far better than other types of retailers. Last year’s 420—the cannabis industry’s major holiday—fell right in the middle of widespread lockdowns and restrictions, triggering panic-buying in the weeks prior. While actual sales on April 20, 2020, were not record-breaking like in years past, restrictions in several states have eased up this year, and with cannabis businesses deemed essential, dispensaries should prepare for a busy week.

With long hours and a seemingly endless revolving door of customers, the days preceding 420 can be anything but relaxing for budtenders and other dispensary employees. We’ve put together a list of seven tips that can help keep your staff motivated during 420.

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1. Be Honest About Expectations During 420

Working any retail job during the holidays can be very stressful, especially for the ill-prepared, and those working in a dispensary during the 420 holiday experience similar stress. One way to minimize this strain is to be honest about what your budtenders and other dispensary employees will experience during this time, especially if it is their first 420. They should all know what they signed up for, so make sure they are prepared for long hours with minimal breaks, as well as how to handle low inventory and potentially disgruntled patients and customers. Let them know how many breaks they will be able to take, how many hours they will need to work, and whether or not they might need to work overtime. Setting the expectations well ahead of time will give your employees enough advanced notice to prepare and make sure they are available physically and mentally.

2. Minimize Other Stressors in Your Dispensary

Budtenders have a tough job—not only do they have to be experts on the products they recommend to patients and customers, but they are often expected to stay current on compliance regulations, provide recommendations, identify upsell opportunities, verify proper identification, operate a register and process payments, keep their area clean and organized, take inventory and ensure the sales floor is well stocked, deal with complaints, and more—all while staying polite and professional. During busy times like around 420, ensure that budtenders can stay focused on their tasks by minimizing other stressors. Quickly recognize and take over when you notice a customer has a complaint, help keep inventory stocked, and keep your staff aware when certain products are low in stock or when other problems arise.

3. Keep Your Staff Fueled

While your staff might not be able to take many breaks, bringing in food and drinks can help keep them energized when times are busy. Think about fueling your employees with breakfast like donuts, bagels, and coffee, snacks like chips, energy bars, and fruit, and lunch or dinner like pizza or sandwiches. Providing food and drinks for your employees will eliminate the need for them to leave to purchase food, and they can spend their time actually taking a break rather than rushing around and scarfing down food. Also make sure your team is well hydrated, and bring in sodas, coffee, tea, and/or energy drinks to keep them going during long shifts.

4. Offer Incentives to Top Performers

Food and drinks are great incentives, but you should think about providing additional incentives. Offer bonuses to budtenders who generate the most upsells, your inventory specialists for keeping shelves stocked, and your front desk staff for getting customers through the door in record time. If you have more than one location, reward the dispensaries that produce the largest sales during the week. Incentives can be anything from bonuses, to gift cards, to extra paid time off, to deeper discounts on products, and can go a long way in showing your employees how much you appreciate their efforts.

5. Staff Your Cannabis Retail Location Appropriately

A common and preventable mistake cannabis retailers make is not scheduling enough people to adequately staff dispensaries to work before and during 420. If the holiday falls on a weekday, the weekend before will likely be even more busy than 420 itself, and dispensaries should be prepared for this uptick in customers. Not only should there be a suitable number of budtenders, but also front desk and backroom staff, inventory specialists, sales floor leads, and managers. With an increase in deliveries and curbside pickup orders since the pandemic began, having enough people to manage fulfillment for these orders is just as crucial as having enough budtenders for walk-ins. The same goes with front desk employees. Scheduling a sufficient amount of people at the front checking in patients and customers, creating new profiles, validating IDs, adding customers to the queue, and fielding questions can keep the flow of traffic running smoothly—meaning less wait time and happier customers.

6. Ensure Your Processes Are in Place and Are Conveyed to Staff Members

One crucial way to ensure your operation is running smoothly for 420 and during any other time is to have processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place. Train your staff on these processes as part of your new hire onboarding so that they know what to do when your dispensary gets busy. In addition to your regular processes, you should also cover what to do in situations like:

  • Emergencies
  • Power outages
  • Software outages
  • Disgruntled customers
  • Theft

Schedule a pre-shift meeting for all employees to go over these procedures and ensure that everyone is aware of where they need to be and what they need to be doing.

7. Start New 420 Traditions

Another way to keep employees motivated is to implement 420 traditions. Whether it’s throwing a post-holiday party, creating a game of 420 bingo, playing trivia with customers in the waiting room, or offering special employee discounts, creating traditions that employees look forward to can help ease the stress of this especially busy season.

With 420 fast approaching, if you haven’t already prepared ways to keep your dispensary employees motivated, now is the time to come up with a game plan. Keeping the atmosphere as stress free, fun, and rewarding as possible can go a long way in keeping your staff happy and retaining employees in the long run.

Wurk automates processes associated with people management with an all-in-one solution created specifically for the cannabis industry. From payroll to human resources to scheduling and badge tracking, Wurk can help keep your employees happy on 420 and beyond. 

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