Elevating the HR Conversation in the Cannabis Industry

by Carolyn Taylor

Elevating the HR Conversation in the Cannabis Industry

I recently attended our first virtual tradeshow hosted by MJUnpacked. It was an interesting experience that I wasn’t sure was going to give us enough “bang for our buck”.  I was wrong. The format of the show allowed us, the exhibitors, to participate in the sessions the show offered. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear the voices of our clients. I’ll recap some of our key takeaways as they relate to our particular industry, human capital management.

While providing full-service, MRB-compliant payroll is still a hot topic, it was refreshing for this HCM industry veteran to hear people talking about the more strategic aspects of human capital management and the challenges they face today:

Employee Retention is Hard

With more than 243,000 employees working in the legal cannabis industry and the pace at which the industry is expanding, retaining employees is proving to be challenging. Employees are more focused than ever on work/life balance and new opportunities are omnipresent for them to jump to a more convenient work location or more flexible schedules. As strong brands continue to emerge, employee turnover is rampant. And while it may not be outright poaching, by simply offering a new or different experience, your competitors may be attracting the employees you trained and developed. More employers are seeking ways to stay connected through high-touch (personal interaction) and high-tech (tech they expect) means to meet the demand for frequent feedback and self-directed development.

Company Culture

Company culture is more than company perks.  Culture is the “feeling” of your organization and the day-to-day behaviors that all of your employees see from their peers and their leaders. Culture can happen organically, but it may not be the culture you want.  Culture is based on your values, your vision, and should be defined by you before it’s defined for you. A defined and successful positive culture will attract and retain talent. It should give your employees a mission – the “why” beyond just a paycheck. Your culture can be the biggest differentiator to compete for the best talent in the market.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Another hot topic at the MJUnpacked show was DEI in the cannabis industry. There was a lot of conversation around DEI for ownership and entrepreneurs entering the industry, but it was also noted that leading business and HR leaders are also thinking about DEI within the company ranks. Chief Diversity Officers are not a new concept but adding Equity and Inclusion into the equation requires new thinking.  Today, many companies hire to the cultural fit (this person is like us), while leading companies are hiring to cultural contribution (this person adds to us). This does not mean you should hire people who don’t share similar values to your company; it does means looking at how a candidate’s skills, experiences or perspectives can add value to the existing mix of employees.  Just imagine the fresh ideas that could come from this!

If you aren’t already thinking about your retention, culture and DEI strategies, knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. However, the time spent focusing and building out processes and practices will increase your team’s engagement with your mission; and add to your bottom line:

  • Increased engagement leads to employees who enjoy the work they are doing and are more productive; and highly engaged teams are significantly more profitable.
  • Your company will realize significantly better retention when employees are engaged since they tend to stay longer, thus lowering the cost of turnover.
  • Engaged employees are more satisfied employees who recommend their company to others giving you an opportunity to source candidates that can quickly make a positive impact on your business.

Beyond traditional payroll and HR, Paragon’s human capital management technology provides tools to support your broader talent management initiatives. Our suite of solutions enables you to find and hire the right mix of talent that will set your brand apart.  Once on board, clarity of purpose is managed by cascading your company values and goals to your team while staying in touch with social-centric solutions for employee collaboration. Reinforcing, recognizing, and rewarding the right employee behaviors becomes much simpler resulting in the ability to execute effective development plans for your valuable high-potential employees.

It all starts with a conversation.


Carolyn Taylor has served as VP of Advisory Services since September 2014. With over 25 years’ experience in human capital management, working with companies of all sizes to evaluate and implement payroll, human resources and talent management processes and technology solutions, Carolyn is particularly interested in helping her clients improve operational effectiveness, addressing the ever-changing compliance challenges they face, and transforming the role of HR.