Raises, professional development courses boost cannabis workers’ morale during COVID-19 pandemic

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In states where cannabis businesses have been deemed essential, employees at many companies are being asked to continue working, putting themselves at risk of infection from the coronavirus.

In response, their employers are taking a variety of measures to keep up morale.

Some of the morale-boosting measures companies are taking include:

  • Giving bonuses and raises.
  • Handing out gift cards.
  • Increasing internal communication and breaking down silos.
  • Implementing safety measures to protect employees.
  • Offering education and training courses.
  • Reimbursing employees for transportation costs.
  • Engaging ownership and management in day-to-day operations.

Showing employees the money

Jushi Holdings, a multistate marijuana and hemp operator based in Boca Raton, Florida, has given its retail and dispensary employees a $2-an-hour raise.

Salaried management employees also receive an extra $2 an hour for time spent in dispensaries or retail stores. 

Jushi’s Pennsylvania dispensaries don’t have parking lots, so employees take public transportation to work, said Nicole Upshaw, the company’s vice president of human resources.

When employees heard that police would not arrest people for nonviolent crimes, they no longer felt safe taking public transportation.

So Jushi started covering Uber rides to get its employees to work and back home – a practice it has continued to reduce the chances of employees contracting COVID-19 on public transportation. 

The company also has sent boxed meals and cookies with a note thanking its employees for working during the pandemic.

Coming Soon cannabis employee incentive, Raises, professional development courses boost cannabis workers’ morale during COVID-19 pandemic
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“You’ve got to think of little ways to surprise and delight them,” Upshaw said. “We’re making sure we’re constantly thanking them for what they’re doing and remind them of the purpose we all serve.”

Anna Shreeve, managing partner at Seattle marijuana retailer The Bakeréé, said many of her employees are afraid of working so she’s giving bonuses to those who work a full two-week pay period.

“We have diligently worked through various employee issues like day care, high-risk household members and a variety of other personal reasons that impact work coverage,” Shreeve said. “This is the least we can do to address these difficult times.”

Providing free samples, Netflix subscriptions

Seed & Smith, a vertically integrated cannabis company in Denver, is providing its entire team with samples from production and processing on a weekly basis, CEO Brooks Lustig said. 

“We have always had fun, as a team, discussing these genetics and concentrates, so we are hoping this will keep that conversation going,” Lustig said.

“It also helps staff that require cannabis as medicine to not have to worry about that cost right now.”

To incentivize the stay-at-home policy, Seed & Smith is providing employees with a Netflix subscription to keep them indoors and “up to date on the ‘Tiger King’ (miniseries),” Lustig said. 

“While there are certainly costs associated with these incentives and programs, Seed & Smith is currently only interested in keeping employees safe and healthy during this crisis,” Lustig said.

“Anything we can do to make our team safer and potentially happier is not only smart business but the right thing to do.”

Increasing communication

Oakland, California-based Vertosa, which makes active ingredients for infused product manufacturers, has switched its meeting schedule to higher frequency and shorter duration in an effort to keep its team engaged, CEO Ben Larson said. 

“No. 1 is keeping the human connection,” he said. “It’s really easy to downward spiral if you think too much.

“We’re not working people harder but keeping people engaged and on task.”

Vertosa also has been hosting virtual happy hours and rewarding employees who are working in the lab with $250 gift cards to places that suit their personalities and lifestyles – Nike for the runner and Best Buy for the tech enthusiast.

Offering professional development

Vertosa also is encouraging its employees to use their downtime to take professional development classes and training courses such as ServSafe Food Handler certification.

Larson said the company is spending an average of $1,000 a year on various classes for each of its 15 employees.

“We tell them, ‘Let us know what interests you, and within reason, the company will back you,’” he said. 

Zion, Illinois-based Lifted Made, a producer of CBD-infused products and devices with about 20 employees, is encouraging self-care and professional development by giving its staff books, founder and CEO Nick Warrender said.

“We’re encouraging them to have a morning routine, to eat well and rest well,” Warrender said. “When it’s time to go, we’re going to be firing on all cylinders.”

At Oakland, California-based Nug, a vertically integrated cannabis business with dispensaries in Sacramento and San Leandro, making sure all employees know they’re needed is one of the keys to boosting morale, Chief Business Officer Michael Werner said.

The coronavirus pandemic also has helped to break down silos between employees and their job duties. 

“We have the grow team, then we’ve got the lab team, and they don’t (interact),” Werner said. “The packaging team is all Chinese, and they don’t speak English.

“Some of the lab team is helping the packaging team, and executives are helping in the grow. It’s breaking down borders internally, and people are seeing different parts of the company. That’s pretty cool.”

Margaret Jackson can be reached at margaretj@mjbizdaily.com

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.