Dispensary Staff Training: Tips to Empower Cannabis Retail Employees

dispensary staff training

High employee turnover is a big problem for dispensaries.

According to Headset, staff turnover rates are higher in cannabis compared to other industries, leaving many retailers stuck in a costly cycle of onboarding, training, and rehiring new employees.

Yet, you'll hear some successful dispensaries boast that most of their employees have stuck around for years. How are they able to retain staff while others struggle?

Cannabis employees stay at a job when they feel inspired and bought-in to their store’s mission. Here are top tips to empower your own dispensary staff and retain them for longer.

Let your staff sample products

Just like when you visit a brewery and ask your server for beer recommendations, budtenders need to have firsthand experience with the cannabis products they sell.

The best way to improve product knowledge is to offer your staff samples. Let them try the new strain or edibles that were just dropped off so they have a complete understanding of what you sell (and why you’re selling it).

dispensary staff product samples

Increasing employee product knowledge with samples will impact staff by:

  • Helping them upsell products. It’s easy to recommend a product when you actually enjoy it. That’s more likely to be the case when budtenders are sampling top shelf items and pointing shoppers toward them.

  • Educating their customers more effectively. More than most industries, consumers look to cannabis dispensary staff for personal recommendations and advice. A culture of sampling and feedback means your employees can openly discuss effects, flavors, and features of cannabis products that otherwise can’t be conveyed to shoppers.

  • Increasing morale and motivation. Free weed is a perk for anyone in the cannabis industry. Your staff will be excited for the chance to weigh in on various strains and product types, cultivating a positive sentiment toward their job—and keeping them employed at your store.

Once everyone has tried the newest and hottest items you’re selling, encourage them to provide feedback. Because everyone has different cannabis preferences, it's valuable to have your team share their top picks and explain why.

These tactics will boost your staff to confidently recommend products based on their own or a teammate's experiences.

Leverage technology

According to a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, "Workers who say their employers use mobile technology well are typically more productive, creative, satisfied and loyal."

Budtender performance dashboards

Using a cannabis POS system with tools like Budtender Performance Dashboards and mobile analytics lets you gamify the employee experience—meaning employees can use the point of sale to see how they stack up based on data like their average cart size or total units sold.

Similarly, you can offer staff incentives like Friday off or a free eighth if they’re a top performer.

Tracking and recognizing performance is key to empowering your dispensary employees to feel important and ultimately improve their day-to-day work.

Train (and retain) from the top down

The best managers will build a positive culture across their day-to-day staff. To retain frontline workers like budtenders and receptionists, you’ll need to properly hire and train great managers.

Take a look at your dispensary organizational chart and see who’s managing who, what their strengths are, and how you can guide them to lead by example.

Ideally, your training program should encourage managers to conduct thorough budtender training and staff education from day 1, but that shouldn’t be the end. To encourage retention, improve dispensary operations, and generally raise cannabis sales, make sure employee training is regularly (every 6 months or so) scheduled.

The Budtender Training Guide

Conduct daily pre-shift meetings

Focusing on pre-shift meetings and goal-oriented communication transforms cannabis business employee connection to your products. This culture shift also creates an environment that boosts sales and supports authentic recommendations and customer rapport building.

During pre-shift meetings, a leader:

  • Sets clear expectations for the shift
  • Assigns sections
  • Designates duties
  • Communicates sales targets
  • Shares any important information
dispensary staff training

A simplified way to look at pre-shift meetings is with the concept of something we call the “Coach-In”.

The Coach-In is a brief 5-10 minute meeting between dispensary management and their staff members, where important information is shared and discussed. If you have multiple shifts, plan to have the floor leader run these as part of the shift crossover.

Here's what to include in your Coach-In:

  1. Relay KPI (Key Performance Indicator) goals, both for the store as a whole and for individual team members. Think increasing basket size by $3 or achieving 2+ units per sale.

  2. Discuss any active team incentives to keep everyone motivated and engaged. If there’s a vendor sale, make sure everyone understands the cannabis deal and has clear sales expectations.

  3. Announce new product launches to ensure the team is knowledgeable and prepared to promote them.

  4. Assign tasks and responsibilities for the day, ensuring everyone knows their role and what needs to be accomplished.

the coach in for cannabis dispensaries

The focus of the Coach-In is to get every team member engaged with daily sales goals, motivate them, and create the determination to succeed.

When everyone is aligned and working towards the same objectives, productivity improves, customer experience is enhanced, and your staff becomes more confident and satisfied. And the best part? It has a significant impact on your profitability.

Takeaways for cannabis retailers

  • Let your dispensary staff sample products regularly.

  • Gamify the budtender experience by tracking staff performance and incentivizing success.

  • Be organized and prepared for each Coach-In meeting. For example, have SOPs in place and a standard reusable sheet that is filled out by the opening leader and updated between shifts. It can include not only your KPIs, but team start times and breaks.

  • Conduct quick role-play scenarios to enhance upselling, cross-selling & add-on skills.

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Krista Raymer Headshot 1 1

Krista Raymer

CEO and Founder at Vetrina Group

Krista is an innovative, passionate business owner who drives topline growth and profitability through unique business modeling within the cannabis retail space. Her core skill sets include data analysis, developing best-in-class customer experiences, identifying operational efficiencies and driving marketplace expansion. She is also the CEO and Founder of Vetrina Group, a recognized expert in managing cross-functional teams and integrating resources across organizations.

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