High employee turnover is always a problem for retail managers, but what about employee turnover in cannabis retail? Also known as “budtenders,” cannabis retail employees are the frontline of the cannabis industry. They are the people customers most interact with. A good budtender can tell you what strains are suitable for what, which are the most popular, which are the tastiest terpenes etc.
Headset as compiled data to explore employee turnover in cannabis retail outlets. Headset is a cannabis analytics firm. Their data comes from real-time sales reporting linked to cannabis retailers via their point-of-sale systems. For employee turnover in cannabis retail, they compiled data from Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State. They also pulled data from Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan.
They found in Canada and the US that 55% of budtenders will quit by the end of their first year. In Canada, nearly a third of employees were hired and quit in the same year. The situation is even worse for Colorado and Oregon retailers with lower retention.
In both countries, a quarter of all budtenders hired in the past year didn’t survive the first four weeks on the job. That said, the budtenders who are good at their job and enjoy it are still working.
Employee Turnover in Cannabis Retail
In Canada and the US, most budtenders who worked in the past year were also hired in the last year. Employers hired only 40% of employees more than a year ago.
As one can see from the graph, about 55% of budtenders in both Canada and the US will quit within their first 12 months. Employee turnover trends are higher in Canadian cannabis retail, but this is a slight increase compared to the US.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, in 2021, the turnover rate for all industries was 47.2%. This means employee turnover in cannabis retail is higher than the US national average.
Budtenders hired more than 12 months ago have identical turnover rates in the US and Canada. About 60% of them left the industry last year. The similarities are present with new hires as well. In Canada, about 54% of new hires quit, and 50% of American new hires turned over.
A third (32.5%) of all Canadian budtenders who started work sometime in the last year had left before their first 12 months were up.
Individual Markets & Budtenders Bell Curves
We can see the specifics of employee turnover in cannabis retail by breaking down the data into individual markets. Retailers in Illinois, for example, are better at retaining their experienced budtenders for more than 12 months, with 55% of cannabis retail employees hired more than a year ago.
In contrast, retailers in Colorado and Oregon have a more challenging time holding onto their employees. Budtenders in these states tend to start and quit their employment within 12 months.
In Canada, employee turnover in cannabis retail suffers the same fate. However, Alberta is an anomaly. Although they have better retention among new employees, they’ve lost more experienced budtenders than other Canadian provinces have.
Despite employee turnover in cannabis retail averaging 55%, stores with low turnover rates still exist. In Canada and the US, approximately 20% of stores had annual turnover rates lower than 40%. But, to be fair, more than 30% of stores in both countries had turnover rates greater than 60%.
In conclusion, employee retention is a challenge for the cannabis industry, particularly in cannabis retail.
What’s Happening with Employee Turnover in Cannabis Retail?
Cannabis retailers would be wise to emphasize efficient new hire training programs because of how frequently they need to be used. In both countries, for budtenders hired in the last year, only 49% are still working in the US, and 46% in Canada.
A quarter of budtenders (23% in the US, 24% in Canada) never even complete their first month on the job.
That said, good budtenders are likely to stick around. This trend isn’t surprising, as people who are good at their job tend to stick with it. As well, many budtenders rely on tips. So those who are more agreeable, extroverted, and conscientious will do better. Likewise, those who enjoy budtending but aren’t as successful with customers may grow resentful and quit due to how efficient other budtenders are.
That said, hiring managers would be wise to flesh out the reasons for high employee turnover in cannabis retail. And then implement strategies to keep trained employees around, as constant hiring and training is costly and time-consuming.