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The Real Cost of Onboarding Budtenders

The Real Cost of Onboarding Budtenders

people Feb 12, 2024

Great budtenders drive successful dispensaries. 

Hiring the wrong budtender can cost you more than time and money. It can shift the overall vibe of your team and the customer experience. 

These become costly mistakes.

The biggest curve ball is that the cannabis industry sees a higher rate of employee turnover than any other industry. According to Headset, 25% of newly hired budtenders turnover within their first 30 days in the US and Canada. 

How can you stay agile in your hiring and onboarding process to ensure your investment works for you? 

Let’s dig into it. 

The Real Cost of Hiring and Onboarding Budtenders

Have you made a poor investment if you invest in a budtender and they don't deliver?

The cost of onboarding a new budtender in cannabis retail hovers around $7,000. 

You have to think critically about your potential new hires and ask: would you trust them with that investment? They'd have to make a profit to be worthwhile for the business. Could they increase that investment to $10,000?

Hiring a budtender costs more than just their wages— It’s multifaceted. Expenses like recruiting and training add up quickly.

There are 5 buckets of expenses to consider when hiring 

You can break down the expenses that come with hiring a new budtender by filling them into 5 distinct buckets: 

  1. Wages
  2. Payroll taxes and benefits
  3. Recruiting, training and hiring costs
  4. Information technology costs
  5. Director Overhead and Admin Support


Evaluating each bucket's expenses helps you understand the real cost of one budtender and evaluate whether it's the right financial move.

Assessing the Hard and Soft Costs

​​When calculating the cost of hiring and onboarding a new budtender, you need to break it down further to consider both hard and soft costs. 

  • Hard costs are easy to calculate. They are the tangible expenses associated with hiring— the 5 buckets you break them down into. 

Hard costs eat at about 30-40% of your initial hiring investment and will only fluctuate based on the role you are hiring for (salary vs hourly.)

  • Soft costs are trickier since they're harder to measure. Soft costs aren’t tangible but are directly connected to the time and resources spent to train and onboard a new hire, the impact on team morale, integration into the role, and loss of productivity. 

Soft costs account for the biggest chunk of your investment at 60% and can increase the longer it takes to find the right person to fill a role. 

Getting Onboarding Right is Key

Onboarding is more than just a step in hiring; it's the foundation of a budtender's journey. An engaging start is crucial as it can directly affect how long they stay with you.

It's a common missed opportunity for cannabis retailers to treat the onboarding process as a one-time event instead of an ongoing process. 

High turnover in cannabis retail often comes down to insufficient training. Remember, the quality of your onboarding in the first 90 days is vital to both the employee's success and your investment.

Many cannabis retailers miss the mark by treating onboarding as a one-off rather than a continuous process. 

Generally, it takes a new budtender up to 90 days to hit their stride—if training wanes after the first month, it can take even longer.

Consistent support, training, and guidance during this period are crucial for them to realize their full potential. Regular check-ins, performance reviews, and opportunities for skill development. 

Investing in your new budtenders' growth and development during this period maximizes their productivity and long-term retention.

What Should I Cover in Onboarding?

An exceptional onboarding process unfolds in four key stages conducted within the initial 30 days. 

These stages are pivotal in ensuring your new team members seamlessly transition into their roles and feel supported immediately. 

Let's delve into each stage for a closer examination:

  • Preboarding: Lay the groundwork for success even before day one. Equip new hires with essential paperwork, software access, and the employee handbook, setting the stage for a strong start.
  • First day: Day one is all about acclimatization and connection. Engage in an immersive, in-person orientation that dives deep into company culture, values, and role expectations, fostering a sense of belonging from the start.
  • First week: Here, the focus is on fundamental retail training covering crucial aspects such as processes, cannabis knowledge, and sales techniques. By the week's end, new hires should feel proficient and confident in their place within the business.
  • First month: The initial month is a critical phase, demanding sustained engagement. Regular check-ins, feedback loops, and tailored training sessions are essential at this juncture. Addressing challenges and celebrating victories is key to cementing their confidence and integration within the team.

By covering these four onboarding stages, you’ve created a comprehensive program that sets your new hires up for success and helps them feel valued and supported.  

The Onboarding Checklist 

There is an overwhelming amount of information that incoming budtenders must consume. 

That’s where a well-structured onboarding checklist is invaluable. 

Think of it as your roadmap to navigate through the crucial first 90 days — a period of essential training and assimilation for any newcomer in the retail space. 

It paves the way for setting clear objectives and monitoring milestones while thoroughly covering each step in your training protocol. 

It also fosters a synchronized rhythm of communication and teamwork between you and your budding employee. 

This checklist becomes the backbone of a coherent and goal-aligned initiation by dissecting the onboarding journey into bite-sized, achievable tasks.

Want more insights on being a great leader for your team? Check out our blog on 5 Tips to Build a High-Performance Cannabis Retail Team.

Where to Start

Onboarding budtenders is a strategic investment that goes beyond dollars and cents. 

In the cannabis industry's landscape of high turnover, the true cost encompasses not just wages and taxes but also the intangible resources and time involved.

A robust onboarding process is crucial, particularly within the critical first 90 days. Through a well-structured program with regular support in the initial month, new hires are positioned for success. The use of an onboarding checklist facilitates task and goal management, ensuring seamless communication.

Understanding the financial and soft/intangible aspects of onboarding empowers cannabis retailers to optimize their retention rates in a fiercely competitive industry.


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