Temp Staffing, Production and Sales Highlight A Year Of Hiring In The US Cannabis Market

Despite disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the legal marijuana market survived — or even thrived — throughout 2020 as an essential service.

As such, both temporary and permanent hirings surged in the weeks and months after quarantine orders were first put in place.

By March, staffing agencies reported nearly 100% increases in temp hirings.

In July, Marijuana Business Daily forecasted that employment could grow 50% during 2020 — surpassing computer programmers in the process. By 2024, the legal U.S. market could support between 470,000 and 575,000 full-time jobs.

There were also waves of layoffs — hundreds at a time in some instances — from companies such as Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE:ACB), Canopy Growth Corp. (NASDAQ:CGC) and Medmen Enterprises Inc. (OTCQX:MMNFF). Despite those setbacks, cannabis staffing experts say jobs across the industry were in-demand in 2020.

Production Jobs Top The List In 2020

Several cannabis staffing professionals say that production jobs were in-demand this year.

With production serving as a broad term for the market, staffing agents highlighted roles in cultivation, trimming, manufacturing, processing and packaging.

Vangst Talent Management Expert Spencer Peters says the pandemic affected how companies approached operations.

“While the industry depends on the plant, we truly saw companies combating the pandemic by shoring up their internal processes as much as possible,” Peters says.

Viridian Staffing CEO Kara Bradford agreed that production roles, like extractions and cultivation, were plentiful. She noted that an increase in cultivation tends to occur annually. However, this year saw the trend happen sooner than its usual late-January start.

Revenue Generation Hiring Varied

Sales and marketing roles were also in-demand, according to Hemp Staff CEO James Yagielo.

Gabby Pavelko, the co-founder of the recently launched cannabis consulting community Good People, agreed.

She discussed the importance of sales and business development in the space.

“Even when teams have holes in operations or other key areas, they find they must sell product to stay afloat and appease investors,” Pavelko says.

The team at Vangst Talent did not see the same from sales roles this past year, though it didn’t fall entirely off the radar.

“We saw a pretty large dip in revenue-generation hiring, like sales and marketing, in the first half of the year, but it never fully went away, and it is already bouncing back,” Peters said.

Additional In-Demand Cannabis Roles In 2020

A bevy of additional roles were in-demand in 2020, including dispensary management and staff positions especially as the legal market began to grow.

Senior management positions continued to be a priority as cannabis brands seek to gain expertise from leaders in other industries.

“In 2020, we saw an increasing flow of senior management moving to cannabis from other industries including consumer packaged goods, biotech, food and beverage, retail, financial services and pharmaceutical,” said Cannabiz Team founder Liesl Bernard.

Ancillary industries continued to see strong demand as well, with IT and accounting joining sales and marketing.

Temporary work also surged from the early days of the pandemic.

“Temp workers have been in high demand as an affordable solution for businesses adjusting to new regulations or dealing with health-related absences,” Bernard added.

The pandemic also forced companies to bring in temp staff for various roles due to COVID-19 exposure concerns. Companies held off on full-time hirings until they could better assess the market’s pandemic outcome, Bradford explained.

“As COVID infections are spiking once again, we’re seeing another resurgence in demand for temporary staffing,” she added.

Inclusion: Companies Must Tweak Practices, Hire Diverse Talent

The industry also made an effort to improve inclusion. Yagielo suggested that more states follow in Illinois’ lead when it comes to social equity parameters.

“Inclusion is starting to come around, but many kinks still need to be worked out to make it successful nationwide in the cannabis [and] hemp industry,” he said.

Viridian’s Bradford, however, says the market fell short on its efforts.

“I believe companies are more cognizant that they should consider being more inclusive in their hiring practices, but in 2021 they will need to learn how to take this awareness and make it a part of their interview process,” she said.

Companies should enact additional hiring measures in 2021, such as guaranteeing that each role has a diverse group of interviewees before a decision is made, she added.

“Making this one tweak can open your company up to a lot of great talent,” Bradford says.

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