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As the Coronavirus continues to spread, many companies are moving to remote work life to ensure the safety of their employees and to do their part to flatten the curve. 

However, as we know, when times are stressful, people look for ways and things to help make them feel better and to reduce overall anxiety – cannabis being near the top of the list and for those in medical states, a necessity and not a luxury. As a result, the demand for cannabis is increasing, not just maintaining. Companies within the cannabis economy will therefore have the chance to continue to face all of the same unique challenges associated with operating their businesses, and tackle some new challenges around growing their organizations with new/improved talent during a time of social distancing that makes in-person interviewing a daunting to impossible task. 

The art of interviewing and hiring in good times can be overwhelming and challenging. However, now we are now experiencing an entirely new way of vetting candidates, trying to understand and gauge personalities and cultural fits all while never actually meeting the candidate in person. As we don’t know how long social distancing will last, meeting candidates in person truly may not be an option for the foreseeable future. But, there is a silver lining.

  • This is an excellent time to take a more conscious approach to think about current human capital in place and what your human capital plans should be for the rest of the year based on where you would like to be – let’s use this time wisely. Cannabis businesses have the time now to reflect on their current human capital and whether the people they have in place are the right people moving forward. Most companies have rushed to hire and rushed to expand. Now it is time to reassess all of those hiring and talent decisions. Being forced to take this break is a positive. Carve out time during your virtual leadership meetings to challenge each other to calculate if your team currently in place matches your business goals.
  • The historical reality is that an extremely low percentage of talent relocates for their employment within the cannabis economy, so the odds of needing to fly a candidate in for interviews during normal operations were already extremely low. Apply this to where we are now, and our outlook for the foreseeable future, and take solace in the fact that an airline/hotel shutdown has little to no bearing in this particular area.
  • Cannabis companies are already trained to challenge themselves to hire locally as we are a very localized economy. For instance, most of our cannabis products cannot travel over state and country borders, so in a way, our industry has an edge in that we’ve been training all along on finding innovative solutions to old challenges or any solutions to brand new challenges.
  • We have been fortunate in the recent weeks to partner with some cannabis clients on leveraging this time of distancing to go out and elevate the talent in cases where the role grew beyond the existing talent in it, or where there was finally time to devote to filling a much-needed newly-created role.

That being said, there are a few things that can be done to make the process easier and more effective for both the candidate and the company.

Use technology to your advantage
There are many viable options for virtual and online meeting rooms such as Zoom Rooms, UberConference, good ol’ FaceTime, and Google Hangouts.  Regardless of the candidate or the company’s technology stack, there is a solution that could meet your needs. Understand that depending on the role you’re filling, candidates may not be familiar with some of this technology, and there is always a chance for systems not working as planned, so it’s essential to have a backup just in case.

Be creative with your interviewing 
Ideally, during a typical interview process, a candidate will meet with multiple team members over a series of interviews allowing the candidate and the company to really get a feel for each other. To bridge this gap in our current state of social distancing, we recommend increasing the number of virtual “touches” in your interview process, and scheduling a few different calls and have team members dial in and out for their time slot. Try scheduling calls for varying times, morning, later in the day, and possibly even during the weekend assuming that putting in some weekend work should be expected for the role. Keep in mind that video chats look and feel slightly different than real life, so you may need to spend more time online with potential candidates than you would in person.Give your hiring team, and prospects, more opportunities to get to know each virtually in more creative ways.

Use a third-party advisor
Leverage the talent and expertise of a trusted talent acquisition provider. At Hunter + Esquire, our focus is the same with or without the in-person meeting.We have spent decades expertly building deep relationships with hiring partners and talent primarily through the phone and video chat. It is completely possible to get a deep understanding of one another’s style, fit, interests, needs and dominant motivators without meeting in person. Establishing and cultivating outstanding business relationships without meeting in person may not be your ideal, but it absolutely is a possibility if approached with the right rigor and desire to do so. We’ve been successful by rarely meeting in person or even video-chatting. As we are all going to be moving even closer towards being a (completely!?) virtual world, the focus on the importance of being able to get to know people without meeting in the flesh is essential. It can, in fact, be accomplished. Trust can be created virtually – how do you do this? By using a trusted and unbiased third-party, or an experienced and devoted internal asset (i.e. in-house Talent Acquisition expertise), both sides have the peace of mind to feel confident and comfortable in the mutual selection process.

Be patient and empathetic
We all need to acknowledge that we’re dealing with something big. There are a lot of emotions including fear and anxiety worrying about loved ones, the global economy, availability of food and critical resources. We must take this time to demonstrate common courtesy and respect throughout the process. There might be cases where the hiring company or candidate needs to push or cancel the meeting to deal with a personal issue. Onboarding of new hires may not go exactly according to plan. This is an excellent opportunity for forward-thinking companies to live up to their culture and support their employees and lead by example. Take this opportunity to build bonds, strengthen relationships, build your brand, and create new retention tools by treating your people well during these difficult times.

The Coronavirus has changed how we interact and conduct business on a monumental scale, but it has not stopped us from moving forward. There are still business-critical positions to fill, i.e., Head of Finance, Head of HR, someone to head an essential operation – what are your thoughts in filling those key and needed hires in this quarantined world? Do you have an expert search partner managing the selection and interview process? By following the tips above or partnering with someone who will think creatively and will solve this new issue, you can still make the personnel changes you need to and continue to operate your business in our new reality. Hunter + Esquire is here to help if you need guidance or assistance and is offering a free consultation or assessment of your current state of business and advice going forward – looking at the business as a whole.

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