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Staffing Strategies for Startup or Expansion

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Part two focuses on how to properly staff your extraction facility once you’ve decided on a plan. Once your extraction facility is operational it will need to be filled with full time employees. With the proper plan in place you can hire a top notch team to execute on your extraction production strategy.

Part 2 – Staffing Strategies for Startup or Expansion

Before you can make decisions regarding full-time staff, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive business and production plan in place. Rushing into the hiring phase will cost your company money. After all, how can you hire the right people without first getting clear about your objectives? Determine how you’ll enter the market and your long-term goals, and develop your staffing plan to support those goals.

Develop Your Staffing Plan

The first step to developing an effective staffing plan is to create an organizational chart. An org chart will give you a view of the big picture, allowing you to see where all of the pieces fall into place.

Determine your different processing departments and their hierarchy, including how many staff members will work in the processing facility. Generally speaking, the more products you produce and the larger the scale of your operation, the more skilled staff and specialized roles you will require.

Before you start interviewing and hiring, it’s also important to define how success will be measured for the new hires in the near and long term. It’s important to develop accurate job descriptions which lay out all the responsibilities that a new hire will have. Without doing this it  can lead to many issues which jeopardize your long term success. In many cases skilled staff and the companies they work for will part ways too soon because the two parties weren’t in agreement upfront. 

Some of the most significant roles to include in your org chart include:

  • Director/Manager of Extraction
  • Production Manager
  • Analytical Chemist
  • Process Engineer
  • Formulations Chemist
  • Engineering & Maintenance Manager
  • Packaging and Fulfillment Manager
  • METRC/Inventory Control Manager

These are skilled roles that will require particular expertise. In an extensive facility, the majority of these roles will be individualized. In smaller operations, you may need to consolidate the responsibilities of multiple functions into a single job description.

Once you have mapped out the roles in your operation, decide which positions require previous experience in the cannabis industry. These roles tend to be harder to fill and come at a competitive salary.

Tips for Finding and Evaluating Talent for a Processing Facility

After determining your production and staffing strategies, you’ll need to start finding and evaluating talent. 

Searching the Market

Some of the standard search methods include:

  • Active Recruitment: At Hunter + Esquire, we have extensive expertise in recruiting for the cannabis industry and previous experience with other highly-regulated industries. We also maintain quality connections within the cannabis industry and know where to find the best talent. Our retained search model is particularly effective, allowing us to find and shortlist the best available talent in the market and continue searching until the role is filled.
  • Job Postings: Posting on job search websites and forums can be effective for finding available and interested people. Posting is a passive search method and depends on potential candidates actively searching and finding your ad. Due to the nature of these sites, you may not get enough qualified candidates to choose from. This problem has been compounded throughout the pandemic. Candidates seem harder to find than ever in these post-Covid days. Companies are getting loads of no-shows, no callbacks, and generally unresponsive people.
  • Referrals: Getting referrals from trusted sources can be a great way to find the talent you can depend on. While personal recommendations are helpful in narrowing down your search, you are limited in the number of candidates you can find with this method.

Industries with Beneficial Experience

There are a lot of industries with skilled talent that you can pull from, including:

  • Food
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Biotech
  • Oil & Natural Gas
  • Petrochemicals
  • Craft Brewing + Distilling

Many individuals from these industries have significant experience working under strict regulations. They’ve learned industry best practices that can easily transfer to the cannabis industry. These people can offer valuable insight in improving safety, quality, and reliability. They can also build the infrastructure to support consistent production across multiple lab facilities governed by different sets of regulations.

Evaluating Talent

It’s important to understand how to evaluate talent within the cannabis industry. A considerable debate that rages is education vs. experience. Should you choose a candidate with excellent science and/or engineering education? Or should you choose someone who has more experience working in a cannabis processing facility? With any hire, you will have some trade-offs with their expertise. You need to determine what is more critical for the role. 

In general, cannabis-experienced individuals are able to contribute more right off the bat because they’ve spent time in a relevant processing facility. They bring product knowledge, understand the market, and know what your target customers are looking for. They also have more experience with operating the processing equipment. 

Candidates with science or engineering backgrounds tend to have more long-term potential to contribute to your lab facility. These professionals will know more about developing the infrastructure to produce a product consistently and at scale. 

In many cases pairing people from both backgrounds enables great, productive collaboration. Experienced cannabis operations handle a lot of the production responsibilities, while those with a science background work with executives, regulators, etc. There are individuals with a blend of both cannabis and science expertise, but they are hard to come by and will require a higher salary to match their unique experience.

Interviewing and Hiring Process

Your approach to interviewing is critical in getting the right talent on board. During the interview process, it’s important to keep things as streamlined as possible. Avoid unnecessary steps or interview stages. If a candidate encounters a complicated or grueling process, you may chase them away before you’ve even had a chance to evaluate them or make an offer.

That being said, it’s important not to rush to hire someone. While six or seven interviews can cause you to lose good candidates, hiring someone after a single meeting may lead to unsuitable placements. Take the time to evaluate their experience, their fit for the team, and check references before making an offer.

Appointing a dedicated hiring manager to own the interview workflow will prove invaluable in the grand scheme of things. This person may not be the one with the ultimate authority for hiring, but they should have some power to gather feedback, manage the interview stages, and influence decision-making.

Remember when you’re interviewing candidates that they are evaluating you as well. They want to know about your company and business plan before signing on. It’s important to provide information about your long-term goals and how they fit into them. The reality is that there are many more opportunities than there is skilled talent right now. Most skilled extraction professionals have a lot of options within the cannabis industry.

To conduct a professional interview, it’s important to avoid being seen as fishing for information from your candidates. It’s all too common for companies to try to use interviews to get information for their processing plans. It’s important to ask the right questions to ensure your candidates are knowledgeable but don’t use the interview as an opportunity for a free consultation. Your candidates will see through this approach, and it may damage your reputation in the industry.

Onboarding Effectively

Once you’ve selected and hired the right talent, the last step is to set them up for success. Onboard your employees with a clear direction and metrics on what you expect of them, then provide them the resources and flexibility to accomplish the goals. They will work diligently to turn your lab into a well-run, efficient, and profitable operation!

Remember: a company is as good as its employees, so make sure you treat them as the valuable team members they are.

A Partner From Start to Finish

At Hunter + Esquire, we are here for you every step of the way. Whether you want help developing your production strategy or staffing plan or a proactive partner to find the best staff to build out your team, we can help.

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