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5 Cannabis Industry Hiring Trends To Watch In 2020

Following the mistakes learned in 2019, cannabis is adjusting how it grows in 2020.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Since adult-use legalization first breached the United States in 2012, cannabis hiring practices have drastically changed.

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Prohibition-era experience is no longer a valuable resume builder for most companies. Hiring practices have become just as standardized as the processes of traditional industries. Although sourcing talent in cannabis is finally moving towards normalcy, regulatory constraints, job board legality concerns, and the ever-changing needs of the industry present opportunities for continual improvement within the employment sector of cannabis. 

RELATED: How to Get a Job in the Cannabis Industry

In 2019, the cannabis industry faced a handful of high-profile layoffs. News of the cuts resulted in uncertainty surrounding the steady growth of the industry. But closer examination determined the downsizing was mostly contained to well-funded companies scaling too large, too quickly. In 2020, hiring trends will likely shift to account for the mistakes learned the year prior. Regardless of the layoffs, the industry is still at its largest yet, with an estimated 211,000 employees making up the legal workforce.  

Here are five trends to watch in the cannabis jobs sector this year.

1. Smart versus speedy growth 

With news of dropping stocks, downsizing and continued regulatory hurdles, the “green rush” is officially over. Investors are now taking a more conservative approach, and in turn, cannabis companies are pumping the brakes on aggressive expansion. In a frenzy to gain market share in emerging legal markets, multi-state operators entered mergers, drafted acquisitions, and eagerly submitted applications for licenses. However, unforeseen industry hurdles—like slow legalization roll out and misevaluated partnerships—forced some to drastically slow down. In some cases, even reverse their growth by announcing layoffs or changes in leadership. 

In 2020, cannabis companies will shift their focus from expanding their footprint to making more calculated hiring decisions. Businesses in the industry are now focusing on building a solid foundation and replicable growth structure that can withstand the inevitable roadblocks the cannabis industry presents. 

2. Increased demand for contingent hiring 

As a cost-saving alternative to adding full-time employees and a viable solution to the seasonal fluctuations of the industry, contingent hiring is gaining popularity for cannabis businesses. Hourly roles like budtending, trimming, harvesting, and packaging are especially popular contingent roles for busy harvest seasons and high-traffic retail events like 4/20. Contingent labor makes up an estimated 40 percent of the average company’s workforce in 2020, a trend gaining traction both within and outside the cannabis industry. 

Contingent roles offer benefits to both the employer and employee. Businesses can add extra hands on deck when needed, like during the outdoor harvest season known as Croptober. Contingent roles in cannabis are popular for job seekers who want to try a new role in the industry without committing indefinitely, want to earn some extra cash. Or, for those employees who simply prefer the freedom contingent roles offer. Although some regulatory hurdles exist, contingent hiring is becoming an attractive option for cannabis businesses in 2020. 

3. Streamlining staffing with tech solutions 

The cannabis industry has moved towards a hiring system where job seekers can submit an application online. Streamlined hiring solutions are available for the savvy job seekers and cannabis companies currently hiring. Vangst GIGS is one tech solution that combines both the need for contingent roles and modern-day solutions.

RELATED: Cannabis Is America's Fastest-Growing Sector, Adding 33,700 Jobs Last Year

The fully-compliant GIGS platform displays seasonal cannabis roles in the job seeker’s area, which saves time and frustration from the filtering through traditional non-cannabis job boards. As the industry moves towards streamlining processes through tech solutions, we’ll likely see additional hiring solutions come online. 

4. Reducing high turnover for hourly positions 

With a focus on conservative and calculated growth, the issue of high turnover in the cannabis industry will likely come to light in 2020. Cannabis roles like budtending, trimming, and packaging are notorious for their high turnover rates. With companies taking a closer look at their current hiring tactics, high turnover will need to be addressed.

Turnover in cannabis is caused by mismanaged expectations about the industry, poor hiring and onboarding tactics, lackluster pay and benefits for the position, and disconnection from management. Continuous turnover for year-round roles is a costly problem for many businesses, as the resources for sourcing, training, and onboarding new members are time-consuming. 

Businesses can save time and resources in the long run by putting in the work upfront to ensure a new hire is properly integrated into the company culture. Properly sourcing, hiring, onboarding, adequately paying, and managing new hires takes more time and resources initially, but pays off.

5. Increased demand for talent with cannabis experience

As candidates gravitate towards businesses that align with their needs and expectations, cannabis companies will start placing a higher demand for job seekers with cannabis experience. With the adult-use industry almost a decade underway, well-qualified candidates with years of directly applicable cannabis experience are available, but in high demand. Companies are looking to bring on people who already have a strong understanding of their role within the industry.

Previously, businesses brought talent in from outside industries to apply their expertise to cannabis. But as we’ve seen with some unsuccessful high-profile hires, that experience doesn’t always translate. Coveted positions will ask for both experience related to the position and experience directly in cannabis. This trend will continue to pick up and 2020 as more states legalize and businesses aim to hit the ground running. 

The industry is maturing in the hiring space. Yes, 2019 brought a handful of hurdles, but the growing pains are expected as cannabis becomes more conventional. The industry will continue to progress and 2020 is anticipated to bring the highest recorded sales, legalized states, and employees in the legal workforce by the end of the year.

About Vangst: Vangst is the cannabis industry’s leading hiring resource. We match pre-screened, experienced candidates with opportunities in cannabis around the globe. We’re on a mission to build the cannabis industry through people, and since launching in 2016, have successfully matched thousands of candidates with jobs at leading cannabis businesses.