The growth and resilience of the United States cannabis industry proved to be an economic bright spot in 2020. In a setting where more than 30 million Americans filed for unemployment, cannabis businesses filled tens of thousands of positions. In particular, temporary workers were in high demand as an affordable, readily available solution for businesses adjusting to new regulations or dealing with health-related absences.
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting cannabis businesses of all sizes, from small startups to industry-leading multistate operators. Business structures are being reworked as employees are working from home, and many companies are reevaluating budgets and tightening revenue opportunities. In the uncertainty of facing a crisis with no end date, pivoting to utilizing temporary employees may be just what your business needs to do to survive.
With numerous companies in the cannabis space deemed “essential” during mandated shutdowns, many businesses remained operational with certain roles that cannot be performed remotely. The use of temporary staff has allowed businesses to supplement staffing needs and continue operations uninterrupted.
Pandemic or not, temporary workers are an excellent solution for cannabis companies looking for seasonal workers, dealing with short-term special projects, or looking to cover employees on medical or family leave. Adaptability and the ability to make quick adjustments are crucial to success in the cannabis space, and temporary employees can help you do just that as the industry continues to face changes brought on by the crisis.
Short-term hires can help your business thrive in a variety of ways:
- Temporary help is an affordable alternative. During times of economic hardship, hiring new full-time candidates can be costly and time-consuming. Temporary workers typically are experts in their field and can contribute right away, avoiding a long search and onboarding process.
- Temporary help can allow businesses to plan ahead. At this point, all of us likely can name a business that has been shut down due to COVID-19 exposure or infection. If any of your employees wind up sick or in quarantine as a precaution, expect at least fourteen days without that employee. Bringing on temp hires for a couple of weeks will ensure your business continues to operate during any necessary leaves of absence.
- Temporary help is available right away. While the average period spent finding a full-time employee is more than forty days, temporary help typically is available on demand within two to three days.
- Most temporary hires have flexible contracts. No one can predict how long the industry will be dealing with the pandemic’s effects, and that inability can complicate your business’s ability to commit to employment contracts right now. Temporary workers allow employers to decide how long the contract will last, from a few days to several months (or longer). If a temp worker ends up being a great fit, you always have the option to keep them around for the long haul.
- Temporary staff helps avoid burnout. For many businesses, 2020 has required an all-hands-on-deck effort. Bringing in temporary assistance can help core employees avoid burnout from working longer hours or wearing multiple hats, keeping productivity where it needs to be.
- Temporary workers provide access to new skills. When tackling new challenges or facing unforeseen obstacles, advice from outside experts can be beneficial. A fresh perspective or new skills might be just what your company needs in order to pivot, find creative solutions, and maintain steady sales. Consultants usually are seasoned professionals who can offer expert advice about targeted or large-scale projects, addressing challenges like supply chain management, transportation, safety, and packaging.
Temporary positions not only provide employers with flexibility, but also give employees the opportunity to diversify and gain in-depth experience in a variety of sectors within the industry.
During the third quarter of 2020, the top temp positions included:
- Analytical chemists.
- Extraction technicians.
- HR assistants.
- Manufacturing technicians.
- Nursery technicians.
- Operations managers.
- Retail and customer service staff.
- Staff accountants.
- Warehouse inventory clerks.
Cannabis sales are skyrocketing as many consumers turn to cannabis and CBD products to cope with the pandemic. New Frontier Data projects total cannabis sales will reach $19 billion in 2020, up from $13.2 billion in 2019. In turn, retail positions and positions involved in the production process have been a necessity to meet growing demand.
Even after we make it through these turbulent times (which we will!), the temporary staffing trend is one that’s likely to continue. According to the American Staffing Association, U.S. staffing agencies hire 15 million temporary and contract employees a year—almost 10 percent of the entire American workforce. During past economic downturns, temporary jobs were highly desirable as the economy began its recovery and the job market began to expand. Companies need to fill the gaps created by widespread layoffs, and temporary employees are a quick and affordable way to do so.
For as long as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on lives and the economy, the demand for temp employees likely will hold steady. Cannabis companies will need flexible options to make it through future waves. We can’t know what to expect when the dust settles, but it is clear resilience and adaptability have been vital qualities of businesses continuing to find success during the pandemic. The affordability, availability, and flexibility of temporary cannabis employees has helped many companies reach higher ground.
Liesl Bernard is founder and chief executive officer at CannabizTeam, an executive search and staffing firm focused specifically on the cannabis industry. Her team has placed thousands of candidates at executive and management levels in all verticals of the cannabis industry across the world. She attributes her success in cannabis to her vast international recruitment experience and deep passion for the industry.