Cannabis Training

The Invaluable Importance of Employee Communication and Education

Not only can communication in the workplace manage internal conflicts in a more advantageous manner, it also helps build better external relationships, increases employee engagement and often results in an increasingly skilled and productive staff. Educating your staff increases their knowledge base and skill set, which is good for your bottom line.

Consequently, when it comes to a highly sensitive, heavily regulated and nascent industry like legal cannabis, effective employee education and communication is not just a “nice to have,” it’s indispensable.

Employee Education and Communication in Cannabis

While employee education and communication are of crucial significance in the cannabis industry, it’s important to not look at them through a cannabis-centric lens. Cannabis companies are fighting to be treated as regular businesses. Therefore, they should act like a traditional business does by implementing employee education and training programs and effectively communicating with staff as often as possible in order to ensure organizational alignment and success.

Look, we get it. Streamlining employee education and communications is something we — like a lot of growing cannabis companies — have strived to improve. We started small and have since blossomed into an organization with over 300 employees operating across three states. As our organizational communications became increasingly disjointed, we found a need to streamline procedures.. In the beginning, it isn’t something many cannabis companies truly consider, beyond simply meeting compliance standards.

Compounding the issue, operations are quite different and vary across markets. In Colorado, for example, our education and communication initiatives focus largely on the retail level, while in Pennsylvania those same strategies are solely done on the production level. In Colorado, where we operate six retail stores, employees are predominately trained on how to deal with consumers and understanding the vast amount of products on the market, ultimately connecting consumers with the specific products that effectively meet their unique needs. Pennsylvania employees, on the other hand, don’t interact with patients or consumers. Our efforts with them surround production line education and how to safely produce the products delivered to dispensaries. It then includes a robust program for how to pass product information and education along to our clients.

With a few of our markets only operating on the medical side of the cannabis trade, we’ve got to be extra careful around language, making sure to not provide medical advice of any kind. In these markets, cannabis companies should instead advise on products, providing detailed explanations on what they are and how they work, as well as reports of positive responses to ingesting or otherwise utilizing specific products. This is why it’s crucial to communicate with employees and educate them around what they can and cannot say.

It’s important in all businesses to streamline internal communications, but employing a unified messaging and educational program for all employees is particularly vital in the cannabis space. For us, recognizing that deficiency — the notion that we, as a growing cannabis company, still have a lot to learn about employee education and communications — was a good place to begin.

Impact of COVID-19

For countless companies across industries, the coronavirus pandemic created a crisis situation in which effectively communicating with and educating employees became beyond critical.

As COVID-19 spreads, we continue to be bombarded by frightening news headlines, shifting definitions of essential vs. nonessential employees and different regulatory changes, creating curiosities surrounding the following:

  • How can employees comply with social distancing mandates?
  • How do employees keep things sanitized and cleaned to CDC standards?
  • How can employees ensure they remain safe and healthy?
  • Would working remotely negatively impact communications efforts?

As a result of the pandemic, companies across industries, including many of those in cannabis, began streamlining employee communications overall. Thus far, we’ve found that the situation made communicating easier — we increased the cadence of employee newsletters and memos and began conducting virtual meetings more often than in the pre-pandemic era.

Communication during this age of crisis has actually improved, allowing us to connect with more employees at once just out of sheer necessity to update our staff on everything going on both in the world and internally as a corporation. Even better, from multiple employee newsletters a week to hosting virtual happy hours for employee engagement, some of the most effective tactics aimed at staying connected will last well beyond the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

We’re all still learning how to work through the crisis, but stepping up to ensure your employees are educated and in the know on everything — global pandemic or not — empowers staff to be prepared to deal with whatever challenge comes their way.

What Cannabis Companies Can Do Moving Forward

So, what can cannabis companies do to equip employees with the right tools to deal with those challenges?

The first step, as mentioned, is recognizing any deficiencies in employee education and communication your organization might have and addressing those concerns.

From there, implementing a basic training and education program is a critical next step. When new employees are hired, it’s important that they are immersed in your organization’s corporate philosophy, corporate rules, production rules, retail rules and more to ensure everyone is more or less on the same page. Develop an employee handbook for each department across your operation and be sure that new hires understand the ins and outs of their role before working on the sales floor or in the production facility. After all, that’s the backbone of legalization — if an employee can’t comply with the supply chain and meet every top-down requirement in their department, your organization won’t be in compliance with the seed-to-sale system, which puts your organization — and the entire system — at risk.

Additionally, communicating just for fun has taken on increased importance. Nothing creates an adversarial relationship between employees and the executive level quicker than only communicating to employees when there’s a new rule or regulation to say, “you’re failing to do your job if you don’t do x, y or z.” Oftentimes, it’s as simple as checking in and saying, “Hey, how’s everyone doing?” and letting staff know that the proverbial door is always open if they need to discuss any concerns or anxieties they might have. Really, just having more compassion when it comes to communication with employees is critical, especially now when we’re asking them to do more with less.

Finally, let your staff know about all of the good you’re doing in the community. When your employees get a whiff of some of the great corporate social responsibility actions you’re taking, it often boosts morale and results in employees getting involved, whether that’s signing up for volunteer events or organizing tip drives benefitting the nonprofit of their choice.

Ensuring that you’ve done your job to educate your employees shouldn’t stop at compliance. The bottom line is that good employee education and communication is good for morale, which is good for business. In such a fragile and new industry, it’s critical that we support our staff at all times and make sure we’re doing everything we can to educate, communicate and build an industry that looks and feels like a “traditional” business, top to bottom.

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Cannabis Training

Five universities to offer first ever online marijuana courses, seeing opportunity amid coronavirus

As federal lawmakers in Washington continue to slow-walk — or outright oppose — the legalisation of marijuana, the budding industry is plowing ahead making crucial inroads with another institution of prestige to help lend it legitimacy: higher education.

Five universities — three public state schools and two private Catholic colleges — have partnered with cannabis education company Green Flower Media to roll out first-of-their-kind online certificate programmes beginning in June, The Independent has learned, with roughly two dozen other accredited higher education institutions also considering partnerships.

Despite the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) listing cannabis as a Schedule I drug off limits for sale and use by the public, 11 states plus Washington, DC, have legalised recreational marijuana, and 33 other states have approved its medicinal use.

In most of those states, marijuana dispensaries have been deemed “essential” businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

The US House passed a sweeping bill earlier this month that would reverse a rule prohibiting cannabis companies from using traditional banking and financial institutions, which would allow more small businesses within the industry to access money through the Treasury Department’s relief programmes aimed at keeping workers on payrolls during the health crisis. [Read more at The Independent]

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Cannabis Training

Protecting Health, Safety and Your Business’ Future is Priority One in the Cannabis Industry

As the world adapts to this new reality, reassessing and updating business practices has become the new normal. In the pre-COVID-19 world, cannabis operators often reached out to FOCUS with an interest in improving a certain aspect of their internal business processes. Whether seeking help with improving existing standard operating procedures (SOPs), expanding employee training efforts, making sure risk assessments are effective, or developing supplier qualification and hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP plans). Every company has areas which they would like to improve, yet all struggle to find the necessary time and resources to dedicate towards the actual improvement activities.

All that has dramatically changed over the past few weeks, making this a perfect time to reassess and improve operations –  to help prevent the spread of this deadly virus – but also to assure continued business success.

 It is critical that all cannabis companies understand their requirements as employers under the General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 [29 USC 654(a)(1)]. Employees are the backbone of every successful company, and their health and safety should always be the first concern – not just during a pandemic.

If your company has not revisited the federal and state OSHA requirements that apply to your business since this pandemic began, doing so should be your first and biggest priority.

Under the Act, employers are required to comply with all occupational safety and health standards, and to furnish each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm”.  The Act also includes requirements that employees comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations and orders issued pursuant to the Act, which are applicable to his/her own actions.

Companies with more than 10 employees must also be aware and in compliance with the recordkeeping and reporting requirements as they related to workplace exposures to COVID-19 under 29 CFR 1904, as well as any applicable state requirements.

Cannabis businesses must also be sure to use cleaning and disinfecting agents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. There have been a lot of new companies advertising services to clean and disinfect cannabis facilities, many of which are making false claims about the effectiveness of their services against COVID-19. Don’t make the mistake of going through the efforts to improve your operations only to find they did not work.

Many cannabis companies are asking employees to work remotely. Even companies operating in jurisdictions that have deemed cannabis as essential are limiting staff and splitting shifts to comply with social distancing requirements and do their part to prevent further transmission.

Suddenly, employees are finding themselves at home, with very little actual work to do – providing a tremendous opportunity to improve your company’s practices. Employees working from home can become your biggest resource and best defense against future quality, safety, and compliance related issues within your cannabis business. If handled properly, these changes do not need to equate to a lack of progress. In fact, this is a terrific time to assess the effectiveness of existing operational plans, policies, procedures and training.

Updating and improving Standard Operating Procedures is one of the most straightforward ways to improve. SOPs are one of the most useful systems to streamline a business because they create specific measurable business outcomes. Data shows that just a 10% improvement in productivity from a better SOP could give you 35-40 more productive minutes a day from each one of your employees. Think what that could mean to your bottom line! If you are not sure if your company’s SOPs need improvement, ask these questions to assess the business value of your SOPs:

  • Does everyone in the organization have easy visibility on how things are done at all levels?
  • Are roles and responsibilities clearly defined?
  • Are training costs too high?
  • Is it taking too long to get a new employee productive?
  • How much supervisor time is required to get a new employee trained?
  • Are there areas where you would be at significant risk of incurring high costs or project failure if a key employee or consultant left today?

One way to begin the process of updating your SOPs  is by asking each of your employees to go through an existing SOP and update it with any information they identify that is missing, as it relates to that procedure. That updated draft should be shared with any other employees who perform the same function to assure its completeness and that everyone is in agreement. Once completed, the Quality Director or Management should review the SOP, reach out to any employees to resolve any issues, and then approve the SOP for use.

Another way to approach this is by having employees use the Notes app on their cell phone to explain each process they perform within a typical workday. They should do their best to include as many specifics as possible, including work location, materials and amounts, steps, time of day, etc. Ask them to explain it like a recipe, step by step, from beginning to end. These documents can then be used to determine if employees are all following the same steps, and where policies should be updated. It will also exemplify where SOPs may be in need of additional Work Instructions to be truly effective.

If effective, SOPs improve productivity, decrease costs, control for quality, and ensure consistent results. Use this time to make sure you are getting everything you should be out of yours. This is especially true for businesses that paid for SOP templates and have not yet customized them to their operations. Unless SOPs are  built upon the daily needs and happenings of your company, and implemented as a part of how you do business each day – they are not likely doing much to protect your business, employees, or customers.

This is also a good time to reassess your job descriptions. Have employees working from home go through and update their specific job description with any additional duties that they perform. Circulate them between employees to ensure completeness and agreement. Once completed, management can approve and update them for later use.

Training is also something that cannabis businesses should be revisiting during this time. Obviously, hygiene, health and safety training should be the first priority, as we all make efforts to mitigate the transmission and spread of this virus. All employees should complete a hygiene related course at this time, regardless of whether they have previously or not. This includes management and executives too. There are plenty of companies offering complementary online training during this pandemic, and cannabis businesses should be taking advantage of these. A terrific example is the ServSafe™ Food Handler Course,which is being offered for free through April 30th.  Additionally, ServSafe™ is also offering free state specific training, as well as COVID-19 Delivery and Takeout Training on demand.

Conducting internal training is also of critical importance right now, As we move through the different phases of this pandemic, more and more people will fall ill, or be forced to stay home to take care of sick loved ones. Do your employees understand all of the functions in your business? Do you have back up employees to cover all aspects of your operations if a crucial member of your team is no longer able to work? Cross training employees now is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for business continuity during this time.

While we all learn to exist in this new reality, smart cannabis business owners will take advantage of the situation and recognize there are plenty of ways to protect the future of their business by making sure they are fully compliant and operating at an optimal level.


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Cannabis Training Videos

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Indoor Cannabis Grow Update: Training and Neem Oil

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Cannabis Training Videos

Gorilla Glue Autoflower, First Training, New Tent Set-Up And New Grow Review Started

First training of the gorilla glue auto grown in Kryptonite organic super soil. Starting a new grow review with a different grow light. Check it out.

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Cannabis Training Videos

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Cannabis Training Videos

Doctors Must Be Trained Before Treating Patients With Medical Marijuana

Healthcare providers will need to be trained before prescribing medical marijuana to their patients.

While speaking to doctors at the T&T Medical Association’s Annual Presidential Inauguration and Conferring of Honours Ceremony, the Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, said medical marijuana is something the new executive will have to look at closely.