How Cannabis Companies Can Engage Workers in the Age of Social Distancing

As COVID-19 cases resurge, it appears remote work is here to stay. While this has been a difficult time for both employers and workers, business objectives still need to be met. Beyond simply surviving as the months drag on, it is crucial managers find socially distant ways to keep their employees thriving and on a path to personal and professional success.

This is particularly important for cannabis companies. We are navigating a developing industry, and some companies have workforces spread across multiple states or are adding employees during the pandemic.

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How do you keep employees focused and engaged from a distance? The key lies in creating multiple communication channels. Because everyone communicates differently, developing multiple ways to interact will ensure managers are collaborating effectively with all members of their team. Having multiple channels also addresses the communication disconnects that can cause confusion about how or why goals were not achieved.

The all-hands meeting

Weekly or bi-weekly company-wide meetups, even virtually, let the leadership team communicate with the entire staff about what is happening within the organization. This allows leaders to set priorities at the highest level, maintain transparency, and coalesce around broader goals. In addition, employees have an opportunity to ask questions and interact with the leadership team during group meetings. Perhaps most importantly, the all-hands meeting creates a sense of camaraderie between teams that do not work together regularly, helping the entire company feel connected despite the physical distance.

The stand-up

Stand-up meetings are regular team meetings that provide managers a way to keep their eyes on things, making sure staffers are working toward appropriate goals and objectives. Because most companies employ lean teams right now, it is essential employees focus on the most important tasks each day. This type of interaction allows managers to get involved in the team’s day-to-day activities and course-correct if necessary. Stand-ups are a bit more collaborative than company-wide meetings, and this dynamic—expecting each team member to provide a quick update—may require an adjustment period.

The 1:1

One-on-one meetings between managers and employees are a great tool to help each staff member develop professionally and gain understanding about their challenges and strengths as individuals. This can be especially helpful for workers who aren’t as comfortable discussing issues or asking questions around other team members in a stand-up or all-hands meeting.

Software can help facilitate the process, tracking goals and progress. In fact, Würk is beta-testing software from Uptick that tracks one-on-one meetings, allowing managers to take notes on each staff member and creating reminders of what to discuss.

Tracking meetings can help identify professional development needs for each employee and what they need both professionally and personally for growth in their career. One-on-one meetings allow managers to check in with their staff’s mental health, too. COVID-19’s resurgence may be causing fear and anxiety—and some employees might be dealing with a sick household member. Take this time to understand what and how your employees are doing and refocus if needed. Make sure they know you, as their manager, are available to help.

Happy hour

A seemingly small but important piece of office life missing from the socially distant workplace is the casual interaction employees typically have throughout the day: small talk at the water cooler, lunchtime catch-ups, and coffee chitchats. Happy hour meetings are structured socials that encourage the bonding and friendship that naturally forms between colleagues.

As with traditional in-person happy hours, it’s important to keep conversations light and not focused on work. In our office, we’ve built in some games and fun challenges during some of our happy hours. During one meeting, employees played “show and tell,” sharing something of interest in their home or yard. The company got to see a bird’s nest in an employee’s garden, while another showed memorabilia from a food truck they owned. The break from the grind gave everyone a chance to be together as people.

Encourage company leaders to attend these events. That will help employees recognize social interaction is an important aspect of work.

Professional training

Although your company’s leadership team already has climbed the ladder, leaders need to progress personally and professionally, too.

At Würk, we hired an outside consultant to build our leadership development program, including a schedule for training and classes. The program helped us understand what we want our company leadership to look like, how well our leaders are positioned to achieve that vision, and what goals they should be hitting to stay on track.

Leadership training is acutely important right now. Expecting managers to steer socially distant workplaces and new challenges while continuing to achieve company goals is a big ask. But it is also a chance to let your leaders shine—with appropriate training and your support.

While all companies are learning how to lead and evolve in the COVID-19 landscape, it can be uniquely tricky for cannabis companies already forging a path in an ever-changing industry. The first step is understanding all people communicate differently. Using a variety of communication methods can ensure the whole team is included and all pieces of the organization are in alignment.

Giving all employees what they need to be successful now and in the future is a challenge to overcome—and an opportunity to develop your team.


Keegan-Peterson-Wurk-mg-magazine-mgretailer

Keegan Peterson, chief executive officer at Würk, founded the company in 2015 after recognizing cannabis businesses didn’t have access to the same scalable HR technology solutions mainstream companies have. Würk now serves hundreds of clients across thirty-three states, including some of the largest publicly traded cannabis corporations in the nation. Würk pays one in ten employees in the cannabis industry.

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