No one will deny 2020 was challenging. A deadly pandemic led to stay-at-home orders and business closures, which boosted some industries and decimated others. Mass layoffs, eviction moratoriums, and supply-chain disruptions strained the economy, and social and political unrest fractured communities.
Most jurisdictions declared cannabis commerce “essential” early in the crisis, saving jobs and likely preventing the collapse of individual businesses and potentially entire segments of the industry. That doesn’t mean cannabis companies suffered no disruption. Population lockdowns and fear of infection forced employers to restructure traditional workplace policies and adapt to changing circumstances on the fly.
But according to mg Magazine’s survey of employment practices, businesses responded with alacrity and compassion. Every company on this year’s list has implemented work-from-home policies; many employers provided equipment, furniture, and/or stipends to help employees make the transition. Because coworkers seldom saw one another in the real world under the new paradigm, businesses found creative virtual ways to keep employees connected and maintain morale (including monthly or quarterly interactive “town hall” meetings). Both sides of the equation reported finding the measure liberating, so it’s become standard operating procedure, at least for some employees, at almost every company that appears on this year’s list.
Despite a global economic downturn in 2020, the cannabis industry flourished, resulting in a 50-percent increase in total annual revenue. Businesses leveraged this strong position by increasing investment in their workforce, which resulted in creating an additional 85,000 jobs.
Employers also added benefits while the rest of corporate America decreased or even suspended employee perks. Previously uncommon benefits that now are widespread include paid family and medical leave (offered by 66 percent of companies), parental leave (up to four months for birth mothers), retirement plans, and tuition reimbursement.
In response to pandemic-related economic upheaval and emotional distress, several companies launched employee assistance programs that provide legal, counseling, and financial aid to employees in need. Also pandemic-related: 57 percent of employers reported increasing or adding mental and physical health initiatives in the form of organized fitness programs, vaccine incentives, and access to teletherapy programs like Talkspace.
This past year also provided a wakeup call about endemic racial and cultural bias at all levels of American society. Although social equity has been an increasingly important goal for the cannabis industry almost since its inception, in 2020 employers placed increasing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). All of this year’s top employers reported well-defined, measurable DEI policies that include sensitivity training and community outreach. Some launched or expanded programs to hire, train, and provide career paths for formerly incarcerated individuals and/or people from communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
Extraordinary challenges breed extraordinary solutions — and in the cannabis industry’s case, extraordinary heart. We applaud the top cannabis industry employers who turned pandemic lemons into infused lemonade.