Q&A: Jessica Cranney, GRN Mile High – Attract, Develop & Retain High-Performing Leaders

The cannabis industry expands every year, and with that comes the creation of thousands of jobs and accompanying opportunities for employment. And as more states roll out legislation, more cannabis brands and organizations are slated to open for business, which means they’ll be looking for quick and reliable ways to review candidates.

Recruiting agency GRN Mile High is the ultimate middleman, using their resources to connect capable sales, marketing, finance, and operations professionals to the cannabis community. With over 194 global offices, GRN Mile High excels at attracting and identifying qualified candidates – largely thanks to their dedicated people-first approach. 

We paired up with GRN Mile High’s President and Chief Connection Officer Jessica Cranney to discuss the company’s inception, what makes them unique in cannabis, and what’s on the horizon for their weed worker recruitment strategy.

Leafwire: How was GRN Mile High first founded?

JC: I used to work for AT&T; I spent 17 years in Fortune 500 telecom, leading large retail organizations. My last role with the company – as the VP of 250 retail stores – landed me in Denver. But as time went on, I found myself not totally enamored with the job anymore.

I ultimately decided to leave AT&T, planning for a six-month “funemployment.” That lasted about three weeks, before I was recruited by LivWell to become their Head of Retail. At the time, cannabis was nowhere on my professional resume, but it was all over my personal resume, so I decided to go for it.

That job was my entry into cannabis. I got to scale the retail operations from 15 locations to 21, and the experience I gained was tremendous. I also realized I added value because I had this traditional background in enterprise America, and I was able to take from those playbooks and apply them to cannabis. 

After being there for around one and a half years, I was recruited by four or five other companies to do the same sort of organizational development. I came onboard with all of them, handling hierarchy structure, headcount analytics, compensation modeling, new hire onboarding training, leadership coaching, and whatever else it took to establish customer retention and brand loyalty.

Eventually I realized that through all of these engagements, I was organically recruiting. And that inspired me to start my own business.

Leafwire: What sort of assistance does GRN Mile High provide to cannabis operators?

JC: We consult for cannabis and cann-adjacent operators, leading with three critical people-first initiatives: attracting and recruiting, training and developing, and retaining. 

When it comes to the first initiative, we’re dedicated to winning with people first, and we lead with the end in mind. We help teams commit to cultural cadence, which will ultimately help them set themselves apart when hiring. 

Culture is so critical to successful organizations, but when I ask people what it means to them, I’m often met with snooze-worthy answers – like, “We do pizza on Fridays and work from home one day a week.”

Those things are great, but they won’t get people out of bed and inspire them. I ask organizations, “How are you differentiating yourself? Do you have defined interview processes that are comprehensive? Are you transparent? Once you bring a person onboard, how do you set them up for success with new hire training? How do you leverage referral programs to inspire your team to have their friends and family join your team?”

Ultimately, people will bring their own lunch and work wherever you want them to, as long as they feel like you’re invested in them first.

As for training and development, we focus on identifying what employees are looking for in their careers. Not everyone wants to be promoted or has major leadership aspirations. Some people just want to be the best budtender they can be. So how can you grow in place? And if you do want to be promoted, how can we offer you career advancement opportunities that help shape that?

Leafwire: How does the retention initiative work?

JC: Every good business owner knows the cost of backfilling an employee is one and a half times their salary. So when we talk about cultural cadence earlier in the framework, this is where signature moves come into play.

When you create one non-negotiable initiative as a company when it comes to attracting and retaining, your employees will respond well to that structure. And then think about, at a high level, who owns that pillar of retention within the company? How does that owner (or owners) keep that alive with regularity?

LW: What is on the near horizon for GRN Mile High?

JC: This year, we launched a new initiative called Connect & Contribute. So many of our clients have a passion or interest in giving back to the community, and we’ve decided to share that commitment. Every time we engage in any service, we give $420 to a 501c3 charity of our clients’ choosing. 

If they’ve got a cause that’s really important to them, we will make that donation on their behalf. And if for some reason they don’t have one, we’ve partnered with four (the Last Prisoner Project, the Wounded Warrior Project, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and a service animal facility) that people can choose from. 

We also offer a referral bonus to our partners. For any clients you refer us to, we give you a kick-back off those invoiced services as a Thank You for the kind referral.

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