Ranking once again, despite a pandemic that forced nearly every business to change how it functions, is cause for a deep dive into how The Grove maintained a team that was happy and motivated during a year that was anything but.
“There was a lot of team-building automatically due to the fact we were forced to make these changes overnight, and we did it together as a team,” The Grove’s CEO Demetri Kouretas tells CBT. “We literally sat together around a table, figuring out the best plan of action, to follow state mandated changes, all while implementing these changes simultaneously. The team effort was amazing to say the least.”
While there were some staff cutbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy, Kouretas notes that the bulk of those departures were voluntary (a few were performance related). As the CEO puts it, this was and remains a brand-new territory that no one had encountered before, and with each employee’s reality being different, “we allowed them to make the decision,” he explains. “I’m never going to judge someone on their fears. That’s not for us to do.”
While seeing team members go is never easy, those who chose to remain were heartened to see the executive team join them on the front lines. For example, at certain points during the pandemic, Kouretas himself was delivering products to customers under the state’s new delivery system. Sharing the day-to-day struggles with the team bred a lot of “camaraderie” amongst management and staff, he says. “It’s a big team effort at The Grove, and that’s how we want to continue showing our employees that that’s how we run things here,” Kouretas says.
A light and congenial environment is a big part of what makes The Grove a top cannabis company to work for. Team members play games to keep each other entertained that also help them complete tasks more quickly while paying attention to quality, explains Tiffany Hoven, The Grove’s director of operations. For example, the trimmer who gets through the most cannabis can pick the music that plays throughout the trim room the next day. “Just fun, incentive-driven things employees do together during any mundane work,” Hoven says.
“All [team members] keep an incredibly high-quality energy in those rooms,” she adds.
A factor explaining why so many of The Grove’s team members chose to stay on during the pandemic is that the company covers 50% of its staff members’ health insurance premiums. The pay rate for cultivation employees also is nearly double the state’s minimum wage: The starting salary for cultivation team members is $15/hour, with the average being $18/hour.
Team members, from trimmers to executives, also have opportunities to earn performance incentives for their work and if the company hits its financial goals. For example, packaging associates can receive free cannabis products ranging from eighths to ounces, or company swag, for meeting certain volume benchmarks. Likewise, salespeople can earn rewards for meeting and exceeding their wholesale quotas. Additionally, “we hire from within, so growth is always possible,” Hoven says.
For Hoven, the important part of developing an incentives program is that all employees feel like the goals are accessible. Having tiered rewards where the top three performers get a bigger reward can breed animosity and apathy, she says. Instead, incentives are “always based against your own performance. I’m never going to put [employees] against [each other]. I don’t want that negative, ‘Oh, we’ve got people that just are so good at sales. I’m never going to reach that. I give up’ mentality. I don’t want that ever to be what is in someone’s mindset.”
The biggest perk, if one were to call it that, that both Hoven and Kouretas highlight as the top reason employees are happy to work for the company is that management actually takes time to learn about and from them. Kouretas, for example, knows each of the 100 employees’ first names, and many of the company’s processes have changed thanks to feedback from the team members doing the hands-on work. Both executives credit their employees’ dedication throughout the pandemic as the reason the company navigated the murky waters so well.
Because at the end of the day, as Hoven puts it, “The Grove is our employees. It’s us, as a team.”
Editor's note: The Grove also was honored in the 2021 Best Cannabis Companies to Work For - Dispensary program. Read that story on Cannabis Business Times here.