Creating a dispensary operations manual can feel like creating an employee handbook, but there are a few key differences.
For example, an employee handbook typically contains information on workplace rules and policies, such as timeliness and vacation requests. SOPs, on the other hand, focus more on the systems and procedures to get work done.
Let’s do a deep dive into better organizing an SOP for your cannabis dispensary.
What Cannabis Employers Should Know About A Dispensary Operations Manual
Corporate manuals come in all different shapes, sizes, and formats. However, because the cannabis industry has so many regulations for compliance, it’s important for a dispensary SOP to truly accomplish its goal, which is to standardize workflows and procedures for day-to-day operations at the dispensary.
In order to understand the key sections to include in an operations manual, we must first distinguish the difference between employee manuals and operations manuals. On the surface, they may seem like the same thing, but each document serves a distinct purpose.
Here’s the key differences:
- Employee Manuals are focused on workplace rules and policies. Anything that would fall under “human resources” would likely be placed in the employee manual. This can include anything from work hours, sick time, vacation policies, non-discrimination policies, parking, etc.
- Operations Manuals outline the actual procedures and work systems of the dispensary. Think of the operations manual as a guide to help employees better understand their roles and how they can fulfill their responsibilities. A good operations manual outlines a standard way to complete tasks so that quality is consistent no matter who is performing the job. This also helps protect the dispensary legally since you can include legal references and ensure that procedures meet compliance standards.
Most companies, including dispensaries, have basic employee handbooks. Most trainees and managers can expect to review this handbook during training and orientation. However, few businesses invest in creating operations manuals.
For cannabis dispensaries, there can even be multiple operations manuals. Frontline operations on the sales floor would of course carry different roles and responsibilities than those used in cultivation. SOPs should always be specific to each position and department.
How to Organize a Dispensary SOP
No one likes reading corporate documentation, especially when it’s filled with HR-related jargon and overly technical language.
In an ideal world, every employee would read every word of the employee handbook and operations manuals as though they were going to take an exam.
However to remain more personable and realistic, we recommend organizing your dispensary operations manual in a way that is easy to digest for all team members across the board.
It’s important to focus on headers that clearly define the process being explained. For example:
- Procedures on greeting new customers
- How to handle refunds
- Steps to handling customer complaints
For cultivation, headers might look like:
- Guidelines for pruning plants
- Nutrition, temperature, and lighting standards
- Transplanting procedures
These are just a few examples. The tasks and responsibilities will be unique to every dispensary out there. We encourage you to brainstorm a list of the different tasks and responsibilities that you would need fulfilled if you were to open another location for your dispensary. Chances are that many of these different tasks are worthy of being headers or “sections” to be included within your SOP.
Include an Introduction
After the header, you might want to include a short intro explaining the purpose of the task and why it’s important. This should be done for each procedure that is outlined.
It’s also a good idea to include a sentence or two on the scope of the task or project. Who does this apply to? What are the final steps? How long should it take? This should generally be just a paragraph or two long.
If employees need references and resources in order to complete a procedure, then reference them here.
Finally, it’s time to outline the steps of the procedure. No need to micromanage every little detail. Rather, focus on the major steps that must be completed to accurately perform the task. It may help to explain them as if you were speaking directly to the trainee in person.
If there are any regulatory requirements, then make sure that the action steps ensure compliance is being met.
If this is your first time writing a dispensary operations manual, be sure to review the draft from step-to-step. First-time readers and new employees should be able to immediately understand how each step coincides with the next, and what the expectations are for successful completion.
Human Resources Sections to Include in Employee Manuals
While your dispensary operations manual will focus on workflows and processes, it’s still important to build a strong, positive, and healthy work environment.
Some HR sections that should be included in any employee handbook include:
- An “about” page. This is a good section to briefly describe company history as well as your company philosophy and mission statement. This is especially important for new dispensaries. This might not seem important, but if you’re trying to establish a positive and productive workplace culture, then this lays the framework.
- Standards of Conduct. What are your expectations for attendance and punctuality? What about drug and alcohol use? What are the behavioral conduct standards among co-workers and managers? This section should include content on what is expected of each team player and which forms of conduct will not be tolerated.
- Timekeeping Policies. Whether you have hourly or salaried employees, it’s important to ensure that employees are provided with the proper breaks, meal periods, etc. Your handbook should include lawful policies that inform employees of their rights and how breaks, timekeeping, and wages are to be handled.
- Nondiscrimination and Harassment. If an employee is being harassed and needs to report it, what are the processes to do so? Be sure to include that here. This can even include a statement on your commitment to creating and fostering an inclusive workplace.
Remember, as your dispensary grows, more and more people will be involved in hiring, human relations, and managing your employees. Things that should seem “apparent” can get lost in the mix, especially as new players join the dispensary. This is why it’s very important to outline these points within your SOP.
Benefits of a Dispensary Operations Manual
At the end of the day, the benefits of a dispensary operations manual can be succinctly summed up in three words: (1) compliance, (2) consistency, and (3) communication.
You can ensure regulatory compliance by outlining the steps and processes to keep you on the right side of the law. Even if an employee makes an innocent mistake, if you have a compliant-based process documented in an SOP, then the mistake is chalked up to human error rather than the negligence of the dispensary.
Furthermore, no matter who you hire or which team members are involved, you can ensure consistency day after day. An operations manual standardized the work process, which thereby creates consistent results. Whether this is a consistent customer experience or consistently abundant cultivation, your dispensary benefits!
And finally, all of this is only possible through excellent communication. An SOP shows your employees that you value their time and skills, and they will value yours. You will foster an environment of open communication and trust, which is critical for any successful dispensary.