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Deborah Saneman: Human Capital Management Firms Were Failing Cannabis Companies

Why she stepped up after watching multiple HR service providers kick cannabis to the curb and how gamification can improve employee retention.

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Deborah Saneman has been in the human capital management (HCM) industry for some 25 years. Traditional HCM companies allow HR departments to unload administrative tasks, everything from recruiting and payroll, to retirement planning and offboarding. In 2020, Saneman was working for a small payroll company that did business with eight lower-tier cannabis clients. 

In November, the company’s bank called and forced it to cut ties with all marijuana-related businesses in its portfolio. Two days before Thanksgiving, the company reached out to cannabis clients and gave them 45 days to find a new provider. The move didn’t sit well with Saneman who knew that converting to a new HCM provider typically takes up to 12 weeks. The fiasco was Saneman’s first glimpse at how much more challenging it a can be to run a cannabis business. 

In spring 2021, she was offered an opportunity to join Würk, an HCM company specifically focused on serving the needs of cannabis operators. Würk services some 80% of multi-state operators and 18 of the top 20 largest mid-market cannabis companies. In May 2023, Saneman took over as the company’s CEO. 

Now, Saneman is leveraging Würk’s unique market position to create innovative new products that help cannabis companies manage their workforce, retain talent and scale the business. 

In this episode, Saneman also discusses: 

  • How to address the unique needs of cannabis companies, like 280E reporting and access to banking. (6:00)
  • What happened when Paychex bailed on cannabis operators. (7:10)
  • Her all-hands-on-deck approach to onboard a flood of clients and some 3,000 employees in a 30-day window. (10:23)
  • How to vet banking partners. (12:14)
  • The importance of ethical and supportive workplaces. (19:31)
  • How to use wages on demand as an employee retention tool. (23:38)
  • What companies can do to be more competitive and bring better talent in house. (32:19)
  • How to attract and retain younger workers and the new generation’s desire to increase and gamify the performance review process. (36:56)

Please make sure to like, subscribe and share the podcast. You could also help us out by giving the podcast a positive review. Finally, to email the podcast or suggest a potential guest, you can reach David Mantey at [email protected].

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