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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan — Newsletter #91

By: Patrick Donegan

For some time, I’ve been looking for one “source” that curates modern takes on HR Tech, perspectives from the people who build it, and its impact on enterprise — something that’s tailor-made by professionals for decision-makers.

I never found it — so I decided to build it.

Every week, I’ll be sharing fresh insights on tech platforms, design, data, and the future of work — straight to your inbox.

My Thoughts

I knew basically nothing about HR in the cannabis space until writing this week’s newsletter.  

As soon as I got into the articles, though, I realized that the problems facing cannabis people ops are the exact same issues we face in any other industry. 🤔 Circumstances may be different, but problems are always the same. Bottlenecks can happen on an assembly line or in an approval process. Bad managers can work in government or hospitality. Silos can happen in your IT architecture, or they can happen on a farm. 🌽 🌾

The whole thought reminded me of something a colleague of mine often says:

In my day-to-day tasks, I love to ask myself: how are different people dealing with the same problem?

Sometimes industries seem so different it feels as though they may as well be worlds apart. 🌍 But that mentality limits innovative thinking and keeps us from finding brilliant ideas in unexpected places. The more I read about the solutions designed to withstand the volatile regulatory environment within the cannabis industry, the more ideas I began to have for our current clients at SEI. 💡


Tech Innovation At Work

Five states are expected to have cannabis-related legislation on the ballot in the upcoming midterm election. 📮 The commercial cannabis industry has seen explosive growth, with medical cannabis use growing 34% YoY in 2021 📈 and adult use even more so, with close to half a million US workers employed by the industry. Yet between rapid growth and dogged regulations, employers in the space are finding that people ops is a pressing issue exacerbated by the nature of the industry. In the past few years, multiple cannabis companies have experienced sudden separations from their HR and payroll vendors — experiences one HR rep for a Colorado-based organization says feels like a bad breakup: unexpected, cold, and with more questions than answers. 💔 Beyond the challenge of finding and keeping vendors, the heavy regulation of the industry complicates several areas of standard HR, from benefits to learning and development. 📚

The barriers to people ops tools have cost cannabis organizations both talent and revenue for years, but the underserved industry is now seeing an HR tech boom. 💥 Where others saw challenges, entrepreneurs are seeing opportunities to cultivate innovative solutions for optimizing less-than-ideal software stacks, enhancing offerings with AI, and leveraging digital networks to create powerful employee development programs. 🦾

Best in Grow, 🌱 to name just one example, is an L&D software company built for the cannabis industry. Without the weight of legacy programs tethering it to computers, the platform has a mobile-first design with a social media feel that encourages knowledge sharing and organic learning — a model that enhances retention and increases engagement. 😀 For budtenders, Best in Grow offers not only knowledge sharing but gives employees crucial hands-on training with modern tech tools.


The Changing Workplace

With just a few months left before the new year, now is the time for California companies to begin auditing their policies and documentation to ensure adherence to the impending pay 💰 transparency regulations. California governor Gavin Newsome signed these into law at the end of September. 📜 ✍️ Here are the fast facts employers need to understand to prepare for SB 1162:

  • The law applies to all California-based companies with 15 or more employees.
  • Companies with 100 or more employees will also be required to report to the state wage data by race, ethnicity, and gender for all employees.  
  • Internal job listings, aka job descriptions, will also be required to have pay scales published for employees. 

The new law has its supporters as well as naysayers, but pay transparency proves to be one of the most effective measures for reducing wage disparities. ⚖️ Explore some great tips to prepare for the transition — and get a sense of what your organization will likely be facing soon — in this Worklife article. 👈


Over the past few weeks, praise from colleagues led me to Bully Market, a memoir 📖 by former Goldman Sachs employee Jamie Fiore Higgins. I’ve only made it through the NYT Review so far, but even that small peek has me watching out my office window, waiting for my copy to arrive in the mail. The tell-all reads like a Mad Men script, depicting a work environment so toxic it would make Bezos frown. ☣️ Unlike Mad Men, the scene detailed by Higgins is set in 1998 and continues until her departure in 2016, rife with horrendous recountings of sexual harassment, among other nefarious, not safe for work (NSFW, as the kids say) activities. Once my copy arrives, I’ll be sure to offer my thoughts. 🧠 For those too intrigued to wait, here’s the link to her website, where the book is available for purchase.

Editor’s Picks

Patrick Donegan Chief Strategy Officer

Patrick Donegan

Chief Strategy Officer

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