When Will CROs Stop the Turnover Hemorrhage?

Judy Canavan, Managing Partner, HR+Survey Solutions

Judy Canavan, Managing Partner, HR+Survey Solutions

Clinical research organizations (CR0s) continue to be pummeled by exorbitantly high clinical monitoring employee turnover rates, according to a new study of 2016 trends by HR+Survey Solutions LLC, a compensation consulting and research firm.

Where the industry across the board experienced a roughly 18% turnover rate, that figure was 25% for CROs; in some firms, the turnover rate exceeded 50%.

For countries outside the U.S., turnover in clinical monitoring increased to 22% in 2016, up from 16.4% in 2015.

“We encourage companies to look to other industries for creative approaches for controlling turnover,” says Judy Canavan, managing partner with HR+Survey Solutions. “Clearly, the CRO industry has not solved this issue.”

However, CROs shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking there’s a single “silver bullet” solution, Canavan warns. It’s relatively easy to focus too much on salary, or signing bonuses, but that often doesn’t address the core problem.

“Personality is so important,” Canavan says. People often stay in or leave a job based on their colleagues, she adds. One piece of advice: Put a premium on personality during the hiring process. Introduce promising candidates to as many relevant team members as possible to gauge the fit on an emotional intelligence level.

Related: ACRP Releases Core Competency Framework for Clinical Study Monitoring: ACRP’s Core Competency Framework for Clinical Study Monitoring identifies the core competencies required of individuals involved in clinical study monitoring. This document can help you understand what is changing in your role as a clinical trial monitor; what is expected of you in relation to monitoring-related activities; where to focus your professional development activities; the competencies for which hiring managers are looking; and what to look for when recruiting staff. Learn More

Signing bonuses become problematic because they engender short-term wins but long-term losses. For example, some monitors take a signing bonus and go to a new firm knowing they won’t stay too long. In addition to the bonus, they’re enticed by the fact there’s often not much travel—or tangible expectations—in the early days on the job. “They treat it as a mini-vacation,” Canavan says.

Most CROs don’t appear to have gotten the salary as dangling carrot memo. In this latest version of the study, 16 CRO companies participated. Some of the key findings of the survey found that:

  • Money is the most commonly used solution for retaining talent.
  • Off-cycle raises are the most common approach to retain talent, with 85% use in the U.S. and 78% use outside the U.S. (OUS).
  • 48% of companies also use retention bonuses as a way to keep talent, however this tactic is more prevalent OUS.
  • Companies also rely on increasing salaries and new hire bonuses to bring in new talent. New hire sign-on bonuses were utilized by 81% of companies in 2016.
  • 80% of U.S. and 89% of OUS companies are offering above market/midpoint salaries at least some of the time.

It won’t be easy to turn the situation around, Canavan admits. A situation of low overall unemployment coupled with weak industry efforts to engage potential entry-level employees who are still in college makes changing the dynamic all the more difficult.

CROs that find ways to comprehensively address all aspects of their employment package—salary, work/life balance, travel demands, office atmosphere, etc.—have had some success “putting a dent” in high turnover rates, Canavan says.

Author: Michael Causey