Duke Attracts and Retains Top Candidates with Competency-Based Job Descriptions

Denise Snyder

Denise Snyder, MS, RD, LDN, Associate Dean for Clinical Research, Duke University School of Medicine

Duke University Medical Center has organized some 180 formerly sprawling and sometimes vague job descriptions and honed them down to a dozen, based on professional competencies and clearly stated expectations. All told, Duke mapped more than 700 people.

“I think we owe it to our patients to be very transparent about who’s doing what, how they’re doing it, [and to be able to demonstrate] that we have the most qualified people working in clinical research,” says Denise Snyder, MS, RD, LDN, Associate Dean for Clinical Research at Duke and a member of ACRP’s Workforce Innovation Steering Committee (WISC).

There are many benefits when hewing actual competency to specific roles, starting with recruitment and retention. Doing so also provides a clearer career path, Snyder says.

Duke’s location in an area where medical research employment levels are high, coupled with a widespread workforce shortage, means successful sites and contract research organizations find ways to stand out. “We’re centered in an area with a lot of other [organizations doing clinical research], so I knew I needed to give people a reason to want to work in an academic medical center,” Snyder says. Another factor: Duke’s salary package can’t compete with those outside academic medical centers.

A Framework for Competency-Based Tier Advancement: Lessons Learned – Join Snyder and her colleagues at ACRP 2018 next month to learn more about Duke’s experience with a competency-based framework for career advancement. Building on last year’s session outlining the creation of competency-based job descriptions and the process used to match incumbents to these new classifications, speakers this year will address steps taken to provide advancement opportunities using objectively-measured competency assessments. Hear results of the initial tier advancement cycles, lessons learned, and how this tier advancement process is providing clearer career paths for staff while attracting and retaining a valuable workforce. View Session Details

ACRP 2018

Duke has emerged with job classifications that are “fresher” and read like an accurate, thorough, and up-to-date representation of clinical trial operations, Snyder says. While it’s too early to attach hard numbers to the career path program, “I suspect it’s going to be a good thing for us,” she adds.

The early results are encouraging: Over the past 18 months, Duke has hired almost 230 people, Snyder says. The retention rate among existing staff reflects about 10% annual turnover, while it’s about 8.5% for new hires. “At least people aren’t coming in and leaving within six months,” she says.

Accurate job descriptions tied to actual competencies should continue to help, Snyder feels. “I think we all have to come to terms with the fact that some people are really good coordinators, some are really good regulatory folks, some are really good at project management for clinical research, and some are really, really good monitors,” she notes. The trick, of course, is to find the right spots for the right people. That’s why Snyder is bullish on Duke’s program and WISC’s leadership taking it to the next level.

“What I hope it does is allow us to groom and grow people, and to give them a reason to want to stay at Duke,” Snyder adds. “We want to develop our next leaders and create opportunity.”

Duke launched its program in September 2016 and worked on it through March 2017. However, it’s an ongoing process. “We’ll be able to refine and make adjustments to our competency program, based on some of the things that came out from ACRP,” Snyder explains.

Snyder takes pride in her role as a clinical trial leader. She’s a firm believer in competency-based job descriptions as an important tool to raise the bar of clinical trial performance. “We need to be professional,” she says. “We need to get our standardization and consistency. We have to sop thinking that we can do research in a very mediocre fashion.”

Author: Michael Causey


Related: Core Competency Guidelines for Clinical Research Coordinators

ACRP is pleased to provide the clinical research enterprise with the industry’s first competency guidelines for Clinical Research Coordinators.

CRCs can use this document for self-assessment, competence gap analysis, and creating personalized development plans.

The guidelines can help research sites improve trial quality by standardizing competence expectations for CRCs; support CRC recruitment, onboarding, and professional development initiatives; standardize CRC performance management and competence assessment; boost CRC retention through career mapping and development planning; and develop competency-based job descriptions.

The guidelines also support CROs and Sponsors with site selection by providing competence benchmarks when conducting site assessments.

Learn More