CRO Workforce Turnover Hits New High

Report: CRO Staff Turnover Hit 5-Year High of Nearly 30% in 2018

The chronic workforce turnover among contract research organizations (CROs) in the U.S. hit a five-year high of nearly 30% in 2018, according to a new report from BDO. “One of the biggest challenges facing [CROs] is the management of escalating turnover levels,” says BDO’s 2019/2020 Insights Report: CRO Industry. The turnover level in the U.S. climbed more than 4% from the previous year.

Turnover for comparable roles outside the U.S. was about half, at about 16%. “The lower rate as compared to U.S. total turnover might be due to less intense travel requirements, as CRO offices typically serve one country, which significantly reduces required travel,” the report suggests.

While turnover outside the U.S. is generally slower, BDO found high turnover in Finland (43%), China (40%), and Hong Kong (35%).

In addition to a desire for better financial compensation, BDO chalks the turnover up to a number of factors, including:

  • High performance expectations coupled with a steep learning trajectory that greatly increases the value of the employee in the marketplace.
  • Low/no barrier to changing jobs when working from home office.
  • Merger and acquisition activity that disrupts relationships and creates uneasiness among employees.
  • Need for improving work/life balance due to burnout from long hours, travel, and the desire to take advantage of slower schedule during wind-down/ramp-up in transition periods.

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“Turnover becomes most pronounced” for the clinical research associate (CRA) role “at a specific career point when an individual’s skill set growth outpaces growth in pay,” the report says. “CRAs typically have a steep learning trajectory early in their career, which makes them very valuable after a few years of hands-on experience.”

Turnover is a critical issue because of the impact that costs related to sourcing, recruiting, and onboarding can have on a company’s bottom line profits. These “hard costs” are estimated to be about 33% of annual employee earnings, BDO says in the report. “Harder-to-measure costs include productivity interruptions and loss in knowledge/intellectual capital, which are estimated to be 67% of a worker’s earnings,” the report adds.

Author: Michael Causey