CRO Leverages Training to Reduce Staff Turnover

Kelly Schindelholz, CCRA, Director, Clinical Monitoring Services, IMARC Research

“For us, training equals quality,” says Kelly Schindelholz, CCRA, director of clinical monitoring services at IMARC Research, a contract research organization (CRO). Schindelholz and team say a commitment to training has helped them benefit from significantly lower than average turnover rates in a clinical trial marketplace notorious for employee churn.

“We invest a lot in training to improve trial quality, and to show an investment in our people,” Schindelholz says. “We need to retain people. Employees who receive opportunities to learn and advance their education feel valued.” The organization is a big fan of continuing education programs such as ACRP certifications.

The costs of turnover are apparent on a number of levels. When a clinical research associate (CRA) leaves, the cost of recruiting, onboarding, and training someone new for their study monitoring duties is expensive and time-consuming. The Society for Human Resource Management estimates these costs to be about 33% of an employee’s annual salary. In addition, when a CRA leaves during a trial, it can be difficult to maintain steady operations, experts note.

IMARC works to counter turnover by fostering employee training and outside growth. “We encourage employees to seek out training, and to speak at conferences and gain experience with other forms of external training,” says Stephani Hulec, MS, CCRA, associate director of clinical monitoring services. “They gain experience, and by getting the opportunity to do something different and build their skill set, they feel valued” and are more inclined to stick around, she adds.

However, they aren’t advocates of training for training’s sake, Hulec says. “We look to trainings that bring it back” to the question “Why?” in a task or situation, she notes. In other words, what is the underlying reason for doing a task a given way? For example, there might be a regulatory requirement, or some proven standard operating procedure metric, to tie the procedure back to, she explains.

IMARC recently posted a blog on “Why is it So Hard to Find Good Clinical Monitors?” that cites a 2020 survey from BDO’s Global Employer examining CRA workforce turnover root causes. In addition to the need to improve training for CRAs, the study found CRAs left because of pay issues, travel demands, and a failure by their current organization to help them better manage work/life demands.

Author: Michael Causey