CRO employee turnover rate falls as industry matures, survey finds

By Zachary Brennan

- Last updated on GMT

Small CROs could probably do more to retain top talent
Small CROs could probably do more to retain top talent
Over the last three years US turnover in clinical monitoring has dropped from 29.4% to 16.4% and globally overall company turnover has dropped from 27.2% to 14.2% on average, according to the 16th annual CRO Industry Global Compensation and Turnover Survey.

The survey from HR+Survey Solutions found that turnover globally was the highest in Switzerland, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Study author Judy Canavan told, “The CRO industry is a niche industry so it is easy for a couple of companies to drive high turnover numbers in a specific country. The industry is expanding rapidly... This growth creates a demand for talent which drives turnover​.”

She noted that the falling turnover rates in the past couple of years may be a sign that the industry is maturing. The relatively high turnover rate that remains, she added, seems to be the product of a number of factors, including:

  • Home-based positions that create two issues (1) changing jobs is as simple as getting a new computer, VPN and password (2) it is harder to create a cohesive team when employees do not see each other every day;
  • Travel – many of these positions require extensive travel, employees may find a job that has less travel or travel to a more desirable location;
  • The demands placed in some of these positions are high – in addition to extensive travel there can be tight deadlines, tight budgets and high performance expectations; and
  • CV building – if there is an opportunity to enhance one’s resume, then it may be worth changing jobs for future career growth. 

In terms of retaining talent, Canavan told us that annual corporate bonuses are probably not “the answer for all positions,” and there “needs to be more customization of incentive comp and rewards to meet the needs of individual areas of the company​.”

Smaller CROs may have to do more to incentivize employees to stay at the companies, the survey said. It also found that non-management employees of large and small companies are paid comparable salaries, though smaller companies are less likely to pay annual incentives than larger companies.

Nearly 88 percent of director level positions at the larger US CROs received annual incentives versus 65 percent at smaller companies, the survey found.

The CRO with 200 employees is competing for talent against CROs with 10,000 employees. Smaller companies should be using variable pay to help them compete against larger companies for top talent while controlling fixed costs​,” said Canavan.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Average salary levels in the survey only increased by 1% for non-management positions;
  • CRO pay for executives is more heavily weighted toward salaries than in general industry; and
  • On average, the bonus for smaller companies is almost 25 percent less than that for larger companies; however, the size of the awards for smaller companies that pay bonuses tends to be similar to that of the larger companies.

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