The staff turnover rate in the US contract clinical research sector was 19.4% in 2014 according to HR+Survey Solutions' CRO Industry Global Compensation and Turnover survey, which is up from the 14.2% rate seen in 2013.
The increase has prompted CROs to raise salaries to try and keep staff with wages climbing an average of 7% this year.
Retention is key to contractors according to author Judy Canavan who told us “turnover can impact the relationship with the sponsor as it takes time for new team members to come-up to speed and develop a rapport with the sponsor.”
She added that turnover is also disruptive to the teams and the projects, and can cause delays. Ultimately, turnover is expensive – Canavan continued, explaining that there are recruiting costs, new hire bonuses, as well as efficiency costs.
The war on talent
When asked what CROs can do to combat the war on talent, Canavan explained that there is no “one size fits all solution.”
While many companies are using new hire bonuses to attract new talent (75% of surveyed companies), only 29% of companies are using retention bonuses.
“But this is an after the fact solution that actually exacerbates the problem because they are luring talent from another company and sending the message to employees that jumping from company to company is financially advantageous,” Canavan said.
“Companies need to think outside the box … The trick is to create a toolkit of rewards that appeal to the most vulnerable employee group and rewards retention and performance.”
Canavan added that while some of these may be monetary, straight salary increases or retention bonuses have a limited shelf life. “Ultimately it is important to keep the best performers and create a sense of loyalty to the company and/or the project.”
Clinical trials increasing
According to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, clinical trials conducted by CROs are completed 30% more quickly, on average, than those conducted in-house, which can save companies between $120 and $150 million.
And the number of registered clinical trials continues to grow (from 24,939 in 2005 to 203,193 in 2015), indicating that CROs are more important than ever.
With this in mind, Canavan predicted industry growth, although staff retention concerns could remain an issue.
“The reports that I see project continued growth in this industry,” she said, adding “turnover will be more a global problem as companies typically have operations in multiple countries.”