Clinical Research Hit By High Turnover

Clinical research associates in the US are leaving jobs at the rate of 30% a year, says a new report from the consulting, tax and advisory firm, BDO.

Where turnover rates for these clinical monitoring professionals had been holding steady at 25%, the rate jumped between 2017 and 2018 by 4%. Outside the US, the global average is a modest 16%.

Turnover has plagued clinical / contract research organizations (CROs) for several years, but the increase in the US promises to heighten the problem. The BDO report says the impact to a CRO can be severe: “Losses of team members can disrupt clinical trials, and ultimately damage the relationship with the trial sponsor. High levels of turnover may deter sponsors from engaging in a strategic partnership with a contract research organization.”

There are multiple causes behind the increasing CRA turnover, though compensation and competition for these professionals is at the top of the list.

“If CROs hope to retain key talent, they must do a better job of linking pay raises to an employee’s level of contribution and re-assess merit budget increases,” said Judy Canavan, Global Employer Services Managing Director at BDO. “Competency models can help companies quantify this linkage.”

BDO’s analysis found CRA compensation levels remained “largely unchanged during the last five years” while CRAs have significantly increased their skills relative to their rate of pay. Likewise, annual incentive programs, a tool to attract and retain talent, haven’t changed much in the last five years. Payouts as a percentage of salary, have actually decreased, the report says.

“Quite simply, says Canavan, “Companies need to link the size of the raise to the increase in an employee’s contribution. This may mean increasing the size of the merit budget. Utilizing a competency model can help companies quantify this linkage.”

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