The Case for Thinking Outside the HR Box

January 1, 2019
Lisa Henderson

Lisa Henderson is Editor-in-Chief of Applied Clinical Trials and Pharm Exec. She can be reached at lhenderson@mmhgroup.com.

Applied Clinical Trials

Applied Clinical Trials, Applied Clinical Trials-01-01-2019, Volume 28, Issue 1

From average merit increases from individual countries, to incentives per position, to retention bonuses and much more, a recent BDO report offers a robust look at an industry that has quickly eclipsed its “small company mentality” roots.

The 2018/2019 CRO Industry Compensation, Turnover, and Plan Design Trends Report from BDO USA, LLP (view here) is chockful

of compensation and benefits trends in the CRO industry over the last 10 years and includes a special focus on clinical research associates (CRAs). From average merit increases from individual countries, to incentives per position, to retention bonuses and much more, the BDO report offers a robust look at an industry that has quickly eclipsed its “small company mentality” roots.

Judy Canavan, managing director and leader of BDO’s Compensation Surveys practice and founder of the company HR+Survey Solutions, told Applied Clinical Trials that the CRO industry is not only growing fast, but is also becoming more sophisticated. However, she noted, “they need to start looking at different strategies and not just cash” to retain employees.

Turnover rates among CRO professionals is pretty well-known in the industry. If there is one aspect of sponsor consternation, it is the loss of a well-liked and responsible project manager, a situation that can happen many times during any one seven-to-10-year clinical trial study. (http://www.pharmexec.com/cro-oversight-roundtable-0). In BDO’s report, from 2008 to 2018, turnover for the roles of data manager and project manager have stayed fairly level in the 14% to 22% range, whereas the clinical monitoring role scores consistently above that in the 22% to 28% range.

Those CRA rates, says Canavan, continue unchanged for a variety of reasons that, too, remain unchanged-including extensive travel, loose connections based on home-based reporting, and demanding schedules. According to Canavan, CRAs ramp up their skills pretty quickly and by years two or three, find themselves very valuable; but their merit raises, hovering at 3% to 5%, don’t match what their market value is. “The merit raises just don’t reflect how quickly they are progressing,” says Canavan. “Suddenly, an HR department may be in a fire drill to get someone a pay increase.”

What Canavan told Applied Clinical Trials is echoed in the report: additional strategies should be well-examined and considered for implementation. These include annual incentive plans, long-term incentive plans, and attraction and retention bonuses. The report found that sign-on bonuses for new employees are used more frequently than retention bonuses. Meanwhile, retention bonuses lag far behind. Canavan said, “Companies may want to rethink their use of bonuses as a way to help improve retention rates. A well-designed plan that focuses on both team and individual performance can provide a nice reward to good performers.”

Canavan also suggested that companies consider administering bonuses farther down in the organization to help retention. In addition, with increased external training and accreditation opportunities, HR could use those as a benefit to differentiate the organization from other companies. Canavan concludes, “The industry is robust, and it is evolving and maturing. Career-wise, CROs remain a good opportunity.”

 

Lisa Henderson is Editor-in-Chief of Applied Clinical Trials. She can be reached at lisa.henderson@ubm.com. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @trialsonline

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