Don’t Let CRO Turnover Stunt Your Business


Applied Clinical Trials

Applied Clinical TrialsApplied Clinical Trials-03-01-2018
Volume 27
Issue 3

Safeguarding trials from CRO turnover. How to ensure commitment of qualified resources through thick and thin.

To ensure the success of any clinical trial, there are many operational components that must be fully aligned. And when contract research organizations (CROs) lack the resources to make that happen, sponsors take notice. As of 2016, the overall turnover rate at CROs hit 23% internationally. Combined with an increase in clinical trials, this turnover can impact cost, time, reputation, and expertise-and that can mean the success or failure of the study. With this in mind, it is important to ensure that your CROs hire and retain skilled workers to keep trials on time and on budget.

Selecting the best CRO partner requires asking the right questions before committing to a vendor. Preparing thought-provoking questions can enable you to fully understand the scope of the CRO’s capabilities and where gaps exist. It’s not only about the scope of services a CRO provides, but the quality and retention of the resources assigned to the project. To confirm that the CRO is committed to providing qualified resources who will stick with the project from beginning to the end, you will want to consider asking the following questions: 

  • How do you attract, screen and qualify talent? 

  • Can I screen and approve resources assigned to my projects?

  • What are the minimum requirements (e.g., education and years of experience) for the resources assigned to my project?

  • Over the last five years, what percent of resources assigned to a project remained with the project from start to finish?

  • What are your retention strategies? 

  • What career development opportunities are offered to your resources? 

  • Can you provide three client references?

  • Do you offshore work or contract with any sub-vendors? 

  • Are you willing to tie financial incentives and penalties to retention targets?

Consider adding language within the contract tying financial incentives to CRO resource retention. This can provide peace of mind in knowing that trials are in a secure place from beginning, middle and end.   

Impact of turnover at CROs 

For sponsors, high employee turnover at CROs can prolong studies and, in turn, increase project costs and
cause study delays. In addition, turnover also places a burden on internal employees who are left to carry the responsibilities when their colleagues leave. In times of high CRO turnover, don’t be surprised to see your team experience operational burnout. This ripple effect can induce stress for employees that no longer have the bandwidth to meet clinical timelines or bring pharmaceutical products to market. The overall quality and continuity of the project is not only at stake-the knowledge loss that stems from losing seasoned talent can also be detrimental. 

Reasons for high CRO turnover may be excessive burnout from unrealistic workload, and/or below market compensation. Whether CRO employees leave because salary compensation isn’t meeting talent expectations or operational efficiencies and workload are not in line, you’re bound to experience major repercussions. 

If your studies are not meeting expectations, rethink how you approach clinical trials with a functional service provider (FSP). As opposed to using a traditional CRO approach, an FSP model is attractive, as it brings resources with more experience, offers significantly higher retention rates, and the sponsor can play an active role in selecting the resources for their team-a frequent criticism of the CRO model. The FSP model offers greater consistency, flexibility, and scalability to reduce management burden, allowing sponsors to focus on

study strategy.   

Significant changes are on the horizon that are forever altering the future of the life sciences industry, not the least of which is the central role that R&D partners play in the success of development programs. Most life sciences companies are plagued by numerous outsourcing challenges that threaten the success of the organization and ultimately affect their ability to bring much-needed medicines to the patient population. Take a moment to reevaluate which solution aligns with your strategy and how it can safeguard your clinical trials and business relationships and-ultimately-deliver medical treatments to the patients in need.


John Ebeid is Vice President, Outsourcing and Operations, Randstad Life Sciences


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