Study: Clinical Research Organizations Face High Levels of Employee Turnover


Company News Release

Employees at clinical research organizations (CROs) are leaving for new jobs at dramatically higher rates than their counterparts in other industries, according to the 14th annual CRO Industry Global Compensation and Turnover Survey, conducted by HR+Survey Solutions, a leading compensation and research firm. The CRO industry experienced 12.5 percent voluntary separation (left for new position with higher compensation and/or greater opportunity) as compared to a 1.5 percent national voluntary turnover rate (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) in 2012. Furthermore, despite a fragile economy, employment in the CRO industry remains hot with companies implementing sign-on bonuses to attract talent. In fact, 65 percent of CROs use sign-on bonuses to lure new talent, yet less than one third (29%) utilize retention bonuses to retain employees.

“The survey indicates that there is tremendous movement within the CRO industry. The reasons remain multi-faceted, but these numbers continue to be a concern in an industry that has seen double digit growth and where companies’ greatest assets are their talent,” said Judy Canavan, Partner, HR+Survey Solutions. “CROs should consider solutions that foster retention of talent and institutional knowledge, including the use of stay bonuses, which are earned over time,” she added.

According to HR+Survey Solutions, high employee turnover rates can be particularly damaging to CROs as pharmaceutical companies assess their turnover rates when making decisions about outsourcing clinical trials.

Additionally, the study found that the target annual incentives and projected long-term incentive (LTI) levels are markedly lower for CROs as compared to other industries. CRO industry executives with salaries of $250,000 were eligible for, on average, a target annual incentive of 26 percent of their salary and an LTI of 35 percent, whereas similar executives in other industries were eligible for annual incentives and LTIs of 44 and 51 percent, respectively.

While the majority (90 percent) of executive level employees (Senior Vice Presidents and Vice Presidents), were eligible for annual incentives, only 50 percent actually received bonuses. Approximately 40 percent were eligible for LTIs, but only about 35 to 40 percent received a grant. At the manager level, 65 percent were eligible for annual incentives, while 45 percent received bonuses. Six percent were eligible for LTIs, and only 2 percent received them.

“This should send a strong message to CRO executives who have the opportunity to implement strategic solutions, including increasing the use of performance based incentives, to retain and motivate talent without having to increase fixed costs,” said Canavan. “As we move into developing our 2013 survey, CRO leaders should consider participating in this research to more fully understand the impact of their compensation plans,” she added.

The annual comprehensive survey reports compensation levels (base salaries plus annual incentives and LTI); turnover; annual incentive plan design; benefits and perks for 139 benchmark positions in 11 job families: executive, biostatistics, business development/sales, clinical research, database management, medical affairs, patient recruitment, quality assurance, regulatory, safety/pharmacovigilance, and onsite operations.

Other study highlights

  • The study found a 12.5 percent voluntary turnover rate among all types of CRO positions.

  • There was a 24.2 percent voluntary turnover of clinical research associates.

  • Nearly 20 percent of project managers and 13 percent of data managers left their jobs voluntarily.

  • Only 29 percent of CROs utilize retention bonuses to retain talented employees, whereas 65 percent use sign-on bonuses.

  • At the director level, 47 percent received stock options and 53 percent received LTI bonuses.

  • Business developers earn bonuses that are, on average, 1.7 to 4 times higher than non sales positions.

About the methodology

The 14th annual 2012 CRO Industry Global Compensation and Turnover Survey was conducted by HR+Survey Solutions (fifth year that it was published by HR+Survey Solutions) in September 2012. A total of 17 public and private CROs with fewer than 500 to more than 12,000 employees participated in the niche study. The comprehensive survey examined compensation levels (base salaries, annual and long-term incentives) for 139 benchmark positions in 11 job families; turnover; annual incentive plan design; long-term incentive plan design; benefit plan; perks; deferred compensation and employment contacts. In addition, pay data was collected and analyzed for 34 countries in addition to the U.S.
If you are interested in participating in the 2013 CRO Industry Global Compensation and Turnover Survey, contact Judy Canavan at 866-252-6788 x902 [

[email protected]


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