A new study has noted that while employee turnover rates in the clinical research organisation industry are still high, they appear to be trending down.

Analysis conducted by HR+Survey Solutions shows that over the last three years, US staff turnover in clinical monitoring (the function that monitors participants’ health during a trial) has dropped from 29.4% to 16.4%. Globally overall company turnover has dropped from 27.2% to 14.2%.

However, “not all companies are winning the talent war”, the report claims, and over the last four years half the companies have experienced an increase in their turnover rates. The worst performers are Switzerland (a whopping 87%), New Zealand (50%) and Hong Kong (43%), while the UK comes in tenth worst with 26%.

According to Judy Canavan, managing partner at HR+Survey Solutions and the author of the study, high turnover is “extremely costly to CROs [and] can undermine the relationship with a sponsor or lose a bid for new work”. She adds that “the industry puts high demands on their talent including long hours, extensive travel, high performance expectations and tight budgets, yet pay programmes provide only modest opportunity for performance based rewards”. The “incentive opportunity is about 40% less than the opportunity provided in general industry”.

The study also found that non-management employees of large and small companies are paid comparable salaries, but the latter are less likely to pay annual incentives. Ms Canavan added that “the CRO with 200 employees is competing for talent against CROs with 10,000 employees [so] should be using variable pay to help them compete”.

Some 24 public and private CROs with fewer than 500 to more than 12,000 employees participated in the study and 46 countries were involved.