Clinical research organisations (CROs) continue to struggle with talent retention as employee turnover rates remain around the 20% mark, preliminary results of a survey by US-based compensation consulting and research firm HR+Survey Solutions indicate.

The initial findings from the 15th annual CRO Industry Global Compensation and Turnover Survey show the employee turnover rate at US CROs remained stagnant in 2012, with 18.6% of employees leaving their companies compared with 19.7% in 2011.

The turnover rate among CROs outside of the U.S. increased from 17.8% in 2011 to nearly 22% in 2012.

High staff turnover was evident among all types of positions, from clinical monitoring to data analysis, HR+Survey Solutions noted. An exception was project managers, where employee turnover fell from 21% in 2011 to 10.5% in 2012.

More bonuses

If turnover rates remained high in 2012, that was despite increased recourse to bonuses by CROs in an effort to attract and retain talent.

HR+Survey Solutions found that 88% of participating companies used recruitment bonuses in 2012, against 65% in 2011.

Moreover, 53% of companies reported using retention bonuses in 2012 versus 29% the previous year, according to a recent Hot Topic survey (Prevalence of Recruitment and Retention Bonuses in the CRO Industry).

Deeper level

Not only are more CROs using bonuses to attract new employees, they are using them at a deeper level of the organisation.

The companies surveyed said they were using recruitment bonuses at salaries of below $60,000, while 30% of them used bonuses for non-exempt employees.

“We often think of recruitment and retention bonuses being used at the top of the house, but in this tough job market, more and more companies are experimenting with bonuses to attract and retain employees at lower levels,” commented Judy Canavan, partner with HR+Survey Solutions. 

“And, with almost all companies planning to implement bonuses in 2013 (87% recruitment and 78% retention), the trick is for them to design the bonus programme to meet the needs of the organization,” Canavan added. “This could mean including time or performance triggers.”

The 15th annual CRO Industry Global Compensation and Turnover Survey will be published in September 2013.

A total of 20 public and private CROs with anything from fewer than 500 to more than 12,000 employees participated in the study. Compensation data were collected and analysed for 34 countries worldwide in addition to the US.