CRO turnover rate sky-high, according to survey

CROs have a turnover rate nearly 10 times the national average, according to a new survey, and those numbers could scare off potential clients concerned about a company's internal climate.

HR+ Survey Solutions reached out to 17 public and private CROs, finding a 12.5% across-the-board turnover rate, compared to a 1.5% national average. For clinical researchers, the voluntary separation rate was 24.2%, and HR+ says the problem stems from how CROs prioritize recruitment.

About 69% of the companies reported using sign-on bonuses to recruit top talent, but only 29% use retention bonuses to keep it around, the survey found, and while that might help CROs stay up on trends in a changing industry, it could also keep them from establishing the long-held expertise clients want.

"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," HR+'s Judy Canavan said in a statement. "CROs should consider solutions that foster retention of talent and institutional knowledge, including the use of stay bonuses, which are earned over time."

And the disparity doesn't stop at researchers. HR+ found that CRO execs are offered markedly lower performance incentives than those in other industries: 26% of their salaries per year and 35% in long-term incentives, compared to national averages of 44% and 51%, respectively. And while 90% of execs were eligible for the annual incentives, only 50% actually received bonuses, HR+ found.

"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," Canavan said.

- check out HR+'s results (PDF)