Employers in clinical research organizations (CROs) continue to experience persistent high turnover of employees in the United States and growing turnover rates among employees working overseas. With turnover rates at about 19 percent across the industry, employers may be left scrambling to retain their best employees or to compete in attracting qualified employees to replace them.
The 15th Annual Clinical Research Organization (CRO) Industry Global Compensation and Turnover Survey, conducted by HR+Survey Solutions, revealed that employee turnover in CROs remains an issue for all employee positions, ranging from clinical monitoring to data analysis.
To combat this troubling pattern, many employers have turned to bonuses to both retain their top talent and to attract new talent in a highly competitive field. The shift toward bonuses is widespread, significant and illustrates a remarkable shift in policy to address a changing market:
88% of employers used recruitment bonuses in 2012, compared to 65% in 2011; and
53% of employers used retention bonuses in 2012, compared to 29% in 2011.
According to Judy Canavan of HR+Survey Solutions, "employers should link payments of retention bonuses to strategic employee milestones." Doing so can "help retain institutional knowledge and keep your team together through the course of a research study."
The survey also found that CRO employers are using bonuses for "lower level" employees like entry level positions, "nonexempt" employees (employees who are eligible for overtime) and employees who earn less than $60,000 annually. For example, three in 10 employers used signing bonuses to recruit "nonexempt" employees in 2012.
The bonus numbers are expected to remain high and even increase again in 2013. HR+Survey Solutions expects the use of recruitment bonuses to remain around 87 percent in the industry, but that the use of retention bonuses will rise to about 78 percent, which would be almost a 50 percent increase across the industry.
Bonuses are merely one of the tools employers can use to attract and retain top talent. They can effectively market benefits packages toward the same end and even use performance appraisals to manage employee expectations and ensure the channels of communication between employer and employee remain open.
"Employers should dedicate resources to keeping the talent they have," says Canavan. "They should focus on helping employees expand their careers, which encourages them to move 'up' in the organization, rather than 'out.'"