As a Sponsor, Clinical Research Organization (CRO) or Clinical Research Site, you want Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) and Clinical Research Coordinators (CRCs) who are master multi-taskers, efficient, and organized. However, due to high industry-wide turnover rates and shortages of Clinical Research Professionals, CRAs and CRCs often feel the opposite: overwhelmed, burned out, and frustrated.
In fact, the turnover rate in the Clinical Research industry is 30% whereas the turnover rate in most other industries is 19%.
If retaining employees and reducing turnover is the goal for your organization, there are changes you can make. Your efforts will lead to happier and more productive CRAs and CRCs – who want to stay employed by you!
1. Compensate CRAs and CRCs in line with current industry standards.
Make Sure CRA and CRC Salaries are Competitive
First and foremost, take the time to figure out if your salaries are competitive. If they are on the low side, increase salaries (as soon as possible.) If they are on the high side, leave them alone; this is great information to share during the interview process!
Offer Good Health Benefits
Offering good health benefits is also really important – for current employees and potential employees alike. According to The Hartford, a superior health insurance plan will help if an employee is deciding between two jobs. Additionally, employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers valuable benefits.
Offer Valuable Retirement Benefits
Similar to offering good health benefits, it is also helpful to offer valuable retirement benefits. The U.S. News & World Report says that providing employees access to a 401K, pension, or other retirement plans is a way to attract qualified workers and keep them at your company as well.
Allow for Accrued PTO
Accrued PTO is earned over time and can be used for any type of paid leave. This is another incentive for CRAs and CRCs. You can learn more about various PTO policies in this article from Business News Daily.
Provide Merit Increases for High-Performing Employees
A merit increase is a raise in pay typically based on specific performance-based criteria that is reviewed by the employer. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that the median salary increase for 2021 and 2022 is 3%. When employees have performed well and are looking forward to a raise, they are more likely to stay with their current employer.
Distribute Meaningful Company Bonuses
No explanation is needed here – everyone gets excited for a company bonus. Plus, if the bonus is typically substantial, CRAs and CRCs will not want to miss this opportunity!
Initiate Relevant Travel Perks
A CRA’s role often involves a lot of travel. If your company does not already offer reimbursement for TSA Pre-Check, it should be easy to change this policy and invite employees to add this to their next expense report. For a nominal fee, TSA Pre-Check is valid for 5 years.
CRAs who spend a lot of time on the road will also greatly appreciate gold or priority status with hotels and/or airlines. Think about it – a CRA who gets to stay at a nice hotel with a comfortable room will be happier and feel more rested than a CRA who needs to find the most economical option. Which CRA do you want on your team?
Give Flexibility with Meal Expenses
Instead of specifying a certain amount of money to use for each meal, consider providing a set amount ($50 per day is reasonable depending on the city) for CRAs to use as they want. So, if they have to work through lunch, they can spend more money on a nicer dinner. This little gesture goes a long way for CRAs!
2. Equip your CRAs/CRCs with user-friendly software and/or systems.
How user-friendly are your systems? Do they make things easier for your employees – or do they make tasks complicated, inconvenient, and time-consuming?
The best way to find out is to ask your CRAs and CRCs – or the other employees who are using the software!
The following list of software and systems can add a lot of time and unnecessary stress to a CRA or CRC’s workday:
- Clinical Trial Management System (CTMS)
- Timesheets, especially time systems with 10+ time code categories needed each week!
- Expense reports
- Travel booking
Moving to a different type of software or utilizing a simpler system will be greatly appreciated by CRAs and CRCs, who will have more time to focus on the important parts of their job!
3. Provide a fair work/life balance.
There continues to be a high demand for CRAs and CRCs – and this is an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Rather than continuing to contribute to the problem by overloading them with more and more work, it may be time to take a different approach.
Try encouraging a better work/life balance. Yes, this is a constant struggle for many people. However, burnout and high turnover rates are showing that work/life balance is a major issue for CRAs and CRCs.
When work/life balance is actively and meaningfully promoted, Clinical Research Professionals feel rested, ready, and able to be more efficient and effective during their working hours.
4. Get personally invested in their professional development.
Professional development leads to the most capable, qualified, and knowledgeable employees. It is well worth the investment for Sponsors, CROs, and Clinical Research Sites to have well-trained Clinical Research Professionals working on their clinical trials.
Do you have CRAs who would like to transition into the Clinical Trial Manager (CTMs) role? Acknowledge their career goal and set them up for success by offering CTM mentoring, coaching, or signing them up for ClinEssentials CTM Training that helps new CTMs understand their role and experienced CTMs take their career to the next level.
Other opportunities for professional development are available as well – you just have to look for them and make them a priority! CRAs and CRCs who are confident in and have the skills that make them good at their job, also feel more happy with their job.
5. Be supportive, appreciative, and flexible.
We all want to feel supported and appreciated! We all need flexibility – if not all the time, we need it sometimes!
Make it a priority to provide a supportive environment
One way to build a more supportive environment is by encouraging managers to get to know their employees on a personal level. Regular one-on-one meetings, quarterly team-building activities or events, or even just occasional check-in calls, help create relationships with open communication that ultimately keep CRAs and CRCs at your company.
Openly convey appreciation and acknowledgment
Acknowledging employees and expressing gratitude is important. Saying ‘thank you’ is something we all want and need to hear. For some, feeling appreciated keeps them going.
It’s well worth the 2 minutes for a quick phone call, email, or even text message to say, “I know how hard you are working, and I think you are doing a great job. Thank you! I appreciate you!”
Focus on flexibility when possible
Now, more than ever, flexibility is important. People are actively seeking flexible employment opportunities, and this includes CRAs and CRCs. If you are able to offer flexibility, this will benefit your organization because flexibility is not easy to find in the Clinical Research industry!
6. Encourage their feedback.
CRAs and CRCs are in the thick of it! They know what is happening in the research studies, at trial sites, and with research teams. They have a wealth of knowledge and using their suggestions helps them feel appreciated (see #5), and also leads to more efficient and effective clinical research trials.
All you have to do is ask! Chances are good that they are ready and waiting to share!
7. Earn their trust.
Trust is not easily earned, but it is easily lost. So, how do you earn the trust of CRAs and CRCs?
- Take action! Start by focusing on one or two of the six ways to retain CRAs and CRCs listed above.
- Prioritize and create a plan that includes some or all of the ideas discussed in this article. Share your plan with your CRAs and CRCs – or better yet, include some of them on the planning team.
- Carry the plan through. Provide updates about where you started and where you are now.
- Keep it up – because retaining CRAs and CRCs should always be a priority!
You can read more about why trust is important in the workplace in this article from Insightlink.
The Next Steps for Retaining CRAs and CRCs
If you follow these proven methods, you’ll be on your way to reducing turnover and employing the most efficient and effective Clinical Research Associates and Clinical Research Coordinators. Don’t wait to get started – with the high turnover rates, there is nothing to lose by making positive changes!
If you made a change that has positively impacted CRC and CRA turnover of Clinical Research Professionals, please comment below!