Today, many pharmaceutical companies rely on outsourced partnerships to get clinical trials in motion. And with each study, sponsors are likely to have specific criteria in mind that would make collaboration a success. However, this might not always be communicated to prospective business partners. With high turnover at clinical research organizations (CROs), many sponsors are looking for a partner with strong talent management experience and an all-hands-on-deck approach to operational efficiency.
That being said, there are a few red flags leaders should look for to determine if third-party turnover is an underlying issue. The following are several signs that CRO turnover is indeed stretching your internal resources too thin and impacting your productivity, speed to market and bottom line.
Employees Experience Burnout
More often than not, sponsors want experienced CRO resources assigned to their study. With the current skills shortage, this leaves a lot of the heavy lifting and responsibility to more seasoned employees. As people leave, workloads are transferred to other resources, causing a ripple effect of employee burnout and further turnover within the organization.
Despite being a separate organization, CRO turnover can have an influence on your internal employees, as well. CRO turnover may be to blame if your in-house employees are struggling to meet clinical timelines and have difficulty bringing pharmaceutical products to market as anticipated. Knowledge loss stemming from talent loss can also negatively impact the caliber and consistency of the overall project.
Too Much Time is Spent on Onboarding
For sponsors, high employee turnover can increase costs and prolong studies, especially when new CRO resources need to get caught up on a trial already in progress. If your CRO keeps onboarding new talent, it might imply that more time is being spent on transitioning new team members and educating them on systems, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and protocols, rather than executing on your study’s activities.
Additional Help is Required
The most obvious red flag is if you’re considering bringing on additional help to mitigate your CROs lack of delivery. To prevent this in advance, ask the following questions to ensure talent at your CRO partner is secure from beginning to end:
- How do you attract, screen and qualify talent?
- Can I screen and approve resources assigned to my projects?
- What are the minimum requirements (e.g., education and years of experience) for the resources assigned to my project?
- Over the last five years, what percentage of resources assigned to a project remained with the project from start to finish?
- What are your retention strategies?
- What career development opportunities are offered to your resources?
- Can you provide three client references?
- Do you offshore work or contract with any sub-vendors?
- Are you willing to tie financial incentives and penalties to retention targets?
Of course, it’s OK to receive further support from a Functional Service Provider (FSP) if that means salvaging a clinical trial. If your studies are in triage-mode, then it’s time to bring in the experts who have greater resource consistency, flexibility and scalability. By allowing FSPs to leverage their specialties, like recruiting and onboarding qualified talent, overseeing and managing teams, as well as developing retention strategies and incentives, you can get back to the heart of your work — developing and commercializing innovative medicines.
According to a BioMedTracker report, less than one out of 10 clinical trials succeed. Leaders should be vigilant about every challenge that could potentially delay studies, especially talent needs. The impact of turnover is detectable if you seek full transparency. Lean on well-versed experts in the industry to guide you through all phases of clinical trials, especially if turnover at external sites stalls what you set out to accomplish.
John Ebeid provides the strategic direction for Randstad Life Sciences' outsourcing business.