It is called “the great resignation”. According to recent news and studies, employees in a number of sectors – including health care – are switching or leaving jobs at record rates. The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workforce is often cited as one of the main culprits for migration.
Revenue and burnout were taking a toll on clinical trials workforce even before the pandemic turned the landscape upside down, notes Paul Evans, president and chief executive officer of Velocity Clinical Research and former chairman of the Association Board of Trustees for the Association of Clinical Research Professionals ( ACRP). However, the problem of brain drain has arguably accelerated in recent history.
“Working for a clinical trial center has not been easy in the past 18 months,” says Evans. In addition to battling the COVID-19 virus itself at the forefront of healthcare, clinical study staff, including nurses, have experienced “tremendous stress” about workload and work-life balance, he notes.
However, Evans and the team at Velocity believe they “turned the corner” in the fight against burnout and turnover by looking carefully at the treatment of their employees. In fact, actions encouraged by reaching out to employees helped double the workforce in 2020.
First, Velocity added a bonus structure, increased some 401 (k) financial options, and took other steps that “cost money, but it’s part of what you have to do to keep employees,” explains Evans. With his company having more than 600 employees in 30 locations in 14 US states, he admits that for a relatively large location it might be easier to find extra cash for salaries, while a much smaller operation might not have the same flexibility Has.
While salary and benefits remain important retention tools, Evans says smaller businesses can take steps to stem a talent exodus beyond the basic paycheck.
Evans says success starts with commitment. “We conducted employee surveys” to find weaknesses for employees and to identify areas in which the company could help, he notes. Even if the company couldn’t solve every problem, the mere fact that feedback was obtained had a positive impact, he says.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the polls found that “people were tired and had worked in difficult conditions,” says Evans.
Armed with a more specific understanding of employee morale, Velocity took a few steps after viewing employee responses. For example, the company began offering regular staff lunches, giving staff an extra day off for Memorial Day weekend (which became a four-day break), and organized “Site Family Days” where each Velocity site could choose an activity who brought employees and their families together. Events designed to help employees have family time included a company picnic and a white water rafting tour, Evans says.
Velocity also hired a dedicated recruiting team, “which is virtually unknown in the industry”. [the] small site businesses, ”says Evans.
Author: Michael Causey