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So you want to contract staff… what do you need to consider?

Posted on: 23 May 07

Summary

In today’s clinical arena it is the norm for clinical and medical departments to work with a mixture of direct staff (headcount), contract employees and independent consultants, as well as outsourcing whole projects. Companies utilise this mix for myriad reasons, including increased pressure to reduce headcount carrying costs demands for flexibility and to meet the clinical trial program milestones within a reduced time to market.
So you want to contract staff… what do you need to consider?

In today’s clinical arena it is the norm for clinical and medical departments to work with a mixture of direct staff (headcount), contract employees and independent consultants, as well as outsourcing whole projects. Companies utilise this mix for myriad reasons, including increased pressure to reduce headcount carrying costs demands for flexibility and to meet the clinical trial program milestones within a reduced time to market.

Contracting out all or part of your trial work to a CRO is a practice that has grown considerably in popularity during the past two decades. Utilising a CRO can fill manpower shortages, thereby assisting with management of the peaks in the clinical trial program, providing therapeutic expertise, improving geographic cover that companies may not have and compensating for any in-house lack of experience. In today’s environment, where time to market is of the essence, working in partnership with a CRO can gain important access to investigators and patients and speed up regulatory submission.

However, a company may not always select outsourcing as the strategy for the clinical program. One alternative that is growing in popularity is to insource staff directly. Issues that a company may consider in deciding to insource may include:
1.The level of involvement and control - if a company requires greater involvement in the product development there may be a certain caution around outsourcing;
2. Access to key opinion leaders or future prescriber contacts;
3. Maintaining experience in-house; and
4. Perceived issues over management and staff attrition.

In these instances, a company may choose to hire as headcount or contract in staff to work alongside their own employees, either utilising direct contracts or third party contracts.

Choosing a clinical research staffing company to trust when resourcing your clinical staff is much like choosing any business partner. Whilst there are going to be many areas where you are in agreement, compromise may well be required to ensure that the experience is optimum for everyone concerned.

Three key areas that require consideration when selecting a clinical research staffing company to partner are outlined below. The level of importance of these will vary according to the individual sponsor company requirements and these may not be the only factors you will consider.

Who is the employer and who is responsible for HR? Today’s employment legislation has created a complexity that requires more than a ‘rent-a-body’ mentality. You may consider it important to work with a clinical research staffing company that offers long term employment, career development and management of its clinical employees. Other factors may include how the staffing partner manages Occupational Health & Safety, the insurance cover offered, and broadness of employee packages. The benefits of comprehensive employee management include the clear definition legally of who is the employer – the company/sponsor is clearly not seen as the employer but they still have certain obligations. Effective HR management including appraisal, training, and career development allows the company to focus on clinical development removing the need to be directly involved with personnel and administrative non-core issues and challenges that may occur.

The importance of fit with your clinical staffing partner? Consider how the staffing partner is structured and if this aligns with the level of support you require. Are you presented with one main point of contact who knows and appreciates your team dynamics and with whom you can build an ongoing relationship? Is this same person going to be your contact point once a successful candidate has been placed? It may be your preference to continue to work with someone who has keen knowledge of your department and company and is able to follow things through-from initial interview to placement to employee management.

Hiring the wrong person for a role can be costly, and it is imperative that your staffing partner understands not only the requirements for a correct job fit but also the organisational fit.

Can your clinical research staffing partner attract and retain candidates for your positions? Candidates can choose who they source work through and in today’s competitive arena they are savvy and require competitive salary and benefits. Discerning candidates evaluate the clinical research staffing company’s reputation and they also consider the processes and the infrastructure. You may wish to check the level of assistance and information the staffing partner provides the contract staff pre placement and post placement, including but not limited to induction, communication and support– It is common knowledge that employee perceptions of support and a supportive work environment have been linked to the commitment the employee has to the staffing company1. By understanding the value, commitment and service of the staffing partner you can determined how aligned they are to your company values.

Does your staffing partner work with benchmark salaries across the industry to ensure that its employees working with you are fairly recompensed for their work? Fair compensation will assist in ensuring the employees remain loyal and on contract until such time that either you do not require their services or their career-developmental needs indicate a move. In the latter case, can you set timescales to cause the least impact on sites and investigators?

Does the provider have the ability to truly comprehend your requirements from initial screening through to placement and management? What quality aspects are built into its recruitment and management process?
For your relationship with any supplier to be successful, all parties need to understand the value that each contributes. To facilitate this, it is recommended that you develop shared ways of working, establish clear communication channels and responsibilities, thereby creating and fostering a feeling of joint ownership. Getting to know each other, developing mutual trust, and investing the time to ensure that the buyer-seller relationship is one of commitment and collaboration will ensure a long term business relationship that benefits everyone. Only by working with a company where you have built this mutual respect, where both parties have a clear understanding of what can and cannot be achieved, will your relationship with your clinical research staffing company amount to true partnership.

1 Liden, Wayne, Kraimer & Sparrowe, 2003: The dual commitments of contingent workers: an examination of contingents’ commitment to the agency and the organisation. Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 24, 609-625

Paula Mumby, Director i3 Pharma Resourcing

Paula Mumby

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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