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Puppet, partner or parasite?

Posted on: 14 Oct 03


The role of clinical recruitment agencies may be perceived in different ways, but there is a clear demand for expertise delivered in an open and transparent fashion. Agencies must therefore work in partnership, not in parallel, with customers.

In recent interviews with executives involved in the appointment of clinical contract staff at large pharmaceutical companies, the interviewees expressed dissatisfaction with the service offered by some agencies and felt this was damaging the staffing industry. One executive expressed dissatisfaction with the shroud of secrecy surrounding the charge for this service. Too frequently, he found himself in an arm wrestle with the agency to find out exactly what he was buying. He went on to say: ‘When I had an extension built on my house, the contractor submitted a detailed breakdown of the cost, incorporating all elements of the work, from materials to labour costs, to which a clear mark-up was added at each line of expenditure. So when I come to the office, why do I have to squeeze information out of the agencies about the cost of contract staff?’

Service without expertise
More recently, agencies without a clinical background have entered the market due to a downturn in their own niche sector — for example, IT recruitment. They lack the depth of understanding required to match clinical staff successfully. Feedback from the pharmaceutical industry demonstrates that customers are concerned about the speculative release of large numbers of candidate profiles, which only bear loose resemblance to the jobs advertised, and only add to the burden of wasted time and expense. Although service of this standard may be well-intentioned, a pharmaceutical organisation is unlikely to continue to work with, or place faith in, an organisation that lacks the substance of quality candidates and industry understanding. If, for example, a customer is looking for a clinical research associate (CRA) based in a specific region with three years’ experience in oncology and an impressive track record, he or she will want a carefully chosen CV relating to the CRA based in the region with closely matching skills and experience. Customers have a very clear understanding of their own requirements, so a supplier cannot succeed using enthusiasm alone. A sheer willingness to supply will never compare with an expert ability to deliver closely matched, specifically interviewed quality candidates.

Information gaps remain
In an established marketplace, customer expectations continue to be refined.The introduction of preferred supplier agreements has established a formality that provides customers with greater confidence to understand the services on offer.However, even this strategy fails to fully illustrate key aspects of supplier services, such as:

- How can a difference in agency rates be justified?
- In addition to the skills that a customer is acquiring through the services of competent contract staff, what else is the customer paying for?
- How can a customer be certain that contractors are competitively rewarded?
- How does an agency calculate the charge rates?

Similar questions occur repeatedly, and at best, information is shared on a limited basis. The expectation of clinical research customers has changed significantly, and suppliers are consequently compelled to reconsider the clarity of their charges. A key European department head described what he regards as best practice:‘an open and transparent way of explaining how a charge rate is calculated and what elements it includes’.

Sylvia Kempsell, SRG
Sylvia Kempsell is group operations director at SRG.
Successful clinical staffing — a question of transparent service.

View SRG Clinical's jobs by clicking here.

Sylvia Kempsell

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

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