The ability to recruit and retain staff is one of the cornerstones of quality in CRO delivery.  As a company grows, we need to ensure that new hires share our business values, and share the same sense of accountability and responsibility for the work that we do.  By getting the hiring process right, and developing the team with the right mindset from the start, we can ultimately affect the quality of the work we do through each individual’s sense of pride in their work. Unfortunately, I’ve seen CROs come unstuck when there is pressure to grow at a pace that the structure of the organisation is unable to support.  All too often, companies fall into the trap of scrambling to keep pace with an unrealistic demand for resources that results in a drop in hiring due diligence, and risks the quality of deliverables.  While we are indeed growing significantly at Veramed, our approach is to expand in a sustainable way while maintaining the rigour of our hiring processes so that we bring on board people with the right mindset as well as the right skill set. In this blog, I will walk through some of the building blocks of our approach to ramp up and growth at Veramed that helps us to maintain high levels of quality in our delivery.

Challenges in growing a team

CROs and sponsors alike are acutely aware that the kind of individuals we are looking for are often in short supply.  There is fierce competition to get access to seasoned candidates with the right combination of soft and technical skills. That competition extends to bringing onboard the next generation of statisticians and programmers as new graduates. Now, the pandemic has created new economic uncertainty that has further dampened candidates’ confidence to change roles. Nevertheless, it is still possible through careful outreach and talent mapping to ramp up teams in this marketplace- and maintaining an excellent employer reputation is an essential factor.  Of course, employer reputation begins and ends with the experience of our employees- effectively, our team is our brand. 

Forecasting and resource planning

Ensuring quality ramp up also depends to a great degree on proactivity and resource planning.  Our approach at Veramed involves our in-house recruitment team working exceptionally closely with our operational and business development teams to understand how existing contracts may be expanding, and what new projects are forecast to come on board.  We can then align our recruitment activities to ensure that we are pipelining the candidates with relevant backgrounds for our upcoming projects.  We aim to take a three-month forward outlook to consider what the business needs are going to be and plan accordingly. 

It is also essential to manage expectations on all sides.  We must remember that there are only a finite number of people in the market at any given time actively seeking work and another limited group of skilled professionals who may consider a move as passive candidates. To broaden our horizons, we have embraced near-shore locations such as Ukraine to expand our candidate pool. Beyond this, we continue to identify other talent hubs in Spain, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to increase our access to potential new hires.  We can take advantage of our increasingly virtual world to come up with creative solutions that help us grow our team without compromising on quality.

Managing expectations

While growing the team, it’s essential to work closely with all internal stakeholders to manage expectations and maintain robust screening, due diligence and qualifying in the recruitment process.  On the other hand, when we speak with candidates, we also make sure that they fully understand our organisational culture and the nuances of the roles we have available.  Paying attention to the details in the hiring process will have a beneficial effect down the line in the retention of these individuals.  As ever, transparency is key to honest relationships with candidates and future employees that will stand us in good stead throughout the employee’s career journey with us. 

Once onboard, a robust infrastructure to help our team chart a career pathway is essential.  Many of the experienced candidates we bring on board tell us that for one reason or another they had hit a glass ceiling within their previous organisation.  We have put in place clear and transparent skills matrices, career journeys, and mentoring to support our team in growing their careers with Veramed. We tend to take a holistic and positive approach to people development– we want our people to progress to the next stage, and we are highly motivated to help them do it.  In turn, that ensures we have a happy team who will stay with us in the long-term because they know they can take their careers in the direction they want.

Sustainable growth underpins success

For clients, the benefits of the CRO having a growth strategy founded in sustainable principles are clear.  First of all, quality people will be more likely to deliver quality outcomes. Beyond this, keeping staff attrition low means that the sponsor will retain vital knowledge on their projects.  At Veramed, our teams have the opportunity to work with clients for the long term and develop an understanding of how they operate and what approaches work best for their projects.  With experience of working with a particular sponsor, team members gain the confidence to be more consultative and collaborative in their approach. This proactivity can, in turn, benefit the client through access to more innovative approaches. 

The proof of success of our approach to ramp up is in the pudding.  As we’ve grown, so have our contracts with our clients such that one of our main FSP clients today has grown to 50 team members from just four a few short years ago.  That ramp-up has been managed carefully and sustainably to retain high-quality delivery enabling our clients to achieve and overachieve their goals and timelines.

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