Career Series: Early Career

How to Attract and Keep the Best Research Coordinators

This is part of a series on career development for research professionals.

One of the most challenging responsibilities for an investigator is the recruitment and retention of talented staff, particularly research coordinators. Nationwide, there is a high turnover rate among research coordinators. This disruption in staffing can lead to delays in conducting research, from missing deadlines to entire studies being stalled.

Investigators recruit research coordinators from a variety of sources. Sometimes the role of study coordinator is viewed as an entry-level position, and those individuals hired to fill the role can be new to the workforce, and may have little experience. Many may be so-called Millennials, recently out of college.

Millennials, generally speaking, were born between 1980 and 2000. They are considered one of the most educated generations of our times. Their numbers are huge, surpassing those of the baby boomers. Much has been studied and written about their attitudes toward work and career growth.

Millennials in the workplace can be dedicated and creative, and eager to make a significant contribution to your research site. To retain this young talent and minimize the risk of study disruption due to turnover consider the following tips:

Respect the balance between work and personal life.

Unlike Baby Boomers, younger workers tend to integrate their work and personal life in a more fluid way. They prefer not to have a distinct separation between the typical eight-hour work day and their personal interests. That said, they tend to be more protective of their personal time.

Practically speaking, this means they prefer more flexibility in their work day. They may be willing to work later in the day, or evenings, as long as they can take some time during the day to run errands or do other things.

Provide opportunities for learning and professional development.

Millennial workers are easily bored and need to feel they are growing and expanding their knowledge. Invest in their professional growth by offering access to online courses — either focused on research or on specific skills. This will keep them engaged.

Think beyond salary.

While millennial workers understand the important of earning an income, a high salary is not the primary driver for work place happiness. Beyond a salary, consider offering flexible work hours, additional days off, or opportunities for telecommuting.

Avoid isolating millennial workers.

The work of a research coordinator can be solitary, with them working independently from others in the office. It requires a fair amount of entrepreneurship and independence. However, Millennials are usually motivated by dynamic, cross-functional positions. They also seek jobs that allow them to be in contact with and learn from interesting people, interacting with other professionals and teams.

If your millennial research coordinator reports directly to you, it is important to honor your time together to discuss projects or studies. Ensure they can participate in office meetings so they can gain an appreciation for how their work might be connected to other activities in the office.

Provide a constant feedback loop.

For Baby Boomers, performance feedback had traditionally formal review process tied to promotion and compensations, conducted at specific times. For Millennials, feedback is informal and is expected throughout the work week.

Give them a sense of purpose.

Millennials are inspired by a vision or purpose, not by a list of tasks. Millennials, in general, will not be content to simply complete forms and file documents. They are looking for meaning in their work. Remind them of the importance of their work in human subject protection. Keep them in the loop about the value of clinical research at your research site — the impact on medical knowledge in general and on patients specifically.

Leverage their knowledge of social networks.

The world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is a daily part of their lives. They will not react well to feeling disconnected, even at work. In fact, research shows that over half of Millennials would turn down a job that denies them access to social networks.

Their adept use of social network sites can help gain insights that may help you improve your study participant recruitment, as well.

In general, they key driver for Millennial job satisfaction is a sense of connection and purpose. A lack of connectivity makes them feel isolated, and they are likely to move on to other opportunities. A fully engaged Millennial research coordinator can, however, be a dynamic part of your research team.