Not even a pandemic of historic proportions could derail the timeline set by Mark Marchant and team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to create a Clinical Research Career Ladder for UAB staff that provides a clear path for advancement and promotes recruitment and retention in the field.
Among other benefits, Marchant hopes UAB’s efforts will help to “shine a spotlight on career opportunities in clinical research and help with professional development and upward mobility” for current practitioners.
“We hit our April 1 rollout deadline,” says Marchant, MPH, MBA, CCRP, director of UAB’s Clinical Trials Administrative Office. “COVID-19 had zero impact on us,” he adds. “We were able to continue all activities in earnest.” Marchant notes that he often came to the physical offices to help keep things moving along as other workers began to telework, but “was the only one here in the suite, so it was easy to distance.”
Addressing the issue of murky job titles was critical, Marchant says, in UAB’s efforts to confront one of the main challenges to working in the clinical trial industry: “Understanding who is working in the space because titles don’t always reflect what people actually do.”
Marchant explains that he and his team were inspired by a number of innovative initiatives in the clinical trial space, including the work of the team led by Denise Snyder, MS, RD, LDN, associate dean for clinical research at the Duke University School of Medicine. The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) recognized Duke University for its commitment to innovation in clinical research workforce development during and awards ceremony at the ACRP 2019 annual conference in Nashville.
At UAB, the process kicked off back in June 2018, with an implementation team consisting of representatives from the College of Arts & Sciences, Schools of Medicine/Nursing/Public Health, and Human Resources. The team drafted a career ladder, and job-related background data were obtained from across the UAB campus to determine who may be impacted with a possible title or job description change by the ladder.
A pilot program was conducted in the winter/spring of 2019 after defining a review/mapping process. Between June and November, the UAB team reviewed 548 jobs across nearly a dozen schools, Marchant says. The team used the final two months of the project to verify data and account for retirees, job transfers, new hires, and any other potential changes to the data.
New titles, tracked to actual performance, were assigned in early 2020, with each employee receiving a formal letter from Human Resources outlining the changes, if any. Badges await employees when COVID-19 teleworking is eased, Marchant says. UAB is also using the new job title system with new hires, he adds.
Author: Michael Causey